Dean Stecker, a Vilano Beach resident, spent his working years moving all around the world.
He grew up in New York, attended an undergraduate university in Virginia, volunteered for the Peace Corps in Thailand, received a masters degree in Ohio, lived and taught in France, taught in Palm Beach County and eventually retired with his wife in Vilano Beach.
Between his travels and his two degrees, Stecker admitted that one thing remained his passion throughout the years: poetry.
While in the workforce, Stecker would often jot down work related notes on napkins while unwinding after the day, until eventually he began writing small poems on the napkins, as well. His poems had to be short to fit on the small surface, so Stecker became accustomed to condensing his thoughts to their core meaning in Haiku-style poems. Hence Cocktail Napkin Thoughts was born, a powerful yet concise way for his poetry to find life.
In finding inspiration for his poems, Stecker would often take photographs on his cell phone of things that caught his eye. Sunrises through the trees, bicycles in empty corridors, plants resting on windowsills, small but important things that he felt might be missed in a normal circumstance.
“Right from the very beginning, I have tried to look at little things that people would tend to overlook,” Stecker said. “Things that people do not see the beauty of, but there is beauty.”
Stecker began marrying his poetry to the photographs he took, working hard to ensure that the two illustrated one another evenly. Once he discovered that he loved taking photos almost as much as he loved writing poems, Stecker went back to these places with a professional camera to take better quality photographs.
Today, Stecker runs an Etsy page, VilanoImages, where he sells his photography to the public. He found, after many years of experimentation on Etsy, that people didn’t want to buy poetry, they wanted to buy photos.
With each sale of a photograph, Stecker includes a handwritten note card detailing the history of the photo and the poem coordinating with it.
“The poems are important to me,” he said. “I do not want them to be left out.”
Besides running an Etsy page, Stecker’s real love lies with running his poetry/photography blog titled, “Vilano Images.” Every two weeks he uploads a new poem paired with a photo that he took. Even now, post Cocktail Napkin Thoughts, he keeps his poems on the shorter side. They begin as Haikus, and he will gradually add more if he needs to, but he has found that other bloggers enjoy his shorter work.
After retiring to Vilano Beach in the early 2010s, Stecker found that he had time again to explore his creativity. He enjoys waking up before sunrise and wandering the streets while they are empty, capturing all the tiny details that come to life with the dawn.
“If we keep ignoring small matters that have inherent beauty in them, then we are really cheating ourselves,” he said, “because that is pretty much all we ever get in life -- the small things. They are always offered to us, and we tend not to see them.”
To find Stecker’s work on Etsy, go to www.etsy.com/shop/VilanoImages, or keep up with his blog by following him at vilanoimages.com.