This week’s column is another in a series of columns highlighting the family and personal life of one of our neighbors. Chris Montgomery, his wife Donna, two children, Chris and Amanda, have lived together in Plainview for the past 15 years.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have known Chris and his family for 15 years. I first met Chris during my time as division leader for Plainview Baseball Association’s Tee Ball division. As is Chris’ natural want in life, he volunteered to be one of the coaches for the four- and five-year-old boys who were just starting out in the sport. I got to meet the rest of the Montgomery family later that same year as they registered their children into our newly formed football and cheerleading programs.
Chris served eight years in the Navy and fought in Desert Storm. Chris was in the early stages of developing his current full-time career with the Long Island Rail Road when we first met. For the past 18 years, Chris has served as a foreman for the LIRR. He is based in the Jamaica hub. Chris sheepishly admits that the frustration, or shall I say anger, that commuters feel when they learn that a train has been delayed or canceled is usually based upon a safety decision that Chris has made.
I know what you are thinking; ho-hum. Sounds like somewhat of a vanilla Plainview existence, right? Wrong, Chris Montgomery has an alter ego.
One of the toughest aspects of coordinating youth sporting events is controlling the parents. Particularly those parents who think that by holding a professional looking camera they are entitled to be on the field during practices and games. So it was with some trepidation that I first noticed Chris standing in the back corner of an end zone during one of our youth football games. He pretty much stayed there until halftime and resumed his position there until the end of the game. It was during halftime and at the end of the game when Chris would capture the candid images of the players and cheerleaders congratulating one another, talking and listening to their coaches and generally clowning around. It was during these moments that Chris’ creative eye would allow him to spot the joyous emotions, fleeting disappointment and parental pride that he innately understands are the essence of youth sports.
Chris expanded his role in the youth football program from team photographer to Team Mom. The Montgomery’s made lifelong friends though their volunteerism. One of those relationships was with Gail Corbett, our cheerleading coordinator. Several years later, Gail introduced Chris to Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School football and lacrosse coach Chris Rogler.
Rogler was in need of someone to chronicle on film the performance of his lacrosse team. It is Chris Montgomery’s opinion that his relative detachment from sports has enabled him to see with a clearer eye the intimacies of the games. Don’t get me wrong, Chris loves sports. Chris is simply not a fanatic.
One terrific photo shoot begot another. A referral to Skate Safe in Old Bethpage evolved into being the roller hockey arena’s “house photographer.” Ownership from Skate Safe was so enamored with Chris’ work that they referred him to a Ohio-based company called Pro Camps, which runs youth sports events utilizing professional athletes as spokespeople, roll models and “coaches” for a wide variety of youth organizations up and down the east coast.
For the past six years, Chris, through his company Long Island Image, has photographed almost every great athlete from Massachusetts to Florida. Chris is referred endlessly to nonprofit organizations, corporate sponsored events and select private functions to apply his artistic eye to the unscripted, interpersonal reactions between the world’s greatest athletes and regular people.
Over the past 15 years, Chris has taken more than 500,000 photos. One hundred thousand of those images are taken from events occurring right here in Plainview-Old Bethpage. No family in Plainview-Old Bethpage has ever paid Chris or Long Island Image for a photo of their children at an event.
Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski, Marc Richter, David Ortiz and countless other superstars have had their images and actions captured by Chris Montgomery’s incredible eye. So when I naturally asked him who his favorite athlete to photograph was, I thought he’d ponder the question for a while. It wasn’t a millisecond that he shot back the response that truly personifies who Chris is. Chris’ favorite athlete to photograph is now retired. It is no. 33, Chris Montgomery of the Plainview Hawks. That was the number that Chris’ son wore from the Pee Wee Hawks through his senior year at the high school.
Chris Montgomery’s story is the happiest tale of having your avocation gracefully evolve into an eventual vocation.