Full Frame: Piles of sponges

Updated on
The World

Full Frame features photo essays and conversations with photographers in the field. See more Full Grame galleries here and here.

I set out to Andros Island in search of the source of an anomaly I experienced but never fully understood in my youth. I grew up a couple miles south of Tarpon Springs, Fla., and would frequent the famous sponge docks, where tourists could learn about the sponging business of the past. The sponging business in Tarpon Springs, though, has faded drastically since I was young, and few fishermen still dive for sponges. Hurricanes and red tides have depleted today’s resources.

So, through a little research I found out that the sponging business in the waters near Andros Island, Bahamas, was still alive and well. To my surprise, I learned that the Bahamians are one of the main suppliers of the sponges in Tarpon Springs.

I traveled with a writer to the Bahamas to the 300-person town of Red Bays to meet with Pete Skaroulis, the financial boss of the town, who runs the sponging operation by employing the locals and providing equipment. It was hard to miss his two-room concrete house. There were piles upon piles of sponges drying in his driveway.

We didn’t know what to expect when meeting him for the first time. He was welcoming and greeted us at the front door. We sat in the bare concrete room on plastic buckets next to his small desk, equipped with a calculator and small book of numbers. It was immediately obvious that he was the boss. He was aged, but as energetic as many of the young spongers he employed. The sea carved every inch of Pete’s body. His face was weathered, his feet were mere knobs decayed away from a Barracuda bite years ago and his skin was dark and leathery.

We spent the next week with him and the locals, traveling around the island and out to sea on various sponging trips. As we drifted across the glassy turquoise water, I was amazed at the locals’ vast knowledge of the water and all it has to offer. Even though I grew up on the west coast of Florida, I realized how much different one’s connection with the land is when you must survive off it. I found that those living without an overwhelming collection of material possessions tend to have a greater connection to the earth and all that grows from it, especially human beings.

About the photographer:

Being named college photographer of the year was a great honor for me and has given me more confidence and motivation to continue to tell stories that I feel are important. The majority of the work in my winning portfolio was produced during internships in 2008. The story about the family recovering from a house fire stemmed out of a news assignment and was pursued on my own initiative. I grew close to the family and felt honored to tell their story. The story about the protests during the Democratic National Convention was shot during my internship at the Rocky Mountain News.

Tim Hussin is an award-winning photographer and multimedia producer. He graduated in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. Hussin has interned at the Gainesville Sun, Monroe Evening News, Deseret News and Rocky Mountain News. He is currently living in New York City interning with MediaStorm.

He was named 2008 College Photographer of the Year and will intern at National Geographic in the fall of 2009. See here for some of his winning entries from that contest.

See the work of more photographers:

Khaled Hasan: Stone-crushing in Bangladesh

Beth Dow: In a secret garden

Zoriah: America at war

Fernando Souto: End of the trail

Will you support The World with a monthly donation?

We rely on support from listeners and readers like you to keep our stories free and accessible to all. Monthly gifts are especially meaningful as they help us plan ahead and concentrate on the stories that matter. Will you consider donating $10/month, to help sustain The World? Thanks for your support!