Fans in Southold waiting eagerly to hear the news let out a collective cheer tonight as they learned that well-loved local photographer Randee Daddona won her first Emmy.
Daddona, a photographer, videographer and photojournalist was nominated for a video and feature photo essay she created for Newsday about Scott Bollman’s North Fork Sea Salt.
“It’s pretty cool,” Daddona said of the nomination.
The Emmys took place tonight at the Marriot Marquis in New York.
When she first heard she was nominated, Daddona said she thought her colleagues were joking. “I called the office and said, ‘Ha ha, you guys are funny.’ They said, ‘Randee, go get yourself a fancy dress.’”
In true star form, Daddona wore a Ted Baker dress, but added, “I’d rather be wearing jeans.”
The dress is black, with oil painting style flowers, with a “retro” feel, she said.
The Emmy nomination is her first and she said the segment that garnered her the honor was “such a pretty thing to document.”
The piece, which was published in January, was one Daddona pitched to the publication.
She headed out to harvest sea salt at Nassau Point with Bollman, owner of North Fork Sea Salt, on a 22-degree January day. “I got in the water with him,” Daddona said, explaining how eager she was to learn about how sea salt was created.
“I was clueless. I thought you just go to the store and buy it. You just take it for granted. You don’t think about how people have to harvest it,” she said.
It’s that constant spark of exhilaration, the joy of learning something new, that has long fueled Daddona’s passion. “It’s this total wonderment, this excitement, when something you’ve never seen before happens right before your eyes,” she explained.
That spirit of adventure and storytelling has led Daddona on her lifelong career journey. “I’m very curious,” she said. “I’m almost like a kid, walking into a candy store. I don’t know where to start.”
On that cold January morning, Daddona said she was enchanted by the sunrise and the utter quiet, with only the soft motion of the water making any sound. “That’s how quiet it was. He likes to harvest at sunrise. It’s peaceful, relaxing for him,” she said, of Bollman. “We were both working but it didn’t feel like it; it was just the excitement of doing what we liked to do.”
Bollman, she said, made eight trips in and out of the water on that tranquil morning. “The sun was rising, it was just beautiful. You couldn’t make it up, it was so pretty. Just beautiful.”
Daddona documented every step of the process, from Bollman heading out in a wetsuit with gallon buckets — the beach was so covered with snow that the car got stuck in the parking lot — and later boiling the water down, drying, and packing the salt.
Such assignments, Daddona said, don’t even feel like work. As a photographer, the North Fork, she said, inspires.
“We’re very lucky. Living on the North Fork, we’re exposed to things most people have no clue about, right in our backyards,” Daddona said.
Traveling long distances for assignments, Daddona said some ask her why she’s chosen such a long commute. “I tell them, ‘Look where I go home to.’”
Daddona was born in Brooklyn and studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, commuting from Nassau County, where her family later lived.
During college, Daddona worked on a number of feature films, the first time she actually earned money while honing her craft. “You love it so much you’d work for free,” she said. “And then someone pays you and it’s almost like, ‘This isn’t right.”
Later, at Newsday, someone asked her if she shot video and she said “yes” automatically and proceeded to teach herself the art form.
Besides Newsday, Daddona freelances for Edible East End and the Times Review, along with a number of other clients. Before moving to the East End, she had a portrait business, Once Upon A Picture.
Of freelancing, she said, “It’s something different every day. I don’t feel anything I do is a routine. It’s not 9 to 5, punching a time clock. It takes me on different adventures.”
Daddona, who lives in Southold with her husband Lenny, has five children, Matthew, 25, a book editor, Kaitlin, 22, who serves in the Air Force, Julia, 17, and twins Michael and Olivia, 13.
Although she’s thrilled and excited by her Emmy win, Daddona said she finds fulfillment in her work every day.
“Just telling someone’s story, and being able to share it with others, I think that’s my reward,” she said.