To Make a Short Story Long....
I can't remember what I got for my first birthday or what I got for Christmas when I was ten, but I do remember when I got my first camera. It was Christmas of 1979 and my mom got me a Polaroid. I couldn't wait for my sister to put the film in it so I could snap my first picture. I still remember framing up my first shot of my mom opening the gift I had wrapped for her. I wanted to catch her at just the right moment…not only capture that expression, but that moment in time, framed nicely of course by the tree and gifts. One great thing about those old Polaroids, the picture would come right out after you took the photo. About ten minutes later, you could share that moment with others. I wanted my pictures to not only show the story of that day, but to capture the emotion that day was all about. I was hooked.
Two years later my father gave me my first 35mm camera. I could hear the heavenly “ahhhhh” sound as I opened the box. The box was glowing in my hands. Since I had no idea how to use it, I took a few classes in high school, read a few photography books, and learned how the dials and buttons worked. Back then schools not only had photography classes, but dark rooms and even let us develop photos and shoot pictures for the student newspaper. My photojournalism seed had been planted.
The day I got my passport I became an avid traveler. I couldn’t wait to see the world and photograph my travels; let my photos tell the story of my journeys. Well to fund my travels I started working as a bartender in Manhattan. I figured it was a good place for a storyteller to make a buck or two. Lucky a few old timers took me under their wing and taught me the fine art of tending bar. Thankfully I also got the gift of gab at an early age from my father. He was a mailman by day and a cab driver at night, you know a real people person. The flaw in my plan was that being a New Yorker was expensive, and it was cutting into my travel-around-the-world fund. Don’t get me wrong, growing up in the city was fantastic: theater tickets, sporting events, restaurants, and concerts. It was great but my passion was traveling with my camera.
I wanted to see more, so in 1994 I decided to leave New York City and move to the Caribbean. I wanted to live in a place where warm weather was the norm and my flip flops could be my everyday shoes. I made my new home in St Thomas USVI, which was perfect for a bartender. After that first walk down the beach and putting my toes in the sand, I knew that city life was over for me.
I have taken thousands of photos over the years of the places I have traveled, trying not just to capture the scenery but the flavor of each place. It was important to capture the culture in each shot. The ones that have always told the story best were photos I have taken of people. People’s expressions tell you the real story. It’s the window into their life.
When the first SLR digital cameras came out I was the first one down at the store. It wasn’t that I didn’t like film, but the waiting time to see your pictures needed to be remedied. With digital photography you can see your picture right after you shoot it, similar to that Polaroid I got as a kid. With the SLR you could change lenses, which are the eyes of your camera. I was sold. Now over the years of living in the islands I have been to many weddings and being me, I take my camera with me everywhere. I’m always looking for those magic moments you can capture with a camera and what better place than at a friend’s wedding. Giving them their photos afterward has always been the best part for me. Seeing their faces as if they were reliving those moments and how happy my photography made them was just a great feeling. It got me to thinking.
One of my closest friends and I decided to take a photo class on St Thomas with a very well-known photographer named Steve Rockstein. I have always worked on honing my photography skills, but I wanted an opinion of my work from a professional photographer. Since then I have taken several of Steve’s classes and he has confirmed that I should look towards my passion which has always been photography. I have been capturing moments on my camera since I was a kid and photographing weddings in St Thomas has given me the opportunity to do what I truly love. Being able to photograph people’s magic moments, to tell the story of their wedding day with my pictures, and to see the look on their faces as they look through their pictures reminds me of my first camera days. By the way, I have acquired a better camera since then.