Meet a few of the creatives behind 83 Degrees Media

The creative minds behind 83 Degrees Media images and content aren’t just scribes for hire. 

When they’re not on the scene scoping out stories, they make and sell original art in almost every form imaginable, from paintings and literature to sculpture and fine-art to photography and music -- and even floral design. 

The collective talent is a boon for 83 Degrees’ pictures and stories. They’re enhanced by these contributors’ energy, gumption, and unique palette of perspectives.

So, join us in a toast to 83 Degrees Media’s intrepid talents as we escort them from behind their keyboards and cameras to your screen.

Amy Hammond

Children’s books don’t always feature cute critters and morality lessons. In the colorful world of Amy Hammond’s vivid prose and illustrations, kids learn the benefits of higher education and, more often than not, catch the alma mater fever of their parents. 

A public relations grad from the University of Florida, Hammond earned a master’s degree in Secondary English Education from the University of South Florida. She has also written for the Tampa Bay Times.

“I loved my college experiences (bachelor's degree at UF and masters at USF), so when I was expecting my first child, I looked for a children's book, When I Grow Up, I'll be a Gator. One didn't exist -- so I wrote it myself!” 

The success of that book led to four others. The college books in her collection include When I Grow Up, I'll be a Gator, When I Grow Up, I'll be a Bull, When I Grow Up, I'll be a 'Nole, When I Grow Up, I'm Bama Bound, and When I Grow Up, I'll be a Tiger (LSU). 

“I've been a freelance writer for most of my working life,” Hammond adds, “but writing these books has been by far the most rewarding chapter. I love encouraging children to learn about their future alma mater.”

Hammond’s publishing company, Rivalry Books, Inc., can be accessed via social media.

Paul Catala

There’s a musicality to writing, something seasoned journalist Paul Catala knows well. When he’s not hammering away on deadline, he’s playing keyboard for the Latin-tinged duo Peruba. 

A reverence for the past pervades Catala’s taste in music, from his Rat Pack fashion sense to his love of vintage musical styles -- as does his Cuban heritage. 

“Peruba’s name comes from a cross-pollination of ‘Peru’ and ‘Cuba,’” he explains. “Agustin is originally from Peru and obviously fluent in Spanish -- as am I -- so we're able to be a bit more eclectic, working Latin standards, reggaeton tunes, and Peruvian folk songs into the set.” 

Catala has also played with ska bands [email protected], Magadog, and The New Rulers as well as singer-songwriters Michele Ari and Jeremy Gloff. A guest appearance on Down By Law's 2013 national release "Revolution Time" also gilds his resume. 

He played with the Crash Mitchell Quartet (his main band for 13 years), and he has written for the now-defunct newspaper The Tampa Tribune and the Associated Press. 

As for Peruba, the duo plays “parties, club events, venues, whatever needs music,” Catala says. The duo plays music in and around Lakeland, where Catala lives. They play a mix of covers -- “from the 1930s to today” -- as well as originals such as "Crossing Borders" and "Senorita." 

Check out Peruba’s tunes.

Julie & James Branaman

“We're pushing boundaries just like all the crazy, creative, techno-savvy, entrepreneurial, pioneer types I have been inspired by each week working with 83 Degrees,” Julie Branaman wrote in a column six years ago.

The multimedia journalist and her husband set the bar for evocative imagery and prose for 83 Degrees Media -- and countless other people and organizations around the world. Their shots range from underwater to aerial to spherical 360º video.

When Julie and James aren’t shooting in Tampa Bay, they’re traveling coast to coast and beyond to convey a sense of place that transcends geography -- each of the Branamans’ pictures tells a story volumes long. Their clients include The New York Times, U.S. National Park Service, The Washington Post, and Associated Press.

Whether they’re spelunking in a remote cave or cavorting on a Hawaiian resort, everything becomes grander in the Branamans’ photos. They elevate the quotidian to epic proportions, respecting and celebrating the special magic of seemingly everyday people, places, and objects. 

“We're happily busy with work now but recollect fondly on all the time we spent fishing in 2010,” Branaman says. 

Those seeking a one-of-a-kind gift are urged to visit the couple's website for fine art photographic prints, digital downloads and miscellaneous merch by way of mugs, cards, and canvas prints. 

“We’re nature nerds currently living like nomads sharing the hiking trail with elk and salmon,” Branaman says, only half-joking.

To learn more and see their work, visit Branaman Photography: Visual Storytellers. Click on the images and then click on the shopping cart icon below the photos to shop and purchase prints and related items. 

To browse The Branamans' image specialties, check out Travel and Adventure + Outdoors.

Amber Sigman

A roving and accomplished photographer in her own right, contributor Amber Sigman has been snapping pics professionally for more than 16 years. 

Sigman has gotten up close to the lives of people in small towns, major metros, and far-flung places halfway around the world. Her favorite pieces include a profile of a Florida woman visiting her native Cuba. She’s also captured the wonder of Florida’s crystal clear springs and sacred sites in Thailand. There just isn’t much Sigman hasn’t seen through her viewfinder.

“I usually write articles about my travels or travel to write articles, so I combine both my work and my love for travel,” she explains. “My most recent article about a horse rescue ranch in Baja California, Mexico, published with the University of California. I also have written ‘Excursion’ travel pieces for small-town newspapers about my international travels.” 

Sigman also worked with a travel company in non-Covid times, which led her to exotic places in the world. 

The award-winning photographer also taught photography to teenagers with the theme “The World is Your Classroom” in Southeast Asia honoring both her love for education and diversity. When she isn’t taking pictures, she can sometimes be found globetrotting, snorkeling, or volunteering with animals.

But photography doesn’t dominate Sigman’s world alone. She’s also selling vivid artisan face masks and textiles from Oaxaca, Mexico, a lovely place she visited earlier this Fall.

“Purchases help to support female artisans both near and afar,” she says. “I'm also selling fine art prints (including some from my Fading Cultures series at the Salvador Dali Museum) on my website upon request at www.ambersigman.com.”

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

Freelance Writer Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a Florida man done right. 

Born and raised in Tampa, he earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent time in and then fled the corporate agency world to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue, and COINage magazine. 

McMorrow-Hernandez has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.

As a lifetime Floridian, McMorrow-Hernandez makes it his mission to shed a light on what’s not typically taught in school about his native state.

“I believe Florida's ‘origin’ stories are important, including the subject of Florida's native peoples over the past 12,000 years and then the settlement of St. Augustine, which naturally incorporates the tale of the Spanish and other early European settlers in Florida,” he says.

Some of Florida’s story is tied back to interactions between native peoples and Europeans, he adds, and perhaps the larger share goes to trade with the rest of the nation and other countries; it led to the growth of railroads (Plant and Flagler, et. al), the citrus and cattle industry, and later tourism. 

“The history of Florida's commerce is complex, but perhaps if kids had a primer on this in the middle grades, they may be further inspired to find their own places in the economy down the pike and help empower where they take their futures.” 

His books are available for sale at brick-and-mortar bookstores in Tampa (and the United States Mint history book in Philadelphia), or you can order them online

Works or products available for holiday gift purchase:
  • Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood (Arcadia Publishing, 2013: ISBN 978-1467110808)
  • Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations (Arcadia Publishing, 2015: ISBN 978-1467113663)
  • Images of Modern America: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (Arcadia Publishing, 2017: ISBN 978-1467124959)
  • Images of America: The United States Mint in Philadelphia (Arcadia Publishing, 2018: ISBN 978-1467129190)

Caitlin Albritton

Caitlin Albritton has made a career of dancing the line between painting and sculpture. The professional artist/arts writer maintains a steady pace of evolution and most recently has added jewelry to her repertoire of talents, delving into lapidary and silversmithing after receiving a grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County in 2019 -- which allowed her to take three courses in inlay and intarsia at the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts in Georgia.

“I've always loved the idea of wearing your art around your neck,” Albritton says. “It seems like such a shame to buy a painting only to keep it to yourself; why not have the opportunity to share it with the community?” 

Albritton formed C. Albritton Designs in May 2020 after she came into local prominence in 2015 when the Hillsborough Arts Council chose her artwork for the ArtPop Billboards along major Tampa thoroughfares. The Tampa-based freelance writer holds a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. “Altered Beard,” her winning billboard’s zoomed-in profile of a bearded man (her husband), which featured linear cuts and 3-D embellishments. 

Albritton experienced a close encounter of another kind as a fly on the wall of workout gyms, an investigation that was part of her graduate studies.

By telling gym stories through what she calls “serious yet comically empathetic visual narratives,” her work ostensibly brings up conversations about gender issues, body politics and trends, competition, the machinic-like work we do, and the propaganda of progress in other spheres of our lives,” Albritton told Saatchi Art. 

This month she has been featured in "Beach Bodies," Zabar Project Gallery, The Studios of Key West, and, locally, at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center as well as SCAD virtual open studio shows. 

Albritton says she’s available for commissions too.
 
You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website

David Lubin

Photographer David Lubin, aka DJL Photography, has combined fine art and functionality in two fundamental ways -- time management and cultural engagement. 

He’s met both ends by creating calendars with dates of local events.

His first calendar was in 1992 and printed by Klay Printing. That lasted for one year and then C&D Printing in St. Petersburg printed them for the next 27 years. The first three calendars were 9x12 inches, then he changed the format to 8x10 inches with a tab on the bottom where his clients could print their business information, making it a nice gift to hand out to their clients. “Over the 28 years, I would say I sold nearly 500,000 calendars,’’ Lubin says. 

He recently curated a book called Memories, featuring more than 80 of his favorite monthly calendar shots from the past 28 years. The book is an 8.5 x 11 inch, soft-cover, coffee table book, with one picture per page. 

“I received a shipment from the printer, which is overseas, and have sold out, but hopefully will receive more before the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays,” Lubin says. “The book retails for $39 and makes a great gift. Shipping charges can vary but Media Mail is the cheapest method unless arrangements can be made for local pickup.'' Interested readers can email Lubin directly for details.

Pamela Varkony

When Pamela Varkony isn’t writing about politics to economic development to women's empowerment, she’s cultivating and arranging some of nature’s most beautiful creations: flowers.

“I do flower arranging and table designing, mostly as gifts for friends at holidays or on special occasions or as a hostess present, but I also take orders from people I know or who have been recommended to me,” Varkony shares. 

A feature writer and former columnist for Tribune Publishing, Varkony’s work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and in PBS and NPR on-air commentaries. Her poetry has been published in The New York Times. Recognized by the Pennsylvania Women's Press Association with an "Excellence in Journalism" award, Varkony often uses her writing to advocate for women's rights and empowerment both at home and abroad. 

She has twice traveled to Afghanistan on fact-finding missions and was named the 2017 Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence for her humanitarian work. Born and raised in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and now living in Sun City Center southeast of Tampa, Varkony often weaves the lessons learned on backcountry roads throughout her stories.

For more information, email Varkony directly.

 

Read more articles by Julie Garisto.

A graduate of Largo High, USF, and the University of Tampa's Creative Writing MFA program, Julie Garisto is a St. Petersburg-based writer whose recent assignments include arts features in Creative Pinellas' online magazine, Florida travel pieces in Visit Tampa Bay and Visit Jacksonville, as well as features and reviews in the Tampa Bay Times. Her previous journalistic roles include arts and entertainment for Creative Loafing, staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and copy editor for the Weekly Planet. Lately, she's been obsessed with exploring Florida's State Parks, small towns, and natural springs.
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