Holiday boogeyman ‘Krampus’ the focus of local photo event


Photographer Michael Gary has been holding the event at various local venues for six years

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s that time of year when a very special person comes to visit children. And no, that’s not a reference to the guy in the big red suit.

Krampus gets ready to greet the families that will pose with her for photos December 21, 2019 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

Krampus is the dark counter part to Santa Claus that apparently resonates with a lot of families, as evidenced by the long line at Oblique Coffee Roasters in southeast Portland waiting to pose with the beast like character Saturday.

For photographer Michael Gary, it’s all about providing a unique and edgy experience for customers who’ve grown tired of the mall Santa experience.

“We did not want to be in a corporatized, commercial environment with long lines of people spending money trying to get their kids to stand there and smile for the camera,” he said.

Though Krampus may appear scary at first, the parents prepare their kids for the experience in advance and it ends up being a lot of fun for his customers, said Gary, who has been doing the event for six years.

Krampus shows her softer side reading a book to a child during a photo shoot at Oblique Coffee Roasters in southeast Portland December 21, 2019 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

“When you get with Krampus, she takes good care of you. So she’s not going to terrify your little kid, she’s going to make sure that you leave having a better experience than you might expect, really.”

The Krampus character looks pretty intimidating on the surface, being covered in fur, with horns, and a devious smile. But it was evident in her interactions with the families that she has a soft side, too, giving children high fives and even reading one a book for the camera.

Instead of taking place at a mall, Gary organizes the shoots at various local venues around town, such as Oblique Coffee Roasters. He said that building is historically known as “Oregon’s First Carney House,” having been built in the 1800s by people from the circus.

The families pay for prints, which are generated on the spot. In addition, it is done with a reservation system so things don’t get as chaotic as they might be at a first-come-first-serve mall photo shoot situation, Gary said.

Beneath Krampus’s intimidating exterior is a soft side. December 21, 2019 (KOIN/Danny Peterson).

Though this year’s Krampus photo shoots have all wrapped up, those interested in getting a seat with the beast should keep their eyes peeled for next year. Gary typically organizes multiple photo shoot opportunities with Krampus immediately after Halloween, through the months of November and December, each year. A schedule of Gary’s upcoming photography events are available through his website.

While Santa is famous for giving presents to good kids, Krampus was the disciplinarian who handed out lumps of coal to the bad kids. The character is still celebrated to this day in Europe, having originated in the 1600s.

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