I have been a professional photographer for well over 30 years.
Where did you get your professional training?
I am commercially trained as a photographer with a degree from Fashion Institute of Technology in Photography.
What are your concentrations right now?
My work currently is focused in Portrait and Event photography.
What is your other profession?
I am the full time director of marketing and business development for reVive Spine Center with locations in Niagara Falls and Buffalo.
How did you come to the decision that you wanted to capture the spirit of firefighters?
My boss Dr. Franco E. Vigna a Spinal Surgeon has a great infinity for those who serve our communities such as law enforcement, active duty and veterans, and firefighters. We wanted to do something to give back to those who serve us and our families so agreed through my photography I would volunteer my time to the Buffalo Professional Firefighters Local 282 with their efforts via their membership. Over the last two years I donated my time through capturing trainings, celebrations, retirements, and live fires.
What are we taking a look at on Buffalo Rising today?
12 photos of my work with the department – included are portraits of the first ever black female Lieutenant firefighter Shelby Thompson.
How did you get started with this project?
In 2019 I was asked to help out with their 2019 Yearbook – to shoot some of the headshots and agreed. I used that opportunity to work on a personal project I have been wanting to do for a while and that is the “Day in the Life of a Firefighter”. The chiefs have been gracious enough to work with me to shoot at some of the firehouses with members of the force. The privilege has been absolutely mine. I have been floored by their dedication to the job and the support for each other. The department schedule for the firefighters are now on a 24 hour rotation, they live together for days, they cook for each other, they are on countless calls together. I am so amazed at the amount of calls other than fires that they respond to every day. Anything from car accidents, to stabbings, to gun-shot wounds, to heart attacks, to difficulty breathing, etc… Our firefighters are the first responders when it comes to almost any injury or illness, they are usually the first on the scene when something happens in the city. They also support other Fire departments when the need arises.
How many firefighters have you photographed?
So far I have captured close to 300 firefighters as part of the yearbook and the personal project and have enjoyed every second of it.
What has been your main takeaway?
I have learned so much from this experience. Firefighters, both men and women, love what they do for a living. They drop everything and run to their trucks when the calls come into the houses. They relish the opportunity to save lives and do good for others.
What is it about their dedication that moves you?
The thing I’ve learned, photographing these heroes, is how dedicated they are to each other. I have heard several stories of how many firefighters come to work for free for fellow colleagues who either are sick or are going through difficult family issues. This allows the firefighter who is going through personal difficulty to be able to take the time off to take care of themselves and or their family members without worry or lost income. I was so amazed when I heard that, it is an understood rule between the firefighters – one for all and all for one. They truly have each other’s backs in the field and their personal lives.
This personal project means the world to me both as a creative photographer and as an individual learning about these wonderful public servants. I want to share via my creative work the greatness of these everyday heroes. I just don’t want this project to end!