Holiday lesson: It's a wonderful Web site

Fans nationwide help local photographer after accident threatens site

Posted: Sunday, December 24, 2000

Photographer Pat Costello was ready to shut down his popular Web site, Cool Juneau Photos, after slipping on a patch of ice and taking a tumble that destroyed his camera gear during a recent photo shoot of the full moon.

He ruined his Canon camera, 800-millimeter lens and other equipment valued at $4,500 when he fell on Dec. 12 near Homestead Park in Douglas.

After picking up the pieces of his shattered hobby, Costello - who has invested almost $20,000 on his free Web site - wondered whether it was worth it anymore.

"Do I really want to keep doing this?" Costello asked himself. "Is it fair to my wife?"

Costello had posted new photos every other day over the past four years. He discussed his fall on the Internet in a Dec. 17 posting.

"It was quite a depressing mistake," he wrote. "So that's it ... no new photos until after the first of the year."

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It's still a wonderful life

Costello wasn't looking for money, so he didn't let on about calling it quits.

Despite getting 40,000 hits and up to 10 praiseworthy e-mails a day, he may have been wishing the Web site never had been born. Then he checked his site this week and realized how much it meant to others.

"There were at least 40 messages from people saying they've put a check in the mail," Costello said Friday. "I really felt like George Bailey in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' "

And it's a wonderful Web site, according to the e-mails in his guestbook at juneauphotos.com. Supporters urged Costello to persevere and some backed their words with promises of money.

"I haven't been able to visit Juneau and Southeast for four years, so viewing these photos has helped me keep some of those memories fresh in my mind," said Jim of Minnetonka, Minn., who pledged $25.

Cindy of Boston told Costello his site was a gift that keeps on giving and giving.

"Now it's our turn to give back," she said. "I sent a check for $50 today, a small investment for a site that's given me such joy."

"For those of us in the Lower 48, Pat is our window into what we'd like to wake up to each day," said Mark of Austin, Texas, who also pledged $50.

Costello, a 1979 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, had not received checks as of Friday but he's still overwhelmed.

"It's stunning to have people actually want to put their money where their mouth is," he said. "Knowing that there are people who feel as passionately about what I'm doing gives these photos purpose."

Costello could sell advertising on his site, but he's resisted so far in order to maintain its homespun flavor. His photos, which have been featured in national publications, usually are accompanied by short stories by Costello.

Juneau resident Christy Hagmeier said his photos brighten her work day at the State Office Building. And her sister in the Philippines gets to see what Juneau looks like every other day.

"He takes pictures that most of us can't get to even if we had the talent," Hagmeier said. "Pat climbs mountains to take shots we wish we could have for ourselves, and shares them with everybody."

She posted a flyer at the state building on Friday, telling people Cool Juneau Photos is in jeopardy and to check out the Web site to learn more about the situation.

"Pat's not doing this for money, he's doing it for his love of Juneau and photography," Hagmeier said. "It's not hard to give a little bit back for what we get from him."

Mike Sica can be reached at msica@juneauempire.com.



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