When he was in junior high school, the 13-year-old happened to see a neighbor from the bedroom window of his Newark home. “He was getting ready to discard this old negative contact printer,” Crossan said recently in his Townsend studio. “Instead of letting it sit in the trash, I asked him if it was OK for me to play around with it. My father helped me set it up in the bathroom, and gave me some old negatives to use. That was really all I needed. 3 for every published photo. As a high-school senior, at a time when his classmates were attending dances and parties, Crossan was working for the Delaware bureau of the Philadelphia Inquirer. ”I was 15, and had been working for the Newark Weekly Post for the past year,” he said. Still a teenager, Crossan found himself on assignment for the Inquirer in Georgetown, at the site of a triple murder at a migrant labor camp.
At 15, Crossan followed them, soaking up their knowledge of the craft of reporting with a camera; learning how to capture the story while remaining invisible at a scene. By looking over their shoulders, he learned how to turn film into words. ”They all taught me that in this business, you have to expect the unexpected, no matter where you are and where you’re going, because very seldom do things go the way you think they’re supposed to go,” he said. Crossan was on Fourth Street in Wilmington during the race riots of the mid-1970s. He covered the streaking escapades that ran down Main Street in Newark during the early 1970s, and came face-to-face with police and their nightsticks. In between, he has photographed everything else: Portraits, weddings, news stories, photos for travel brochures, and stock photography that has taken him to several countries. He worked as a freelance photographer for DuPont, photographing farmers and farms for the company’s many agricultural interests.
Three times, he has scaled to the top of the Delaware Memorial Bridge to shoot the view for several publications. For ten years, Crossan photographed the Common Wealth Awards at the Hotel duPont in Wilmington, given annually in honor of achievement in the dramatic arts, literature, science and invention, mass communication, public service, and government and sociology. Each year, celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Larry King and Henry Kissinger would parade by Crossan as he worked. The hotel continued to serve as a good luck charm for stories; at a fundraiser there in 2006, Crossan found himself for a brief moment at the conclusion of a reception line that was dotted with dignitaries. He looked up from his camera. In front of him stood George H.W. Bush, the 42nd President of the United States, standing alone, about to join the contingent. ”It was just the President and me,” Crossan said. “We talked for a moment or two, and I thought, ‘Here are these cool American flags against the wall, and here’s a former President of the United States.’ So I said, ‘Mr. President. There are these great flags here.
During the 1989 visit to Delaware by the King and Queen of Sweden, Crossan was covering the reception at the Hotel duPont. He watched the King of Sweden get into an elevator with security agents. He took the next elevator, and, holding the door, noticed the woman who entered after him. “It was the Queen and me, alone together in the elevator,” Crossan said. “I noticed that she was coughing, probably from having to meet 200 people in a reception line. I said, ‘I happen to have a few Life Savers. Would you like one? ’ She accepted one and thanked me. In photography, timing is everything, and sometimes timing has nothing to do with aperture. In the early 1990s, Crossan shot a cover photograph for a Delaware State Chamber of Commerce magazine. It was taken of Louis Capano and Sons, a Wilmington-based construction company. Included in the photograph were brothers Louis, Joseph, Gerald, as well as Tom, a prominent Wilmington attorney who was helping his brothers temporarily with the family business.