ECBC’s Crystal Harris Earns Army Photography Award

RDECOM C&B Public Affairs | June 12th, 2018

ECBC’s Crystal Harris Earns Army Photography Award

Ever since she was a little girl, Crystal Harris has been captivated by photographs. Inevitably, her interest in the intricate style and details of the art developed into a passion for photography.

A biologist with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center Chemical Biological Operations Branch since 2008, Harris recently was named a winner in the 2017 Army Digital Photography Contest, coming in third place in the People category for her photograph, “Mermaid Song.”

“My interest for photography started when I was young,” Harris recalled. “I remember looking through photos my Dad took while stationed in Germany. There was a black-and-white photo of a kitten on a box that I removed from the album and framed because I loved everything about it. I think my love for black and white photography started then.”

Years later in high school, Harris said she asked her dad for his vintage Canon camera and was surprised when he handed it over.

“I never actually took successful photos with that camera,” she said, “So I put it on a shelf and it sits there to this day. “

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Her interest waned a bit as life busied her with college and marriage but it renewed itself after the birth of her second daughter.

“I wanted to try the photography thing again so I upgraded my equipment, read books, joined online forums, and practiced a lot,” she said. “I decided I wanted to document my kids growing up and try to have some amazing photos they could cherish one day. I take my camera everywhere now and am constantly pushing through my comfort zone to learn new things.”

Harris describes her style as a “lifestyle approach” particularly when photographing her family. She also has photographed friends and neighbors for family portraits, especially during the holidays.

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“I try to get the details people may tend to forget or take for granted,” she said. “I love getting the girls eyelashes, the way their hair curls, or their little toes. I also try to capture them doing the things they love and the faces they make while doing them.”

Her award-winning photograph, “Mermaid Song,” was shot while she was experimenting with underwater photography. It captures her oldest daughter, Ashley, 7, who she said was “eager to be my subject.”

“She loves the water and pretending to be a mermaid,” Harris said. “I shot [Mermaid Song] when we were playing around in the community pool and she was blowing bubbles. The camera snapped at just the right time. I love this photo because it so perfectly captures my daughter and the thing she loves to do the most.”

She added that she entered the Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation-sponsored contest on a whim, and didn’t tell anyone; not even her husband.

“I, like most people I think, am very critical of myself and my work and didn’t think I had a chance,” she said. “I was very surprised to learn I placed. It feels good to know someone enjoyed this photo and felt it was worthy of the competition.”

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A Class of 2000 graduate of Edgewood High School, Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from Villa Julie College. She lives in Harford County with her husband, Jim, also an ECBC civilian, and daughters Ashley, 7, and Lana, 4.

Team APG winners

Two other members of Team APG were winners in the 2017 Army Digital Photography Contest.

William Pully a branch chief with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, won first place in the Animals category with “Eagle Battle,” and in Nature and Landscapes, Colin Kelly, took third place with “The Hidden Waterfall.” Click here for all three award-winning photos.

2018 Army Digital Photography Contest

Eligible patrons can start preparing now for the 2018 Army Digital Photography Contest. The campaign starts August 2018. Submissions will be accepted Oct. 1 through Nov. 30, 2018. Judging is Dec. 3-14 and awards will be announced in January 2019. For more information, visit the Army MWR website at https://www.armymwr.com.


The RDECOM C&B Center is the Army’s principal research and development center for chemical and biological defense technology, engineering and field operations. The Center has achieved major technological advances for the warfighter and for our national defense, with a long and distinguished history of providing the armed forces with quality systems and outstanding customer service. The RDECOM C&B Center is located at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.