Simonsen Launches New St. John School of Film and Photography

Photographer Steve Simonsen


Anyone who has ever missed that one perfect shot should check out renowned local photographer Steve Simonsen’s recently-launched New St. John School of Film and Photography.

Simonsen, who has spent decades documenting the nearby islands from aerial shots to underwater scenes, has been asked to share his skill countless times over the years.

“This came about from years of being a photographer here and having individuals approach me for private lessons and tutoring,” said Simonsen. “I never really knew if people meant it, but they did. I never really had a solution or answer to all the people who asked for my help, so a lot of that just went unanswered.”

Teaching is nothing new to this photographer either.

Background in Instruction
“I have taught scuba and underwater photography for the past 25 years,” Simonsen said. “I teach at Low Key Water Sports whenever they need me and I do private lessons usually for the underwater photography. Basically someone would show up at the dive shop or would just know I’m here and we’d arrange a private lesson.”

Group lessons always presented problems due to scheduling difficulties — for both the students and instructor.

“I was concerned that I was turning away a lot of people who were requesting help,” said the local photographer. “I wanted to do this and to make it work so I came up with the idea to start a school and basically to have a film and photography school. But the organization that I want is more of a cooperative than one person teaching classes.”

St. John attracts a number of talented people, from artists and editors to photographers and painters, and Simonsen plans to tap into that resource.

Resource of Talented Residents
“There are a lot of people who come down here who bring a lot of talent that they might not be using now, and you only discover it once you meet them and start talking to them,” said Simonsen. “There is a huge resource here and I’m definitely interested in having other industry professionals teach classes and workshops.”

Another motivation to start the school might be a bit self-serving.

“I am always needing people for assistants and it’s hard to find them,” said Simonsen. “By starting the school I was hoping that those people would find the school. Or, once someone took a class in film lighting, say, I could call on the students that I had to be assistants.”

The classes cover both practical photography skills and computer lessons, and range from free to $400 for a 16-week course.

Classes involving computers are at the Gifft Hill School and photography classes are often on-location in the V.I. National Park. An average workshop costs $45 and runs anywhere between two and four hours.

Recent classes covered Apple’s iPhoto software to help people “organize, email, print or do anything they want to do with their images,” said Simonsen.

Beginner to Advanced
Some classes are designed for beginners while some are geared for the more advanced photographer and offerings include Tropical Light Digital Photography, Underwater Digital Photography, Printing Techniques and Web Creation. Most classes are offered on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings and all ages are welcome to attend.

“I see it as a continuing education opportunity for everyone or anyone who is interested,” said Simonsen. “Most of the classes have to do with photography and film and later this month we’ll start a 16-week course in video editing. It’s like, ‘attend the course and at the end, edit your own movie.’”

“I hope to attract some high school kids who think they are experts on the computer,” the photographer added.

Simonsen had one other inspiration for launching his New St. John School of Film and Photography — the Gifft Hill School, where his son is a student.

“It’s very important to note that one of the main reasons that this school started this year was because of the encouragement of the director of the Gifft Hill School to parents to come up with an idea they can do to support the school,” said Simonsen. “A portion of the proceeds from all classes will be donated to the school at the end of the year.”

For more information or to register for a class check out the photography school’s Web site at, call Simonsen at (340) 775-4485 or email