Thomas Slatin is a former firefighter and EMT who decided to pursue his career as a writer and a photographer. From web design, to firefighting and medical services to writing and photography, he has done it all and enjoyed success in all fields he has pursued. We wanted to know how he does so well in all of his pursuits and caught up with him one afternoon.
What made you decide to open a website and share your experiences from your colorful life?
I started building my own personal website in 1996. It was at that time that the Internet was a relatively new technology and in order to develop a website, one needed a working knowledge of HTML. My first websites were a single directory filled with images and different hand-coded web pages.
By age 18, I had landed my first job as webmaster and Information Technology Specialist, and this was before I had even graduated high school.
As time went on, I migrated all the content to WordPress, which has allowed me to build much more interesting and larger websites with more dynamic content.
How did you get into photography, was there a point in your life that made you interested in it?
My father, Harvey Slatin, was an avid photographer, as was his lifelong friend, Arthur Covert. As a
child, I was often surrounded by camera equipment and often watched as my father and his friend hand-developed photographs in a darkroom located at Arthur’s house in Schenectady, New York.
At the age of 8 years old, my father gifted me my first camera, a 35mm Canon AE-1. I was already proficient in taking pictures with a manual film camera, and later that same afternoon, took a selfie of myself standing in our living room in New York City with my collection of inflatable dinosaurs.
Why do you choose to photograph the specific type of locations you do such as abandoned places?
When I was a child, I was absolutely fascinated, if not flat-out obsessed with exploring abandoned places. As a young boy, my friends and I would find old abandoned houses to explore, and on numerous occasions, we would use these places as weekend gathering places, meeting up as a circle of friends from grade school.
Now as an adult, I seek permission whenever possible to explore and photograph abandoned properties. A handful of my most memorable photoshoots include Penn Hills Resort in Analomink, Pennsylvania, Letchworth Village in Rockland County, New York, The Fownes Textile Mill in Amsterdam, New York, and The Hotel Adler Complex in Sharon Springs, New York.
It is quite a big change to go from an EMT, firefighter to a photographer, why the change? What happened that made you want to leave?
As a young boy, I had always dreamed of being a firefighter, and when I turned 16, the local volunteer fire department in Stamford, New York, took me on as an explorer. By age 18, I finished my training as an Emergency Medical Technician in the city of Buffalo, New York. A few years later, I successfully completed my training as a firefighter.
I worked full-time as an Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter for a little over 18 years. At age 36, I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. My 18 year career allowed me to work in several metropolitan areas in New York State, including Plattsburgh, Long Island/New York City, and Albany. Six months after being promoted to Lieutenant, I decided that it was finally time to pursue my lifelong passion of being a writer and photographer.
You mentioned also being a writer. As for being a writer, who were your influences?
I was born and raised in Greenwich Village, in New York City. My father knew a lot of interesting and successful people. Charles Kuralt lived nearby and as a child, I remember Charles coming to have an afternoon drink with my father at our Bank Street apartment. It was around the age of 7 or 8 that I
remember Charles talking to my father about my career choices and predicting that one day I might make a prolific and successful writer. My father had dreams of me becoming a doctor or lawyer, or perhaps even a businessman, and at the time, dismissed the idea of me writing professionally.
A few years later, my parents moved to Stamford, New York. Then, when I was 12 years old, my father introduced me to Allen Ginsberg. Allen spent a lot of time talking to my father, and as time went by, Allen began to invite me to watch as he wrote his poetry, eventually he began to mentor me and, on several occasions, suggested that I might dedicate my life to writing. My father, although delighted that I had an innate talent for writing, specifically non-fiction, almost journalistic style, still insisted that I follow a career path that was more mainstream.
Is your partner supportive of you career? Does she also have a career similar to yours involving travel?
I was in a long-term relationship with a woman who supported my career choice in the fire service, but as soon as I decided to leave and become self-employed as a writer and photographer, she became dissatisfied with my new career choice, which later became one of the reasons why I left the relationship. As of 2020, I’m in a new relationship with Amelia Desertsong, a writer herself, who completely supports my career. We often collaborate on our projects, as well as travel together.
What was it like to win the awards you have won?
In 2016, my blog won DreamHost.com’s website of the year, which so far is the most impressive award my blog has ever won. For me, it was a form of tangible validation and recognition of my hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
Your web design has a unique look, have you ever thought about pursuing that more seriously given the rise in technology and business?
My blog design is custom; all of my website and blog designs have been custom designed myself since the very beginning. For several years, especially during my time in college, I designed websites professionally and made a nice income. Unfortunately, advances in technology, specifically, the drag-and drop functionality of modern blogging systems has allowed people to create and design their own custom websites and blogs with little or no training or experience, and as such made it next to impossible for me to find work in this area. So, while I did complete several college courses in computer programming, information technology, and website design, and was able to pursue a successful career in Internet design, it was short lived.
Finally, do you have any inspirations for your photography work?
Last year, I purchased my forever home in Middletown Springs, Vermont, and teamed up with freelance model, Makayla Martinez. We completed a few different photoshoots which were shot in Rutland and Burlington, Vermont.
My favorite photoshoot took place on my property, and involved Makayla wading in the Poultney River, which flows through my property, while dressed in a wedding dress we purchased from the local Goodwill.
Currently, I sell my photography on a constant basis through Canva, EyeEm, and Getty Images. While my photography focuses on abandoned locations, and adventure photography, I would like to work with female models again, in the woodland scenes of Vermont and/or urban scenes and metropolitan skylines.
Thanks for sitting down with us today Thomas! Best of luck for any future endeavors, though we are sure you won’t need it!