Shooting photos, battling fires in the Five Towns

Combining photography and firefighting to serve the community


Exposed to photography by a father who brought home a new camera and to volunteer firefighting by his older brother, Joseph Sperber has combined the two avocations through the years to serve his community.

Sperber, 45, a lifelong Cedarhurst resident, took the Canon AE1 his dad, Kenneth bought, and began shooting at fires, accidents and other newsworthy events from the time he was 13.

“The first news event was a house explosion at 625 Church Avenue at the corner of Raleigh Street in Woodmere,” said Sperber, as he sat at his Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department chief’s desk. “I delivered Newsday, heard the explosion and sirens on my paper route, and on my bicycle road over to the scene. I got timely shots.”

He contacted the Nassau Herald, and then editor, Leatrice Spanierman. Sperber has provided the Herald with photos for more than 30 years, and has won awards for his photography. “From that time I got my photos in the local papers, Newsday, Daily News and Post, and I just expanded to features, sports and human interest. It’s always been in my blood to get various photos,” said Sperber, adding, “it’s about being in the right place at the right time.”

With older brother Michael in the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department, Sperber also developed a passion for the fire service. He became a member of the LCFD in 1992, and earlier this year received his 20-year service pin. In 1997, he was the department’s Firefighter of the Year. Sperber has served as chief for the past two years, but following the department’s Dec. 4 elections, his chief’s hat will go to First Assistant Chief John McHugh as of Jan. 1. Sperber has also earned seven citations for his efforts as a volunteer firefighter.

Fire service demands a high level of dedication, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, especially as the amount of training and danger has increased over time, McHugh said. Sperber typifies the commitment needed, he said. “He is a wonderful person, a fabulous asset to the organization and his community,” McHugh said. “He volunteers endless hours and has always been involved in the community.”

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