Interview with Kemit-Amon Lewis

BY LEAH BERNHARDT – Kemit-Amon Lewis is a self-taught photographer whose job as the Coral Conservation Manager at The Nature Conservancy USVI has him spending a lot of time underwater.  He was born and raised on St. Croix, spending summers snorkeling at Dorsche Beach and participating in the SCUBA club at Central High.  He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Marine Science from Savannah State University.  We had a chat with Kemit about his up coming show.

What first drew you to the ocean enough to start diving? 

It began when I was very young.  My dad would take a few of my cousins and I to the beach (usually Dorsche) every day during summer breaks.  That quickly grew into snorkeling adventures and sparked an interest in marine science.

What made you want to capture it?

Wanting to capture marine organisms/habitats is two-fold.  One, I love photography and enjoy being underwater, so the two together makes sense.  Two, I’ve used some of my photos/video for marine science education and outreach and I hope that through that I can continue to engage Virgin Islanders in an effort help to conserve these organisms and habitats.

 When did you start capturing? 

Photography has been a hobby of mine for as long as I can remember.

 Is there any education involved with photography and marine sciences? 

YES! This is one of the reasons I started taking underwater photographs and video.

What kind of camera do you use? 

Above land I shoot with a Pentax K10.  Below water I shoot with a Canon SD PowerShot.

What time of day is best for different situations?  What’s your favorite?

One of my favorite dives so far started before dawn.  The Great Barrier Reef in Australia was pretty cool too.  I’ve also recently added to the list sunset in the Bahamas with about 20 or so Caribbean Reef Sharks swimming around me.  Generally though, different marine organisms are active during the day versus at night. Dusk and dawn dives provide for that opportunity to observe the transition.  I also saw some really cool shades of blue on that dawn dive.

Most interesting/scariest thing you’ve seen? 

Bahamas, sunset, sharks.  It was a short dive but it is my favorite so far.

Any particular lens or flash, or anything you use to make your work what it is? 

Simple guy here – nothing special.

Favorite thing to capture? 

SEA TURTLE and SHARKS! They don’t mix well so I try not to capture both at the same time.

Is it just underwater organisms, or is it the ocean in general? 

Both.  While it’s fun to capture organisms, I’ve also captured a few water images as a reminder that Earth is made up of so much of it and for the many organisms that depend on water (including us), it is vital that it stays clean.

Do you venture on land at all with you camera? 

I have, but still prefer nature photographs.

Favorite spots around the island?

Back in the day, Cane Bay was Central High School’s SCUBA Club’s spot.  I still love diving Cane Bay because you can see just about everything from sea horses, coral reefs that aren’t too depressing (although live coral coverage has reduced since high school 1996 – 2000), sea turtles, a number of fishes including sharks, stingrays, moray eels, etc.  I also like the Frederiksted Pier, the wrecks, and of course any of TNC’s Coral Nurseries.

Have you traveled to other oceans and taken pictures? What’s the difference? 

I have photographs from a number of places in the Caribbean, Florida, Greece, California, Australia, and the Bahamas.  There are differences in coral species diversity. Some places, like Greece, have just a few corals while others, like Australia, have many different species.  Live coral cover and abundance and diversity of marine life or organisms also differ by location.

Do you have a favorite? 

I love the Caribbean, but there are definitely things that we need to do to improve the conditions of our waters/reefs/fishes.

 What does St. Croix/Caribbean waters have to offer that others don’t?  What doesn’t it offer? 

St. Croix is advertised as the diver’s perfect destination.  Rightfully so, you can dive a wall, a pier, and wrecks all on St. Croix.  Even better, you can do them all from shore and all in one day if you’d like.

Is there a difference between the animals/plants/anything in the other US Virgin Islands?

There are a few differences.  The biggest difference (challenge) has to do with the location of St. Croix in comparison to other islands.  Because of its isolation, recruitment of new organisms (coral, fishes, invertebrates) is more of a challenge as compared to the northern USVI, which shares the bank with Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.

When were these photos taken?

It’s mixed; some are recent and others were taken two to three years ago.

Describe a typical day on the job.  Does your job allow you to photograph? 

Some days are “fun” office days.  Others are spent underwater and I ALWAYS have my camera with me.  As Coral Conservation Manager at The Nature Conservancy, I manage coral nurseries on St. Croix and St. Thomas.  Essentially, we survey reefs for broken elkhorn and staghorn coral colonies after storm events.  If left unattended, those fragments would die.  We collect them, take them to one of our nurseries, and grow them on cinderblocks.  Those corals can then be used to restore degraded reefs throughout the USVI.  Over the past two years, we have created 3,000 coral colonies from 300 fragments that would have died in the USVI alone.  Just one part of my job.  There are a number of additional coral conservation initiatives with which I am involved.

What part of underwater life are you most passionate about, and why? 

Endangered Species (Acroporid corals and sea turtles).  If you look through history, you’ll find that most, if not all, of the extinct species in the world met their demise as a result of human impacts.  Moreover, most, if not all, of the endangered species in the world are in threat of extinction as a result of human impacts.  Over-fishing, destructive practices, degradation and removal of important habitats are just a few of the impacts that have all lead to population declines and fishery collapses.  On a positive note, we have already begun to positively impact some of these species – at least on the local population level.  The recovery of the leatherback sea turtles on Sandy Point is a good example.  Through positive human intervention, population levels continue to increase on that once very rarely used sea turtle nesting beach.

Do you think the public should be more aware of under water life, especially on St. Croix? If so, then what should the public think or do? 

Absolutely.  We depend on healthy waters and organisms for a number of different reasons, including livelihoods for many.  Additionally, marine life has traditionally been and is still a big part of the local culture and has spiritual value. •

Movie night at macheteMACHETE

Chinatown at macheteMACHETE,


starts at 7:30 sharp. drinks and snacks available! 5$ gets you in.

A private detective investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water. Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Directed by Roman Polanski Doors at 6pm. Movie starts sharp at 7:30pm. $5 to get in. Drinks and seasoned popcorn available.

Movie Night at macheteMACHETE

Volver…spanish for “to come back”, is a 2006 Spanish dramatic comedy film written and directed by Pedro Almodovar. The movie revolves around an eccentric family of women who reside in the south reqoin of Madrid. Penelope Cruz plays Raimunda, and Lola Duenas plays her sister, Soledad. Their parents were killed three years prior to the beginning of them film, but the mother, Irene, has come back from the dead to get some answers to the question of why Raimunda hates her and is afraid to reveal herself. At the same time Riamunda is going great lengths to protect her 14 year old daughter, Paula (Yohana Cobo).

macheteMACHETE 5 Company Street Christiansted, VI 00822

$5 donation, drinks and popcorn available.

‘Life on Island’ – Art Contest

macheteMACHETE Contemporary Art and The Basic Butchers in Gallows Bay are sponsoring a juried competition to produce an outdoor mural to be painted on the shutters of The Basic Butchers storefront in Gallows Bay.  The theme is Life on Island.  The winner will be presented with a prize of $250 and basic materials for painting the mural.  The mural is expected to remain on the shutters for at least three years.  The winning design will be chosen by a committee of experienced artists, Gallery Director Thomas Shelley of macheteMACHETE, and The Basic Butchers.


Terms of Entry:  Contest is open to all U.S. Virgin Island residents.  Artists are invited to submit a design that depicts life on island. Theme is open to interpretation, and by no means limited to images of livestock or food.  The U.S. Virgin Islands has a wealth of diverse and talented artists; your originality will be your greatest strength.  Designs cannot be an advertisement for any place of business.  A plan of execution with a two-week timetable is required, along with an artist’s statement and any relevant prior experience.  For judging purposes, design submissions should be full-color and mounted on 11” x 17” foam board – UNFRAMED.   Fee is $10 per entry.  Each 11” x 17”  board counts as one entry.  Multiple entries are permitted, but each entry should be distinct in aesthetic and motif.

Judging:   Entries will be judged on original design, creative interpretation of the theme and compatibility with the casual storefront atmosphere of The Basic Butchers. The winning entry will be selected by a jury and the winner announced Monday, October 31st.  All contestants will be notified of the winning entry by email.  Winner and honorable mentions will additionally be notified by phone.  Winning submission will be on display at a reception on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at The Basic Butchers, Gallows Bay.  Honorable mentions will also be displayed at The Basic Butchers.

Art Space:  Wall preparation, materials, sealing and up to five colors of artist’s choice in paint will generously be provided by Gallows Bay Hardware.  The attached diagram shows the dimensions of the paintable space.  The measurements are as follows:

four spaces measuring 49” x 24.5”

two spaces measuring 80” x 33”

Artists are encouraged to visit the site for an advantageous perspective.  Allotted time for painting is November 1st – November 16th.  Art must be finished by Wednesday, November 16th, 2011.  Prize money will be awarded, pending completion of the project, at the November 19th reception.

How to Enter: Entries may be submitted to The Basic Butchers, Tuesdays – Saturdays, 10am – 6pm, along with your entrance fees in the form of cash, money orders or checks made out to The Basic Butchers.  If you are mailing in your submission and entrance fee, please send to PO BOX 223751, Christiansted, VI 00822.  On the back of each entry, include the following information: first and last name, phone number, email address, mailing address.  Other than an artist’s signature, do not put any personal information on the submission images.

For more information or any questions regarding the contest, contact

Our Summer Newsletter

Greetings in the name of summer!  Hope yours is peaceful and productive.  Are you finding enough to keep you busy?  What are your summer plans?  We’d like to know!  I’ve spoken to more than a few of you who regretted missing some of our events because you didn’t know about them.  I know you probably have lots of email to go through, but at least skim this newsletter so you know what we’re up to, and if any of it interests you!  We love to see you out and about.

If you’ve passed by the gallery and thought we looked closed, there’s a good chance we were.  We spent two weeks in New York and New Jersey, eating, walking, gazing and visiting family.  We ate proper Indian food, saw the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met, and saw this cool installation of a paper forest at Andrea Rosen gallery.

Since our return, we’ve been reconfiguring the gallery space to accommodate our vision for the coming year.  Change is inevitable, and we love the adventure!  We’ve created a lending library and reading lounge where you can browse and borrow books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  We also brought our awesome record collection out so you can make requests to hear anything from Rock ‘n’ Roll, Bossa Nova, Calypso, Jazz, Reggae, Hip Hop and more in style, on vinyl! Alphabetized, even!

By popular demand, Thomas continues to make his gas can guitars, so those are still available for purchase.  Each one is unique, playable and looks very cool hanging on the wall.  We have been doing some sound recordings with the piano and other acquired instruments.  Come hear us play live on Saturday, August 27th at Rowdy Joe’s, from 7:30-10:30.

Sweetface Chocolate has introduced a new flavor – Ginger Chili – available at the gallery, and also at Namaste Cafe, Blue Water Terrace and ARTfarm.  Check out the Sweetface blog for more talk of chocolate and mouth watering photos.

Thanks to those of you who ordered photos from the photo booth project; they look quite beautiful in print.  You can see some of them here.

We hope you got to meet Nadine Donath, our artist in residence for the month of June.  Her work is still on display and available for purchase. Footage of the show coming soon.

St. Croix Source did an article on the gallery, which you can read here.

Movie nights start again this Friday night!  For August, we’re featuring the quirky, colorful films of Wes Anderson.  All movies start ON TIME at 7:00. Stop in earlier for drinks, snacks and a good seat.  We’ll have spicy popcorn, brewed teas and more.  Feel free to bring your favorite chair, blankie and foodstuffs, and friends! It’s a 5$ donation.

Here’s the lineup:

Friday, August   5 – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Alisha’s favorite)

Friday, August 12 – Rushmore

Friday, August 19 – The Darjeeling Limited

Friday, August 26 – The Royal Tenembaums

If you want to host your next event or gathering at macheteMACHETE, contact us and let’s make fun!  Keep up to date with us on facebook or our website.

We hope to see you soon.  Stay cool.

Alisha Westerman
Gallery Program Director