Port director shares passion with award-winning photographs.
Paul LaMarre III knows that a picture really is worth a thousand words.
The director of the Port of Monroe has a passion for the freighters, tugboats and barges that traverse the unforgiving waters of the Great Lakes. It’s a love that he inherited from his father, Paul LaMarre Jr. It’s an affection that was fostered by a lifetime around the water.
Like his father, LaMarre also has a passion for sharing his love of these vessels through his artwork. The port director was honored recently by the Great Lakes Seaway Partnership, which awarded a package of his photos with the first- place prize in their second annual photo contest.
Two of the winning photos were of the Interlake Steamship Company’s M/ V. Hon. James L. Oberstar, while the third was a picture of the M/ V. Gagliarda unloading at the Port of Monroe on her maiden Seaway voyage. Several other photos taken by LaMarre received honorable mention recognition.
“ It’s a blessing to have the access that allows me the opportunity to try to bring people closer to the action, let’s say,” LaMarre said. “ Everybody has their own unique niche. My niche has been getting vessels underway, open lake, which nobody else has really been doing.”
LaMarre has been photographing ships since he was 5. His father is a renowned figure in the Great Lakes maritime industry and an accomplished painter and photographer of the lakes and the vessels that call them home.
“ I always say to this day, even at the port, I just want to be like my dad when I grow up and make him proud,” LaMarre said. “ I can tell you that I am as excited to show my dad a good boat picture that I have captured today as I was when I was a little kid.”
The tools LaMarre uses today to capture his breathtaking images are a far cry from the clunky cameras of his childhood. LaMarre uses a drone- mounted camera to capture photos of vessels underway.
“ Right now there’s only myself and one other guy who are getting the pictures with the drone off of a moving platform,” he said. “I was the first one to do it, fly it off a moving ship or tug and then have to recover it when you’re still on your way.”
While LaMarre’s unique technique allows him the opportunity to obtain truly one of- a- kind images, it’s not without its risks. LaMarre said he’s on his fifth drone and he’s ruined countless sets of propeller blades as he’s worked to fine- tune the process.
“ Some SD cards are at the bottom of Lake Erie and Lake Huron at this point,” he said. “ It is nerve- wracking every time that you recover the drone when you’re in the middle of the lake and you just had it out hundreds, if not thousands of feet from the ship. To get it back aboard has not come without a very challenging learning curve, which could include almost taking your finger off or almost taking your head off and going through a lot of propeller blades.
“ In the beginning, the best bet was to just get the drone above the vessel and drop it.”
The first time LaMarre successfully utilized his drone system was aboard the Oberstar in 2018. The ship holds a special place in his heart. He and his wife are good friends with not only its current owner, captain and crew, but also William Snyder III, the man who in 1959 was commissioned to build the vessel that was then known as the Shenango II.
LaMarre and his wife have taken two leisure trips on the Oberstar, which is when he took his award-winning photographs of the vessel.
“That boat is so special to me,” he said “It means a great deal, and I hope to capture the best images of her sailing career. She’s the only ship that I’d really take a trip on that was, quite frankly, for my own enjoyment because that connection to that vessel is so special. She’s the one.”
Through his photography, LaMarre hopes to share his passion for ships with people who are not able to have the intimate relationship with the Great Lakes that he has enjoyed his entire life. To that end, he posts at least one photo a day to his Facebook page to continue to engage residents interested in the Port of Monroe.
“ We are very limited in our ability to grant access to interested and enthusiastic members of the community, because of security restrictions now more than ever,” he said. “ Ultimately it’s Monroe’s port, and my goal is to consistently operate a purely public agency as a nonprofit, and to do it in a manner that we drive transportation- related cargo and commerce that creates jobs and generates tax revenue that will hopefully lead to a better quality of life for the citizens of Monroe.
“ I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to lead this organization, (and) to do something I feel is upholding family tradition and history and then at the same time serve (the) community.”
“ It’s a very humbling and fortunate position to be in,” he added.
Source: Monroe Evening News