As a kid, A.J. Neste tagged along with his father, Tony, to his Sports Illustrated photo shoots. At the time, A.J. had no clue he was learning a skill that would fuel his future career.
When A.J. Neste picked up a camera, he did it for the fun of documenting. His passion landed him a job with Surfing Magazine and eventually the USA Surf Team.
“I never knew I was good at photography — just something my dad did, and something I did for fun,” Neste said.
When Neste moved back to Flagler Beach last year, he had hopes to pass his passion along to others.
“All these kids take pictures for Facebook,” Neste said. “I wanted to show them that they can find a career in the industry.”
And that is what he is doing through Florida Endowment Foundation’s VOICE program.
VOICE is a multimedia youth center concept designed to give young people ages 11 to 18 real-world, work-based learning opportunities.
Through a grant, Neste was able to purchase digital cameras and encourage his students to go out, meet people and expose them to things through their own creative expression.
“I love watching them work,” Neste said of his students. “I learned more than I ever thought I knew by teaching them — and their photography is really good.”
Flagler Palm Coast High School student Justin Evans, 16, who has always been interested in photography, has been involved in VOICE for two months.
He said when he learned about the opportunity to learn from a professional, he knew it would be a great experience.
“We learned how attitude and personality affects the quality of your photos,” Evans said.
When Evans began his photography adventure, his interest was in action and sports, but through VOICE, he said he was able to diversify his photographs.
Neste emphasizes to his students how different perspectives allow viewers to see through the photographer’s eyes and that each photo should tell a story.
VOICE participants will be able to share those stories 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, in a one-night gallery show, at Hollingsworth Gallery.
“The goal with the gallery is to show them that there is a business side to your work,” Neste said. “It’s great to shoot and get ideas, but there has to be a focus point.”
Each student, 15 in total, will show one 16-by-20 framed print and four 8-by-10 matted prints, all of which will be for sale. The gallery is an opportunity for the student photographers to not only sell their work, but also to share the story behind the photograph.
“We’re more than a class, more than a club — we’ve become kind of like a little family.” Neste said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Photography’s VOICE Student Gallery
WHEN: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17
WHERE: Hollingsworth Gallery, 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite 210B