This is Jackie. She is the owner of a small bar/restaurant in Red Bays. It's a place where locals hang out all day and night to socialize. They got to know us pretty quickly as we often took breaks there from the heat. Pete, with a somewhat racist tone, says that the people of Red Bays are only nice to tourists because we give them money. As that may be true with some, but I didn't see much of that. Jackie even refused our money for most of the drinks we bought. We were more than happy to pay for what we got, but despite the poverty of the town, they still show a love that transcends money.

For me, it showed what a place without an abundance of material possessions can do for human compassion. Living in a place that puts such an importance on material possessions for my whole life has caused me to forget about that. I'm grateful that the people of Red Bays could remind me of this invaluable idea.


Pete's Face

Aside from his moods, godfather-like control over the town and his "girlfriends," Pete's face grabbed the attention of my camera in the down time. There's so much life in those deep wrinkles. It is especially weathered after getting gangrene from eating a poisoned barracuda some years back.


Tarpon Springs

I spent the last couple days in Tarpon Springs, Fla. to experience the processing of the sponges for sale. Pete Skaroulis' grandson, Nicholas, works in their processing warehouse in Tarpon Springs. I spent a day with him to capture the process with an attempt to bring the story full circle. I grew up about 15 minutes from Tarpon but never really appreciated what was happened there until now. It's the largest population of Greeks outside Greece and they came over to sponge dive due to the lack of work in Greece. Nicholas said the situation is still the same, and Nicholas said that he only goes back to Greece to visit.
This is the main strip in Tarpon Springs, where merchants sell sponges and other tourist items.


A Hard Life

One of the spongers who was the most help to us was Sydney. By chance, he was the first guy we talked to when we arrived at the dock, and he was the one to take us out as he dove for sponges. Here, he met us on the second day and talked a lot about how poorly the workers are payed. He held a sponge in the doorway of his father's old house, which now holds his equipment, and talked about how Pete "squeezes" the workers. What the natives make from the sponges is insignificant in comparison to how much they sell them in Tarpon Springs and abroad.



After Pete's wife died a couple years ago he moved out of the apartment next door and made a "closet" of a bedroom in his office area. He also got a puppy named Spoogy. So he spends most of the day sitting in this chair smoking at his desk talking to the many people that come by each day for money or jobs. I was surprised to see how hard he works despite his age.



Throughout the trip, Prof. Kaplan kept saying that photography is literal. I know I'm a victim of trying to look into photos beyond the literal. So, while doing this story I tried to keep in mind the literal aspects that tell the story. Beyond the odd suggestive looks, "meaningful" light and "purposeful" juxtaposition is the man pulling a sponge out of the water. I love all that intellectual photo ish, but sometimes it helps to forget it.

This one's for Kohl.


Fortunate Circumstances

When we arrived to the one dock in Red Bays on the first day, we got pretty lucky. Some spongers had just arrived with bags full of sponges, waiting for Pete to pick them all up. This only happens once every couple weeks. If we went there any other day, it probably would've been dead. So right away we were able to get a start and some leads into the story. Also, these kids were diving off the dock for a couple hours, giving me something to shoot in the down time.


A Morning Smoke

This is one of the guys I met that would just hang out on the street most of the day smoking. A lot of the men on Andros don't have much opportunity to work, and when the weather is bad they can't sponge or fish. So they literally just end up sitting around all day. He, like the rest, were really nice to us and seemed generally happy.


Morning Light

I found some kids messing around outside before school one morning and photographed them for a while. Among the many photos of kids being kids, this one stood out to me from the rest. It was the quiet moment in the midst of chaos.


School Children

There was a small primary school near where we worked in Red Bays. So on a couple days, we went over there for recess and poked around the school. The teachers gave us all the access we wanted, which would generally not happen in America--at least not until you fill out some paperwork and talk to half the administration. So I was taking some portraits of the kids and they all started fighting their way toward the camera, pulling each other away to get to the very front. Also, they all wore blue uniforms and the school was painted solid yellow and green. Everything in Gainesville now looks so bland compared to the color there.


Pete "the Greek" Skaroulis

This is Pete "the Greek" Skaroulis. He's was the focus of my story in Red Bays, Bahamas. He employs a majority of the males in Red Bays, by organizing boats to go out sponging and crayfishing. Once they get back from their 1-3 week long expeditions collecting the goods, he buys them from the workers at an extremely cheap price and sells them abroad. He's connected to Tarpon Springs and supplies them with all their sponges. He also sends sponges to Europe and Greece. Without him, the people of Red Bays would have a very hard time selling their sponges, so many of them cherish his presence. He is 76 and still going strong. He is missing half of his feet from barracuda poisoning and still uses Viagara. He's quite the character.

In this photo, he is dropping off a crew to go out to fix one of his boats that broke down.


Yellow Eyes

This is Dencil Knowles. He said his eyes are yellow from drinking and smoking too much. When I first met him, he was already drunk at 7 in the morning. He was even pouring out some of his rum for Pete's puppy to drink (I'll introduce Pete, my story subject, later). The dog loved it.


To Andros and Back

I spent the last week in Andros Island, Bahamas as part of a journalism class called Florida FlyIns. We worked hard all week, waking up at 5:30 am and working until the evening on stories around the island. I worked with Dominick on a story about sponging in a small town called Red Bays. In the short period of time we were there, it seemed like we developed a routine in the town. We got to know who was who and got to the point where the people knew us and we knew them. They were all very open and honest. What struck me the most was how they can be so happy while struggling to feed their families. Being used to a place where material possessions are so important, this trip really put some things in perspective. I shot constantly all week, so I'll try and post a new photo each day.

In this photo, Kendra Gibson says goodbye to her boyfriend Jackson Russell moments before leaving for three weeks to go out on a crayfish boat.