Photographer Turns Cardboard Boxes into Creative New Worlds


Photos provided by Elliott Cramer


Every child loves playing with cardboard boxes. Turns out so do some adults. Well, at least one.


Elliott Cramer takes cardboard boxes and turns them into whole new worlds.


Despite the fact that he has two young children, Cramer is honest about his reasons. “I did it for me,” he said. “I needed something during the pandemic.”


When COVID-19 hit last March and the world shut down, the Beaver resident’s photography and video production business came to a screeching halt. “Business that I had worked on for three years that was coming to fruition was cancelled,” he explained. “I had a lot of anger and thought, ‘I had better keep doing something.’ I hate to be self-centered, but it was for me.”


As Cramer looked around his house and pondered projects, he realized that he had cardboard—a lot of cardboard. Since he orders much of his photographic equipment and supplies online and the family recycles, the raw material was readily available, so he decided to put it to good use and began creating everything from rockets to pirate ships to robots.


Always the creative type, Cramer said that much of the project was based on his own journeys with Simon, his childhood teddy bear. “Every child has a stuffed animal, so I based this on adventures that children could do with their stuffed friends,” he said.


Cramer also had two little characters that he had started creating as a child and had made drawings and sketches of them over the years. “I had wanted to do more with them, but never had the opportunity. I got married, bought an old house I needed to fix up and then had kids,” he said, “And to be honest, I lacked the confidence.”


Quarantine provided the perfect chance for him to expand his creative pursuits. Everyone in the family—including his wife, Stephanie, a schoolteacher, and his children, Vivian, 7, and Theodore, 4—were now at home around the clock, and Cramer realized he had the perfect audience as well as photographic subjects. He began sketching his ideas, and as the children found areas of interest through their studies and research, more and more projects grew out of their findings. Soon, they were using the stock of cardboard to create new characters, playhouses, and scenes and accessories.


“For example, my son really liked learning about knights, so I said, ‘Why don’t we make something from that time period?’” said Cramer. “So we made swords, shields and helmets. It was a great learning experience.”


He added that the whole house was turned into a hands-on learning experience. “It was easy to pull out scissors, knives and cardboard, cover the dining room table and start painting and creating,” he said.


As the projects grew, Cramer shared his ideas with fellow photographers and friends. His wife urged him to use his skills to sketch out the directions and take photos, and Cramer agreed and shared the projects, now titled ‘Adventures from Home,’ on his website at www.ecramerphoto.com.


One of his clients also shared his creations, which garnered national attention. Cramer, his family, and the projects were featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt: Kids Edition.

“I was surprised at all the attention,” Cramer said.


As life has returned somewhat to normal with his children back in the classroom and his business slowly picking up again, Cramer, who is also an adjunct professor at La Roche University and is teaching two courses this semester, said that he isn’t spending as much time on the project though he fully expects to keep expanding it. He hopes, in the future, to create a book.


“My kids and I have little stories to go with everything, and we have created a series called ‘A to Z: What you can be with cardboard,’” he said.

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