The art of the proposal: celebration and surprise in Craig Sterling’s studio

“Well, apparently my studio at the Torpedo Factory has more uses than producing my art and displaying my photographs,” says Craig Sterling with a laugh, recalling the unexpected email he received last month—and a pleasant event that resulted.

Back in July, a young couple, Griffin Bonham and Hillary Goodall, happened to visit Sterling’s studio. They chatted with the photographer, took an interest in his photography, and enjoyed their day together at the Torpedo Factory, but Sterling had no idea how deep an impression he’d made until he heard from Bonham in early December.

“That day ended up being an important day early in our dating,” Bonham explained in an email asking for Sterling’s help. He wanted to bring Goodall back to Sterling’s Torpedo Factory studio and surprise her with three “Will You Marry Me?” photos of himself. The photographer was happy to oblige—and the plan came together on Saturday, December 14, 2013.

“Of course, we did a little planning,” Sterling says. “Griffin dropped off the three framed photos the week before. I texted him right after I hung them, letting him know the coast was clear to come upstairs with Hillary. When she walked in, she was totally blown away.”

It’s not uncommon to hear about proposals at the Torpedo Factory, and the building is a popular site for first dates—and a fine venue for weddings—but Sterling was delighted to see the beaming couple rush hand-in-hand happily down the stairs.

“It was very cute,” he says, “and a major contribution to the karma of Studio 305!”

Explore the work of Craig Sterling at the Torpedo Factory in studio 305. Check out his photography online at, and enjoy this short film on Vimeo by Corcoran College of Art and Design student Dean Pagani about Sterling’s ability to see familiar Washington, D.C., landmarks and memorials in unfamiliar ways.

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