On the afternoon of July 10th, Paul Karmazin was driving down Woodbine Avenue when he noticed a fire raging at the .
"I've always wanted to be a firefighter, but I've never gotten around to it," confessed Karmazin. So, with the already on the scene, Karmazin turned to a hobby he is quite good at - he stopped his car, grabbed his Nikon L110 (after a pit stop at the store for extra batteries), and began documenting the fire as it happened.
Understanding the importance of the situation, "...I knew at that point there was nothing I could do to help but show the public," said Karmazin, who took over 300 photographs at the scene, which are viewable at his Photobucket page. The photographs depict the destruction caused by the fire that ultimately consumed two buildings and over 50 apartments, as well as those fighting the fire and those witnessing it.
Karmazin's early arrival on the scene allowed him to notice things about the fire that not everyone took in.
"I saw firefighters go in and out of enclosed areas within the building and come looking overwhelmed with what they were seeing," recalled Karmazin. "Walking into the situation for the first time, it's easy for anyone to get overwhelmed by the smoke and flames of that magnitude...The smoke was enough to choke a horse. Overwhelming is the biggest and best description I could make of this situation."
Karmazin's love of photography began in high school. "I started taking photography in a different side of the field - first television station, Barron Broadcast," he said. "Through the TV station I got better and better and carrying the camera and zooming and focusing." Eventually, he said, he decided why worry so much about video and video editing, "...when I could take a still shot, capture and share, and tell the same story."
Karmazin's reason for his photography, he says, is to share it with whoever is interested. He doesn't mind people using his work ("I don't mind if people take my photos for free because I don't work for anybody, but please give me credit.") and is hoping to eventually earn a press pass to shoot other newsworthy events. "I love to photograph and share," said Karmazin. "Some people photograph because it's their hobby, my hobby is sharing what I've seen. I try to describe everything I do with a photo."
He does that describing without alterations. "I don't edit any photos ever, I don't crop or re-shade," said Karmazin. "I can, I know how, but it's not necessary if you do it right or find the perfect one."
Karmazin, who works as a freelance composer of music for television commercials - "I have been writing music my entire life," he notes - hopes to one day flip his job and his hobby. "It would be a wonderful thing if I could make [photography] my career, with music on the side," he said.
While he's taken photographs of everything from the fire in Avenel to the transit of Venis (by putting sunglasses over the camera lens to capture the clearest possible photos), Karmazin enjoys taking pictures of people. "I...like to capture the public, and make the public aware of what's going on around them," he said. "Going in [to the Avenel fire], about 4 o'clock, there had been maybe 50 or 60 bystanders. By the end, there had been about three or four hundred people standing around. People started huddling together and they wanted to be closer together when they watched this devestation because it was an uncomfortable thing to see."
Karmazin, an Avenel resident himself, feels that by documenting such events, he's allowing them to live on through future generations. "My family's been in Woodbridge for just over two centuries," he said. "If somebody's not going to take a photo and put it in a shoebox or store it somewhere, who's going to remember it 30 or 40 years from now?"