LYME — From photographing the President of the United States to hanging off a helicopter miles from the coast of Crete, Skip Hine has pictures to show and stories to tell.
“The helicopter hatch was open and my feet were hanging in the air. We kept circling the ship and I kept shooting, then we landed on the tanker — I think of that as one of the most thrilling jobs I ever had,” said Hine about being hired by a Greek shipping company to create a photo library of their oil tankers.
“At the time I was thinking, I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this,” he told CT Examiner.
Hine, who will turn 70 this year, has a new book, “Memories in Hine Sight: My Life with a Camera,” that documents the wide range of his personal, corporate and advertising work over a 50-year career. He writes detailed, often funny, stories about the photos, revealing why each shoot was important to him.
One of the early photos in the book is a black and white portrait of Hine in high school that he said was the catalyst for his career in photography.
“The very first picture of me 50 years ago was literally the one that started everything — a friend of mine took a picture of me at school in the window,” Hine said. “He had a Nikon and took the lens off and changed lenses … that’s how I learned about SLRs.”
Hine, who grew up in West Hartford, said he bought his first camera from Pomfret classmate Ridley Pearson, who later became a well-known author.
“I bought his camera instead of spending the $100 my grandmother sent me for a winter coat,” Hine laughed.
After he earned a degree in fine art photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, he moved to New York City and landed a few gigs as a photographer’s assistant.
Then he got a big break.
“I met a photographer and he says, ‘I gotta hire someone to work for tomorrow.’ And I stayed a year and a half,” Hine said. “[Klaus Lucka] was at the time becoming one of the top five photographers in the country, in top 10 in the world of advertising.”
It took Hine two and a half years to open his own studio. By chance a photographer whom Hine was assisting said he was moving, and did Hine want to take over the studio for $3,000? Hine emptied his savings account and said yes.
“I started literally from scratch except for some furniture. I had to start buying my own strobes. It seemed like every job that came in the door I was spending more money two months before I got paid,” he said.
Hine said he knew he was on the right track. He loved meeting successful people, and the challenge of creating images for clients.
“It was one of those things where people say you’ve had a great career, and I used to say I’ve been lucky — but, no, it’s not luck, it’s just being stubborn enough to pay your dues,” he said. “You don’t know what route is going to take you where, and there were days my cat ate better than I did.”
Hine’s book includes a sampling of his work with well-known people, including former President Gerald Ford, Dick Cavett, David Duchovny, Howard Cosell, David Rockefeller, George Plimpton and Jean Kennedy Smith, to name a few. He also included a variety of pieces he shot for clients like Bausch & Lomb, Motorola, and the U.S. Navy, as well as EF Hutton, Merrill Lynch and the Connecticut Food Bank, among others.
A few years ago Hine had eye surgery after being told he was going blind in one eye. He said once he was well enough, he and his wife Deb Vezan, began walking down Cove Road to Ely’s Ferry.
“I had my iPhone, I started taking pictures of things. And that’s why the chapter of my personal stuff is called ‘Eyes Wide Open.’” he said. “It’s out there. People just don’t really look at what there is around them.”
Hine said the front cover of the book was shot with his iPhone in Paris. He shot the image on the back cover, “Chez Anais,” by hiring a set builder, hair and makeup artists and a model who brought the wardrobe for the shot.
“I wanted to mix and match my personal and my professional career,” he said.
Hine said the book was his “COVID project” and took 14 months to put together, culling from thousands of photos.
“It was cathartic putting the book together. It wasn’t easy but I didn’t want to quit. I’m stubborn. But, you know, you never want to say, ‘I’m done,’ because I could have kept going. And I thought, how big do I want this book to get?”
For information on Hines’ book, go to skiphine.com.