If you ask anyone who has ever lived in or visited Ellicottville, it is without a doubt one of the most aesthetically pleasing areas in all of Western New York. And because of this, many professional, amateur and hobby photographers are drawn to our bustling little town to capture its essence - whether it be the countryside landscapes, the historical downtown architecture, the unique storefronts, or the vibrant personalities found within.
Tony DiStefano, photography enthusiast and manager of The EVL Lodge, is taking his passion for the lens in a new and exciting direction. The idea: a photographer’s guild, right here in Ellicottville. His goal: to gather like-minded photographers to discuss technique, processes, and styles; and to learn from and encourage one another.
DiStefano, originally from Leeper, PA, relocated to Virginia at the age of 19. Fast-forward to April of 2014, when DiStefano’s father gave him the opportunity to move to Great Valley, NY and manage a total of four rental units for him. This is where his Ellicottville story begins. He tended bar at Ellicottville Brewing Company on the side, which gave him the opportunity to meet locals and tourists alike. One year later, Tony was presented with yet another opportunity, which would expand his love of management. The EVL Lodge (former Kelly House) was in need of a manager. DiStefano jumped right in. “I love being an innkeeper. You get an opportunity to establish a relationship with the clients, many of whom have turned into friends.”
DiStefano now balances his innkeeper responsibilities with his growing love for the lens. Although a self-taught photographer, he sure had the best of influences. His uncle works in photojournalism and does freelance work; his brother owns Focus Photo based in Lancaster, PA, which provides a range of services from portraits to landscapes and everything in between. DiStefano’s passion leans more heavily in abstract, but he dabbles in portraits, landscapes and macro as well. (Macro photography is the art of taking close-up pictures that reveal details which can’t be seen with the naked eye. It requires the use of a “microscope-esque” lens to magnify the tiniest of objects, such as an insect or flower petal.)
When the idea of creating a photographers guild first crossed DiStefano’s mind, his immediate reaction was to reach out to John Thomas of Lightsong Photography. Thomas responded with an enthusiasm for the idea and has assisted DiStefano every step of the way in planning the group. And just last month - February 2017 - the first meeting of the Ellicottville Photographers Guild was held inside The EVL Lodge. With seven interested individuals in attendance, DiStefano opened the meeting introducing himself, the Guild, and its mission.
“I want people to have fun in an informal atmosphere where each member can grow their skills as a photographer,” he said. His vision for the Guild is to build a solid group that will meet once a month; each month focusing on a different aspect of photography (such as lighting) and/or hosting a guest speaker who can provide insight and help educate members on specific topics of interest.
The Guild’s first meeting was comprised of a range of talent - from professional to amateur. A handful of attendees shared a selection of their works, which concluded with the group’s first assignment: bring 3 photos to be critiqued at the next meeting.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and as one of the individuals in attendance at the Guild’s “exploratory” meeting, I can attest to that proverb. Some of the shots showcased at the meeting were worth even more.
If you are interested in joining the Ellicottville Photographers Guild, search “Ellicottville Photographers Guild” on Facebook or call Tony DiStefano at 540-908-0426. The group encourages new members to attend the next meeting, set for March 22 at 7pm at The EVL Lodge (E. Washington St., Ellicottville, NY) ... Don’t forget your three photos!