Barry Gaukel told me that when he showed up at the first football practice this year, the Marathon High School players exclaimed, “Hey, it’s the Weekly guy!” He does indeed shoot photographs for the Keys Weekly newspaper and he does love sports. He’s also a retired firefighter and former K-9 handler. 

Barry’s a little shy, which is tough to pull off when you’re much taller than 6 feet and holding a big camera. So, the Keys Weekly sat down with Barry to give our readers the full scoop.

Full name: Barry Jay Gaukel.

Where were you born and raised: Lansing, Michigan. 

How did you get to the Keys: My wife, Lori, and I always knew we wanted to live here. We came here on vacation for more than 20 years. Every time we stayed at the same site at the KOA on Summerland Key.

Why Marathon? We were used to being in a city where there’s a store on every corner. Marathon had Home Depot and a grocery store. So, we bought a condo in 2006. We sold it about two years ago and moved into Galway Bay. It’s a really fun crowd over there and we had been missing that.

What did you do before? I retired from the City of Lansing’s Fire Department as a captain. At the end of my career I did fire investigations and was cross-trained at a police academy. I was partnered with a police officer who was cross-trained at the fire academy.

Are you a family of firefighters? My dad was a fireman, my brother’s a fireman and my nephew is a fireman. 

Any cases that stand out? We had a suspect in an arson case, but not a lot of physical evidence beyond security video that didn’t capture a face. The suspect came in with her lawyer wearing the same Christmas sweater as in the video. We showed it to them and the lawyer started talking about a plea deal right away!

How long have you been a photographer? It’s always been a hobby. In Michigan, I teamed up with a woman who did senior photo packages — they are a big deal up there — and I was hired to shoot the sports photos. There were four high schools in Lansing, so there was a lot more going on. I did that on my days off.

When did you and Lori open up the gallery? In 2014. At first it was just a third of the space we have now for the frame shop. Immediately, artists began approaching us about showing their work. When the space next door came available, we expanded Shady Palm Art Gallery and Photography. When we first moved to the Keys, Lori started framing my work but it was just so dang expensive. So we started buying our own supplies and doing it ourselves. Then we opened our own shop. We have more than 60 artists featured in our gallery.

How did you meet Lori? On a blind date. She was 19 and I was 21.

Do you have a favorite photography subject matter? Oh, sports, definitely.

If you had to choose between high school, college or professional sports to photograph, what would you choose? College. High school and college players have the most passion, but the lighting in high school venues is usually horrendous. 

How many cameras do you have? I have three professional cameras.

At what age were you certified to dive? 15 years old. 

What is weird and wonderful about the Florida Keys? The people. Everybody seems to get along. If you sit down at a bar, you might be between a guy with a big yacht and the homeless guy who lives under the bridge. You don’t know. 

Anything on your bucket list? I’d love to fly with the Blue Angels.

Do you have any hidden talents? I can play the banjo very, very slowly and I played hockey up until we moved to the Keys. (Why are there no adult sports leagues in Marathon?)

You could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Whom do you choose? My dad. He passed away a few years ago and I miss our chats about how bad the Detroit Lions are, and how his driver did in his NASCAR pool.

Do you have a favorite team? Michigan State. And, whoever is playing the University of  Michigan.

What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn? I was a full black bear at Fantasy Fest one year. It was a great costume but I almost died from the heat. It was like wearing a fur coat. 

You seem like a pretty handy guy. Is there anything you’re not good at? Actually, Lori is the handy one and she has more tools than I do. Her dad was a contractor and she has grand ideas. She outlines the project and then assigns me the work. 

What were the contents of the last Amazon box delivered to your door? A special collar for our dog, Marley. If she wanders too far, the collar sends a text message to my phone and shows me exactly where she is.

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