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Roland Skinner (1940-2018)

Lifelong photographer Roland Skinner (Photograph supplied)

Roland Skinner, a photographer who showcased the island’s beauty in sweeping aerial shots, has died.

Mr Skinner was 78. His pictures, many of which were taken from aboard a helicopter, featured in international publications.

Mr Skinner got his start when he was 15 and spent about 40 years as a photographer for the Government’s tourism service.

In the Bermuda News Bureau, now the Department of Communications, Mr Skinner prided himself on pictures that showed Bermuda at its best.

He headed the department’s photographic services division, which provided the images for tourism advertising, and worked closely with the Bermuda Archives.

Mr Skinner told The Royal Gazette in 1993: “Photography is the sort of thing you never get tired of. You can do it all your life and enjoy the last photograph you took as much as the first one.

“I think you’re born with it. Musicians are born to be musicians and photographers are born to be photographers.”

He added that the island was “a photographer’s paradise”.

David Skinner, former Chief Photographer at The Royal Gazette and a cousin of Mr Skinner, said he took “thousands of lovely images of Bermuda that went around the world”.

Tony Cordeiro, a veteran photographer and also a former Chief Photographer at The Royal Gazette, who also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press, recalled friendly competition with Mr Skinner when celebrities visited Bermuda.

Mr Cordeiro said: “The first picture out on the wires — that’s the one. We used to tease each other.”

Mr Skinner would develop his film in his van at the airport to get it ready fast.

Mr Cordeiro said: “It was a rush to the darkroom to make the picture, and then we would rush up to Cable and Wireless to put it on the wire.”

He remembered asking where Mr Skinner found the patience to get his iconic landscape pictures.

Mr Cordeiro said: “He’d get up at 4am and wait on the South Shore for the tides to come in. Some mornings, it just didn’t happen, so he’d go back and do it again. He had all the patience in the world, and a good eye.”

Mr Skinner studied at the Winona School of Professional Photography in Indiana, but honed his trade in the darkroom.

Gene Ray, who worked alongside Mr Skinner as chief photographer for the news bureau, said both men left school at Cavendish as teenagers and started in photography as messengers a few years apart.

Mr Ray added: “We worked in the darkroom processing pictures for the senior photographers.

“We made enlargements and different sized prints, which I think is the best way to learn — you learn composition. We learnt under experts such as John Weatherill, who was chief photographer.

“Roly continued in the photo lab and became very good at enlargements and prints.”

Mr Ray said his former colleague was “a very astute photographer who did a great job for the Government”.

Mr Skinner was “a sports fanatic” and keen footballer who moved on to golf in later years, and was also a keen snooker player.

Mr Ray said: “He was easygoing and well liked — I can’t say enough nice things about him. He made a mark in photography.”

Mr Skinner opened his own photo gallery, Picturesque, just before he retired from his government post in 1995.

Already familiar with aerial shots from his work at the bureau, Mr Skinner brought a helicopter to the island for the private shoots that revealed the island from a new angle.

Mr Skinner’s popular book, Picturesque Bermuda, was released in 1996, followed by a second volume in 2012.

Mr Skinner’s business was taken over by AS Cooper in 2011, and the gallery moved to Walker Arcade in 2013.

Nature, from landscapes and sea shots to flowers and butterflies, were his favourite subjects.

Mr Skinner attributed some of his most memorable shots to luck and perseverance.

He said a picture of two courting longtails — used on a two dollar coin in the 1990s, was a good example. Mr Skinner added: “I beat the odds. It’s like chipping a golf shot into the hole.”