Very pleased to share my friend and associate has won Photographer of the year 2021.
John: So congratulations Alex on being recognized as Model Citizens Magazine Photographer of the year for all of the Philanthropic contributions you make to charities.
Alex: Thank you John, I appreciate the recognition.
John: Well thank the readers of Model Citizens Magazine and our board of advisors as they are the ones who voted for you. In fact it was an overwhelming majority of votes that went to you. For the sake of our new readers and followers would you please review some of the charities you support, and why?
Alex: Certainly my ongoing favorite is the Michael Magro Foundation. MMF represents a class of charities that provide direct and immediate support of families in need. Terrie and Paul Magro work tirelessly to raise funds to help pay bills for families focused on health emergencies at the expense of work and finances. They have events small and large, my favorite being a food tasting at The Carltun in Eisenhower Park. The event gets great support from the restaurant and dessert community with live performances from Broadway stars. I am on the golf committee for Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County since 2012. CPNassau.org has day programs in Roosevelt and houses in many communities. The services they provide are far-reaching. I actually watched an 8-year-old girl walk for the first time, thanks to treatment and programs funded in large part by people like us. I have been involved with Adults and Children with Learning Disabilities, Leukemia lymphoma Society, Change 4 Kids, Ronald McDonald House, and many, many more.
John: I understand from reading your previous nomination that you have been contributing for not just days more months but decades. Even though there is an opportunity cost of time in giving and paying it forward, why do you do it?
Alex: An 11th Century Philosopher, when asked what the purpose of human beings is, replied, and I am simplifying, “to bring creation closer to perfection.” I have had a great corporate career that took up to much of my time for me to be involved in outside charities. It did provide an opportunity for me to start a great charity with my friend and colleagues at Coty, Inc. Www.beestreeswater.org digs deepwater wells to bring potable water to isolated villages in several countries, as well as bees for pollination and commerce, as well as planting trees for fruit and erosion prevention. I did feel, being in the city, I was not contributing to my community. Having the great fortune of having no health challenges in my own home, I felt it important to be supportive of those facing overwhelming challenges. Providing photography helps organizations save money, attract donors and provide better services.
John: Those are very important efforts. How much time would you say you spend on charitable efforts annually? It seems quite substantial?
Alex: There are millions of tasks to do. Even though we may not finish them all, that is not a reason to not start and do what we can.
John: Many people are of the opinion that they pay taxes to help those in need, and that churches and religious organizations should be playing that role. What would you have to say to those that feel that way?
Alex: It is impossible to quantify the time. It changes every year and Covid Eliminated many of the opportunities in 2020 and 2021. For a while, I was doing porch portraits to raise money for the charities and provide some happy memories for sad times. People are raised and develop their own philosophies. I agree that a portion of our tax money should cover much of these costs. We are Americans. Who will take care of us if we do not care for each other
John: So I understand you have a new photographic exhibit called Here There and Everywhere where you are sharing your underwater and “best of the best” of your photography. What is it about underwater photography that makes it your favorite genre?
Alex: Underwater photography combines all of my skills and interest in sea life into a single challenge. I studied Oceanographic Technology and Photography in school in the 70s, having my first camera in 1966, and my first dive in 1972. I built my diving skills through experience, instructor training, and teaching about 250 certifications. The rules and process for capturing photos underwater are different, light acts differently, currents and swells provide challenges that dwarf terrestrial photography, and then of course there is getting the animals to cooperate, as much as they can. I travel around the world and see things most people never do, and it is my hope that by sharing the photos I encourage people to care more about the oceans.
John: That sounds both technically challenging as well as exciting. Where you have traveled to and what are your favorite underwater photography moments?
Alex: I think we would consider it the ends of the earth. I have dove in the sea of Cortez in Mexico, Drakes channel in Plymouth England, the Maldives, Venezuela, Aruba and Curacao, St Lucia , Singapore, Hong Kong, Hawaii, and so many more places. Northwest Australia on Ningaloo Reef, Crystal Bay in Bali and the area around Komodo, Indonesia in the Flores Sea was amazing. There is no single favorite moment but I enjoyed.diving with Sea Lions in Mexico and cuttlefish in Drakes Channel. I find great pleasure in finding hard to see animals like Octopus.
John: Those rare human experiences are truly precious. It’s amazing the number of places you have traveled to, most photographers would be truly envious if not jealous of you. How do you see hard to find creatures like octopus? I understand they are almost completely invisible.
Alex: I have been to about 35 countries so far, the latest being beautiful Saint Lucia. Finding critters like octopus starts with going to dive sites where they live. Often, the sightings are at night, the octopus showing up in my lights. They camouflage so well, it is their movement that gives them away. Back in 2017 I was diving in Ahmit on the North shore of Bali and the dive guide pointed to a reef head and signaled for me to take a photo. I had no idea what he was pointing at until the octopus changed their camouflage and started to move away. At night they are likely to be out hunting. Living off a boat by Komodo, I had actually photographed 4 different species of octopus. Being in the right spot at the right time, and knowing the creatures habits are definitely required.
John: So how are your attempts at capturing critters there now going?
Alex: Down in St Lucia, there are many healthy reefs but on the west side of the island there are few large fish, and I did not see many adult queen or french angelfish on the reefs. Got some great photos of a reef squid on a night dive, a Bobbit worm, and many reef fishes. Will have to go someplace else for really large fauna like sharks and really small stuff like nudibranchs.
John: Well again congratulations on your now second nomination for your philanthropy as well as your incredibly unique underwater photography. I hope 2022 allows you the opportunity to expand in the Here, There, and Everywhere exhibit and collection.
Alex: Thank you John, I am hoping this year people are smarter about vaccines and social distancing, and less economically capable countries get the vaccine support they need. It would be great to plan an expedition without the uncertainty of covid hanging over everybody’s head.