You don’t meet just anyone, sunset after arctic sunset after achingly beautiful sunset at The Point in Stonington Borough, out there alone braving the glacial ice on breakwater walls and boulders, the wild and whipping winds, the polar tides, all to photograph, faithfully, the oft-times roaring skies and then pastel brilliance of day’s end.
You motor over, lower the driver’s-side window, ignore the cold and sheepishly get to know Joe Geraci.
At least a couple of late afternoons a week, especially in this unsullied season, I make my way along Water Street in Stonington Borough to the tundra-like parking area at the end of the narrow peninsula, with its horizons of Watch Hill and Napatree to the east, Montauk and Portugal straight out to sea and Fishers Island and Wamphassuc Point and streaked heavens to the west. I let the engine idle for warmth, perhaps listen to Keith Jarrett’s “Koln Concert” to gild themood and wait and watch.
And without fail, there is this burly fellow, no hat or cap, brandishing his long-lens camera, close by the hood of his ancient Jeep Commander, parked near where the flagpole rattles furiously with clang and crack.
Often as not there are a few other rugged souls out there as well, hastily snapping a cell phone shot, and bundling back into their cars. The other evening, the one after the minus- degree sunset, when, by the way, we both were there, I decided to find out, as is my wont: Who is this guy?
Congenial as the swirling chill allowed, Joe Geraci told me, in no particular order, that he lives in Stonington, off Flanders Road, worked 15 years for the Connecticut Department of Correction at the maximum-security Corrigan Correctional Center in Uncasville,Conn., was raised in New Britain, is 54 and since undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2009, has lost 190 pounds from what once was a devastating, if not debilitating, bulk of 460 pounds.
He’s also a pretty darn good photographer. His Joe Geraci Fine Art photography website will confirm that.
That he is out there at The Point virtually every winter sunset is not merely a matter of perfecting his art or displaying his pluck. If he makes it out, his body has not confounded him, at least for that day.
Geraci told me he has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an inherited disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, sometimes rendering the joints overly flexible, and the skin stretchy and fragile.
He might find it forbidding to walk down stairs.
Ten years ago, after his 15 years as a corrections officer and being promoted to lieutenant, he was given a disability pension — for heart and hypertension ills — and let go by the state. During his time at Corrigan, he said, he’d suffered a broken knee cap and chipped teeth in altercations with prisoners, had been assaulted a bunch of times and broken up myriad fights. Still, he said he fared better than a few other officers.
Before corrections, he worked at Electric Boat in topside electronics, installing hydrophones on the Trident-class submarines. As the Trident program ended, so did his job at EB.
The spike in weight gain occurred after he retired, and following the gastric bypass surgery, he worked out daily, walking the boardwalk in Niantic, where he was then living. He said he’s put some weight back on, but keeps moving as best he’s able.
However taxing his physical ailments, and they are not, obviously, insignificant, they have not imposed on his buoyant personality and affable nature or his eye for color, landscape and full-rigged yacht-and-tall-ship elegance.
His affection for the sea is a constant in his work, and, having fished since his boyhood summers spent in Niantic, he remains an advocate for commercial fishermen. He will take 100 to 200 shots of the sunset each evening at The Point, and edit out most, posting those with the most stunning and dramatic palette or moment.
In recent years he worked as a shooter for the annual Maritime Heritage Festival in New London.
These days, he relies on his website, for the most part, to showcase his art.
Look online for yourself. Or, better still, head down to The Point one of these evenings and marvel at the wide-open sunset as well as the man who enshrines them.
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com.