In recognition of his contributions to the borough of Glen Rock, Banana Tree News photographer Simon Toffell was officially commended at the Feb. 8 meeting of the Mayor and Council when the governing body declared Feb. 9 “Simon Toffell Snow Day.’’
Toffell, who photographs several of the Glen Rock High School sports teams, also provides pictures for the Glen Rock borough website, and was recognized and honored for those efforts.
“Knowing that Simon has an amazing ability to find the perfect picture, I asked him to go around town and take a few dozen shots around town for the website,’’ Mayor Bruce Packer said in issuing the order. “It was only a few days before he came to me with over 1,000 pictures, all of which were amazing. Narrowing them down for the web company was no easy task, but, as reflected on our new website, there was no way to go wrong in the selection. Simon is a regular at council meetings, and is always quick to share ideas on how to improve the town. And I’m glad to have him as a friend.’’
Councilwoman Kristine Morieko added of Toffell:
“When I think of Simon Toffell, a quote by Eve Arnold comes to mind: ‘If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera, but the photographer.’ When you view Glen Rock through Simon’s eye, you are given a new appreciation for all that our community holds. His love and passion is contagious, and we are all so fortunate this is his home.’’
Toffell was presented with a plaque at the meeting. Below is his first-person account of how he became the town’s official photographer.
By Simon Toffell
I’ve been volunteering in Glen Rock since the mid-1990s. Many know me from The Source and from working the Wednesday night game of the week at the Wed night Pool Night in the summer. I started doing that in the mid-90s and I still do it today.
But there is a side story that some might not know about how I’ve come to this point of shooting photos. I first started shooting back in 2004 when I decided I would do a Glen Rock poster project for the towns 110th year. At the time, I was using a point-and-shoot camera, and in the middle of working on the project, the camera died. So I decided to go up market and buy a DSLR.
After I got done with the project, things went bad in my life. Before I started the project, I had been fired from a job, and after the project, my job hunt went from bad to worse. With no hope in sight of finding any job after years of helping at the Source I was suddenly spending my day sleeping and watching TV. I got a part-time job at an ice skating rink on weekends, but I was still left with nothing to do on most days. In 2014, while doing another Glen Rock project, I ended up shooting some GRHS sports for the project. One day, I went to this JV softball game, and Glen Rock was leading 15-2, so I decided to see what the baseball team was doing. When I got to the high school, one of the coaches asked me to shoot photos of the team’s games. I said yes.
That led to conversations with the wrestling coach and the softball coach, and they asked me to shoot their teams, also. Then, in 2015 I got a PM on Facebook from one of the kids on the Girls Basketball team saying everyone loves my photos and asking if I could shoot photos for them also. Today I shoot Girls Soccer-Wrestling-Softball-Football-Girls Basketball all at GRHS for free and run a closed Facebook group for the kids of GRHS so they can get hold of the photos.
At the same time as this high school sports thing started for me, BTN was getting going. You could say things happened fast. About the photos for the town site, last spring the mayor reached out to me asking if I could submit like 50 shots of Glen Rock for 10 to be chosen to be put on the new Glen Rock website. What happened on Feb. 8 was a surprise to me. The mayor didn’t tell me anything. I was thinking he was just going to say ‘Thank you,’ and that’s it. So when I got up to speak after my mind went blank I knew I was talking but I did not know what to say so I just spoke! The Snow event of Feb. 9 will 100% be one I never forget a day that was called “Simon Toffell Snow Day.’’
I look back on that spring day when my life changed and think the Sun was shining over me and today is going to be my day. Along with my Sports photos I also run a Closed FB group called Glen Rock NJ Memories that group has old and new photos of GR. I feel like I owe everyone in GR a big Thank you all this stuff has become a full time job.