RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Here’s another native New Yorker who chose to live in Rio Rancho: Rich Slattery.
This resident became an experienced photographer with his work in big-name publications.
As a youngster growing up in Syosset, N.Y., he wanted to “be the next Ringo Starr.”
Slattery had the opportunity to swirl the sticks with several bands, giving him a lot of travel experience, from gigs in Ohio; Houston; Bangor, Maine; and elsewhere on the East Coast. He’s even played with a few of the myriad Elvis-impersonator backing bands, drumming his way to paychecks from 1980-96.
“I came off the road to get married,” he said, but that stint didn’t last as long as drumming.
So today, he’s not a drummer, but he has a lengthy résumé as a photographer. His photos have appeared in such publications as Newsday, New York Daily News, New York Post, Navajo Times, New York Times and ESPN Magazine, with several of his photos prominently appearing on the front and rear cover pages of some publications. And he even got some of his best work into the Navajo Times.
Hello, New Mexico
How could a New Yorker like Slattery get a photo in the Navajo Times? It was the trip that gave him a hint of what the Southwest was like, and a good reason he moved here 14 months ago — that and surviving the horrors of Hurricane Sandy, when he realized Syosset “ain’t the place to live anymore.”
A lifelong learner, doing some research while he was working for the American Airpower Museum, he “discovered” the Navajo Code Talkers and sensed a story, which would require photos. Slattery came to New Mexico during the Gathering of Nations, which led to finding Code Talkers at a book signing in Old Town.
Long story short, the presumptive story for the Daily News was killed, but he sold the photos to the Navajo Times.
“I found out what this area was like: less traffic, good food, friendlier people — it made a major difference,” he said.
Following the 2018 passing of his mother, whom he had been caring for in New York as she struggled with cancer, he remembered thinking, “I’m gonna be out of here so fast your head’s gonna spin.”
He’d read a book about Rio Rancho, once referred to as “little New York,” and he quickly moved to the City of Vision, finding a home in Mariposa.
Now, he’d like to find a job in the metro area.
Included in Slattery’s portfolio are photos of politicians and celebrities for various media outlets, public relations firms and educational institutions: presidents Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer; and celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Natalie Portman, Sean Astin, Tony Curtis, Whoopie Goldberg, the Baldwin Brothers and his admitted favorite, Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps.
He’s been a contributing photographer for Long Island University Post’s book describing the history of the LIU Post campus and the Post family role in the creating of the university; is experienced in air-to-air and air-to-ground aerial photography for the American Airpower Museum to document anniversary flights of World War II; and a volunteer photographer for the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island.
And, he nearly forgot, “I have done surgery photography as well in two hospitals.” Following his close-up work on brain surgery one day, he got nauseous.
And he’s got countless tales of being behind the lens.
One of them involved heading to Ground Zero after 9/11 and being questioned about his proximity to a federal building, in this case the FBI office in New York, while carrying a camera.
Another involved what was supposed to be a quick photo opp of the White House, which he learned is also a no-no without previous permission and definitely not while using a tripod.
He learned snipers atop the White House had him in their sights when they saw the tripod, assuming it might be for a rifle. (It wasn’t, obviously, but the case he used to carry his tripod was a rifle case.)
One of his favorite photog adventures, in addition to photographing Phelps, involved getting shots of John Gotti Jr., an organized-crime boss, when he was released from prison.
What he thought could be a near-death experience had him climbing aboard a biplane, piloted by a 93-year-old man, who was in the spirit of things while trying to stay close to performing planes in an air show.
The pilot’s scarf kept getting in the way of Slattery’s lens, as did the wires and cables between the wings. The scary part came when he noticed the pilot landing the plane, not on the runway, but on grass adjoining it.
“He said the plane would break up on an asphalt runway,” Slattery said, chuckling at the memory. “That was the scariest.”
So now he’s in Rio Rancho to stay.
You can see his work at richtslatteryphotography.smugmug.com.