Sept. 25, 2005 – Diane Butler has remained loyal to her art, but she makes sure she makes a living, too.
From the late 1980s, when she studied the technical skills of a photographer in Wisconsin, to the early 1990s, when she came to St. Croix to open her own business, to 2005, when she runs three enterprises, few technologies have gone through as dramatic a change as photography.
Still, Butler remains faithful to her 35 millimeter Nikons and her Hazelbaum cameras. While the digital age has befallen just about everyone else, she retains a darkroom where she can do her own developing. She still also works with slides. A couple decades ago, slides were the only format that professional photographers would consider for presenting their work. All major magazines worked from slides. Now, Butler uses a place in New York that is among the last to produce slides.
But she has done some adjusting, too. In her wedding and special occasion photography business, she scans photographs and makes them available electronically. She has also branched out.
She says that in 1999 there were tourist publications on St. Croix, but "they seemed to be missing it." They were published by people off-island. That year, she started publishing the St. Croix Explorer Map, which now annually sees a print run of about 70,000. The Explorer is a full-color, 32-page tourist publication about St.Croix. It includes a little history, as well as news about restaurants, accommodations, tours, activities, and shopping.
www.stcroixexplorer.com/. She says producing the Explorer is getting easier, especially advertising sales. "We have a good reputation now. Businesses love the publication and they love their ads."
At first, she contributed her own writing to the publication, but later hired a writer to do that part. "I am not a writer," she says. She still does much of the design work on the publication. It is printed off-island.
The Explorer is published each January. Butler also began doing an annual calendar that features her work as a photographer. Each calendar has a theme. The theme of last year's calendar was historical architecture. She would not reveal the theme of the calendar coming out next month.
Butler has always remained an advocate for businesses on St. Croix. She was a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for three years. When the Chamber's president and vice president suddenly resigned earlier this year, she became president. (See "Chamber of Commerce Names New President").
"In the last fifteen years, I have seen a lot of big ideas that went nowhere," she says. "But little things are getting done. Look at the Christiansted bypass. They have talked about it for years. Now I believe it is really getting done."
She is pleased with what has happened in Christiansted in the past 15 years. She says, "It is not just downtown, the boardwalk. It is spreading out to Sunday Market Square and beyond."
Her biggest hope for the near future is a hotel for Frederiksted. She says with the recent renovation there, "Frederiksted is going to be gorgeous."
Butler does not mince words about why she moved here. "I do not like the cold," she says. She lives on the north shore and says Gentle Winds beach is her favorite spot on the island, but she adds, "I love all of St. Croix."
While Hurricane Hugo is not a pleasant memory for most Crucians, it is what set Butler on her life track. She says she had never hear of St. Croix until news reports about it after Hugo. She says she thought, "We have an island down there. I better check it out."
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