Five Young Local Photographers to Follow on Social Media

Social Media Gives Photogs New Avenues
By JON COEN | Jul 19, 2017
Photo by: Matt Reitinger

One thing that sets the Long Beach Island area apart is the scenery. Sure, a lot of places have beaches, but we have that gorgeous Barnegat Bay and all those acres of Pine Barrens just inland. We have incredible opportunity for action photos, stylish venues, charming characters, and perfect backdrops for portraits. And from old, grainy black and whites to today’s digital capturing, Island photographers have always stood out.

And chances are that over the years you’ve had the opportunity to see the work of many of these locals. You’ve seen it right here in The SandPaper. Maybe you’ve seen a Chris Pfeil slideshow, picked up a photography book by Bob Birdsall, visited one of our galleries or scrolled through Jim Vernhagen’s Readings from the Northside ( These are a few of the established photographers in the area.

But what about the next wave? There’s a whole generation of photographers firing through digital cards, photographers as passionate about our area as they are about the craft of photography itself.

But to say the game has changed is an understatement. While social media presents new challenges to photographers, it also provides new avenues for exposure. Facebook is a great opportunity for storytelling; Twitter and especially Instagram are new platforms for pure imagery.

From local stuff to travel and other passions out of the area, here are five young local photographers you should be following:

Matt Reitinger, @StayAbovetheWeather

Melanie Cassie @MCassiePix

Ryan Johnson @RyanJohnson_1

LJ Hepp @LJ_Hepp

Shawn Casey @Yewwville —J.C.




Ryan Johnson, Manahawkin, @RyanJohnson_1 Ryan Johnson actually started out as a videographer, shooting skate videos at a young age. But Johnson had a talent for still photos and the skateboarding led him to document tattooing, hardcore music and motorcycles. He has a good relationship with Right Coast tattoo and captures the best of tattoo culture. A former SandPaper photo intern, today, he’s a second shooter at weddings and inspired to get increasingly creative set-up shots of our local environs. ‘One of my favorite things to shoot is the night sky. I love getting coffee late at night and heading out at weird hours of the night. One night I could be on the beach shooting or taking back roads through the Pine Barrens to photograph the Milky Way,’ he explains. Johnson was in a serious motorcycle accident this spring. Though he’s on crutches, he’s already motivated to get back to shooting. His feeds are a range of motorcycles, travel, surfing, local images, edgy portraits and striking long exposures of the woods and beach. (Photo by: Ryan Johnson)
Matt Reitinger, Brant Beach, @StayAbovetheWeather Reitinger grew up on LBI in the summer, surfing since he was 12. After graduating from Stockton in 2008, he moved to the Island full time. He started doing some carpentry work before Superstorm Sandy, but since the storm has been building full time. He picked up a DSLR camera in 2014 and just started falling in love with shooting. ‘I've always been fascinated with the weather, whether for tracking upcoming swells or thunderstorms rolling across the bay. I love shooting surfing, landscapes and all the different birds that frequent our beautiful sandbar. There's nothing better then starting your day off being alone on the beach and watching the dynamic colors changing over the ocean,’ he says. Reitinger is also fascinated by the elements. His work consists of those pure beauty shots – sunrises, perfect waves, lightning storms and colors. You’ll also find some playful marine mammals in the mix. (Photo by: Matt Reitinger)
Melanie Cudnik Ship Bottom @MCassiePix Mel Cudnik (She goes by Mel Cassie with her business) is a speech/language pathologist at Tuckerton Elementary School. Cudnik first picked up a point and shoot camera when she was 11 and was hooked. It started as a hobby and led to passion and now part-time career. ‘Honestly, pictures are all you have when people are gone. It's so rewarding to be able to document clients’ special moments, and for them to have something tangible to look back on. I take a photojournalistic approach with a hint of posing when needed. Being able to capture a wedding for a couple is something I feel honored doing. I feel forever connected with my clients. ‘Surf photography is also a passion of mine, since no two waves are the same.’​​Her primary subjects are her wedding clients, whom she approaches with a candid and vibrant style. (Photo by: Melanie Cudnik)
LJ Hepp, @LJ_Hepp The Manahawkin native began, like many other young photographers, shooting surfing. While he still shoots surf today, most of his focus is on music and different events, whether for commercial work or just his own enjoyment. ‘Growing up surfing, we would watch surf movies when the waves were flat. Then we discovered the bands they used in the edits and sought out their shows when they would play close to home. Eventually I started bringing my camera with me because I wanted to document the energy each night. So I guess inspiration comes full circle. If it's a high-energy scenario, whether it be in the ocean or at a concert, I will probably be there with my camera.’ While he documents local surfing and scenics, today his lens is pointed at musicians most of the time – punk, hip hop and folk in Asbury Park and other regional music scenes with travel, novelty, portraits and public art. (Photo by: LJ Hepp)
Shawn Casey, Surf City @Yewwville Shawn Casey is a Rhode Island native but was drawn to LBI’s solid waves. He is a surfer first and foremost, having dedicated countless hours in the water and tracking swells, which is clear in his work. But even pointing his lens in other directions, he’s proving quite the talent. ‘My day-to-day grind and passions, both require heavy monitoring of local weather intricacies, and I think the intuition that comes with such routine shows in my imagery. Mother Nature is the greatest artist, and I enjoy photographing anything to do with her glorious creations, especially if those images can inspire others to get out and enjoy all that nature has to offer,’ Casey says.Follow Casey if you’re into images of dreamy LBI wavescapes with composition and color all four seasons – great snowy-mountain imagery as well. (Photo by: Shawn Casey)
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