November Library Artist, Mike Masin

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Photo Exhibit

“I was born and bred in Flushing, in New York City, and spent most of my life there,” recollected Mike Masin, the Fort Myers Beach Library November Artist of The Month. “I am a computer programmer by trade since the 1970s, when they were bigger than the Library’s 3rd Floor Exhibit Gallery, with computer tapes and punch cards! That was a lot of hard work that caused me to travel extensively, so my wife Sari and I did not vacation for 7 or 8 years. I told this to a fellow business traveler who said I must book some time at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva, so I called my travel agent – that is how you did things before the Internet – and reserved a room for a week, and we returned every year until eventually moving to Cape Coral in 2016.”

Mike called New York City “great, as I not only lived and worked there, but that was even where we spent our honeymoon, and I had clients and friends in the Empire State Building and The World Trade Center, who sadly passed away on 9/11. In a lot of ways, it was the best and worst place to live, but we tired of winter, so we sold the house and moved to the Lexington, Kentucky area for about a decade. There is still ice and snow there, however, so Sari finally said it was time to relocate all the way to Southwest Florida, because you never have to shovel sunshine, not matter how much you get!”

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“The Day After” by Mike Masin.

Mike originally became interested in photography as a small boy. “I was around 5 to 6 years old when I received my first box camera from a neighbor – you had to wind the film forward after every picture and you saw the number of photos left on the roll through the little window on the back – and I burned through film! Later, I got an Instamatic, then around age twenty, my first Single-Lens Reflex camera with interchangeable lenses and that is when I started shooting at night all around the city and even took some wildlife photos. This includes what I think is still the best photograph of my life, of my wife sitting at a bus stop at night in black-and-white! Back then, though, I never did commercial photography, except for submitting one every so often, just to basically learn the reaction.”

His penchant for creativity manifested itself in photography, Mike rationalized, rather than painting or other outlets. “Maybe it is because I am a programmer, but the way my mind works, I don’t see how something looks, then can recreate or translate that through a sketch. Photography allows me to see what I see, then work through that.”

Something Unique

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“San Carlos Lights” by Mike Masin.

After relocating to Southwest Florida, Mike’s attitude toward photography as a profession began to change. “By then, I had all kinds of bigger and better equipment, and the next thing you knew, I became a wildlife enthusiast, particularly over water and shorebirds. I took three to five-mile beach walks or visited the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge from sunrise to around 10 a.m., when the sun was low, to take wildlife photographs, as well as some Downtown Fort Myers cityscapes, and thought maybe I could make a few bucks. I soon discovered, however, that not only were there many good wildlife photographers here, but I also was competing with everyone carrying a cellphone camera, so I had to think of ways to branch out into something unique.”

That meant avoiding the obvious, Mike laughed! “I have no interest in wedding photos or any other standard work, as that does not make me happy. Then I got a commercial shoot for motorcycles and found my niche!” He founded his photography business, “Lens and Hat,” that incorporates his trademark black cowboy hat, and conducts his motorcycle trade under the name, “Asphalt Portraits.”

Not only is Mike’s style unique, so is his final product. “I produce metal prints, where the colors just have a super pop to them, with incredible clarity! The process is dye sublimation, and even though it is not new, it is rare. It involves a sheet of aluminum you bake, with the negative digital image imprinted on it, then heat and pressure forces the dye molecules into a bond with the metal, followed by a glossy coating so the image does not fade, and it looks incredible! The final product is resilient; if you drop one, it may bend the corner a bit but will never scratch the print.”

Jacki & Dr. Leroy

This is Mike’s first FMB Library exhibit, and it was Jacki Liszak, the Executive Director of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, who made the connection with the Library’s late Director, Dr. Leroy Hommerding. “I joined the FMB Chamber,” Mike recalled, “Jacki thought my work appropriate for the Library, so she suggested I call Dr. Leroy. It turns out he saw some of my work at a street vendor show and said I was absolutely talented enough! I came down, we met in person, and he led me on a wonderful Library tour; you could tell by the smile on his face and joy in his voice how proud he was of this institution! It is still hard to believe that just a few months later, he was tragically gone.”

There are roughly 16 pieces in Mike’s exhibit. “Five or six are from a collection I entitled ‘Beach Dreams’ from here on Fort Myers Beach, including one I call ‘Matanzas Meditation’ that is from the top of the Matanzas Pass Bridge at sunrise in black-and-white! Another is from Times Square looking down the lights of Old San Carlos Boulevard, with the bridge above the Pass in the background. The entire ‘Beach Dreams’ series is in black-and-white.”

Others include a Roseate Spoonbill “that is just gorgeous, from Ding Darling,” he raved! “One is of a parent bird with two day-old chicks, with their little heads looking up, asking ‘Is it lunch time yet, Mother?’ There is ‘Another Branch.’ I saw two parent birds building a nest, with the male flying back-and-forth with a small branch and the female putting it into place. He flies back with one more, and the priceless look on her face is like, ‘Another Branch?’”

To view Mike’s exhibit, visit the Beach Library’s 3rd Floor Gallery through Saturday, November 30. The Library is at 2755 Estero Boulevard, with hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and closed Sundays and Holidays, including Veterans Day on Monday, November 11 and Thanksgiving on Thursday, November 28. For Library information, call 239-765-8162 or see www.FMB.lib.fl.us. For more information on Mike and his artwork see www.lensandhat.com

As for what photography means to Mike, “a few things! It is a way to express my feelings to others; a way to tell a story without words; and the way I express the entire range of human emotions, from empathy to happiness, unhappiness to anger, frustration to peace!”