Tom Rickard, Photographer At Large • Aug 4, 2015 11:48 AM By Aimee Fitzpatrick Martin
Six years ago, photographer Tom Rickard was sitting in the Log Jam restaurant in Lake George, New York, when a picture hanging on the wall caught his eye.Or, rather, its accoutrement.
"The frame was made out of tree branches from the local Adirondack woods," the Hampton Bays resident recalled. "And I thought, Hey, I can do that using driftwood from our local beaches."
The handmade, one-of-a-kind frames he painstakingly constructs from found wood complement his photographic forte—landscapes, seascapes and still-life showcasing landmarks, beaches, boats and hidden gems he happens across while traveling the East End. They hang on the walls of Cowfish, BackBar Grill and Villa Paul restaurants, to name a few Hampton Bays eateries.
Most recently, the artist himself can be found at local arts and crafts fairs, despite offers from galleries to represent him and his work.
"As corny as it sounds, I'm a real people person, and I have the ability to show my photographs to hundreds, sometimes even thousands of people who truly appreciate the art of local craftsmen and artists. The exposure—no pun intended—is phenomenal," explained Mr. Rickard
He has sold his work to a number of celebrities caught roaming these fairs—among them Steve DeLuca, former publisher of Rolling Stone magazine and now publisher of Departures magazine, CNN news anchor Brooke Baldwin, and Willie Degel, restaurateur and host of "Restaurant Stakeout" on the Food Network.
Mr. Rickard said he also enjoys the sense of community among the vendors who see each other from fair to fair. "We give pointers to each other, joke around, and sometimes buy each other's work and old equipment. We also get to know each other's families, many of whom really pitch in like mine does," he said. "The traveling, setting up, selling all day and then packing up at day's end can be very strenuous, and I have to credit my family for helping me out every step of the way."
One of Mr. Rickard's vendor friends is Chuck Seaman, a fellow Hampton Bays artist who is known for the practicing the ancient Japanese art of Gyotaku, or "fish rubbing." Mr. Seaman now commissions Mr. Rickard to build frames for his fish art.
"Tom's frames are excellently built, and his craftsmanship is number one," according to Mr. Seaman, who often stops by to see Mr. Rickard in his studio and workshop basement, stuffed to the gills with camera equipment, printers, a huge Vacu-Seal for mounting photos on acid-free foam board, mat cutters, and reflection-free conservation glass—not to mention stacks of driftwood, mahogany, cedar, pine, poplar and weathered oak for creating his custom frames.
The wood Mr. Rickard uses comes from a variety of found sources: area beaches, leftover wood from old decks and construction sites, old wooden pallets on the side of the road, and even reclaimed wood from an old sawmill in New Jersey.
As he gears up for his next show, the Montauk Historical Society Craft Fair this weekend at Second House, Mr. Rickard said he realizes he still has has a lot of work to do to prepare for the five remaining fairs this summer. That means finding his next photo inspiration, whether it be a surfer girl silhouetted in the shadow of a setting sun, or a close-up of a sailboat winch, or an abandoned boathouse along the shore. Then there's the printing, matting and creating just the right frame.
Mr. Rickard's "I can do that" philosophy has led him to wear a number of hats over the years before focusing on photography. He's driven trucks as a repo man. He's owned a successful home improvement business. He's donned a wetsuit for his own scuba diving business cleaning large boats. And he was a young TWA flight attendant who surely would have died on the night of the TWA Flight 800 disaster, had his supervisor not called at the last minute to tell him he didn't have to work that night.
"That experience definitely showed me that life is fleeting and every moment needs to be cherished," he said. "Today, as a photographer, I try to capture those memorable moments—whether it's the sun setting behind a boat sailing along Shinnecock Bay, or a double rainbow after a rainstorm, or a family of baby foxes in the Pine Barrens."