Bridget Gilroy ’14, Staff Writer
Anyone who knows Kevin Salemme knows he is more than a talented photographer who has escaped from a burning building and has taken pictures while flying over Merrimack in a helicopter. He is a wealth of knowledge beyond photography, always willing to share what he has learned through his experiences. And he’s right on tap for Merrimack students, always hard at work in the library’s media center, helping students, taking photos for Merrimack organizations – and ready to answer questions and tell stories on request.
Photography is, of course, Salemme’s main interest and passion. He has had his photographs exhibited in France and Switzerland, which works out well because Salemme loves to travel. He has been a chaperone on Merrimack’s Pellegrinaggio for several years and has been all around Europe countless times. His favorite place to travel to: “Lausanne, Switzerland, they’ve got really good food and there are nice views of the lake and the coffee is spectacular.”
Of all of Salemme’s travels he has an endless amount of stories one of which includes being held captive by terrorists in Guatemala. While on a tour consisting of 12 people, their van was forced off the road, CA-1 by a pickup truck filled with gunmen. The terrorists filed into their van, one of which knocked out the driver with a rifle. Kevin and his wife were just inches away, sitting right behind the driver. The van was driven into the jungle where he and his fellow tourists were tied up and robbed. After taking their money, the terrorists instructed the tourists not to move for 20 minutes and with that, the terrorists disappeared into the jungle. Salemme stated: “Moral of the story is to be careful where you go… choose your destination carefully.”
As if he weren’t already interesting enough, Salemme has also escaped from a burning building. One night, he was woken up by the two cats he had at the time to find the rooms filled with smoke. A problem with the heating system caused this two tenement house to catch fire in the middle of a blizzard. Due to the fire, Salemme had no electricity, no phone and no choice but to get in the car and drive to the fire station to get help. After quickly digging his car out of the snow, he made it to the fire station where firefighters rapidly responded to the emergency. Both cats and Salemme were unharmed during this perilous night.
Salemme has been all around the world and has had unimaginable experiences. However, his roots are close to Turnpike Street. He was born in Lawrence and grew up in North Andover where he attended North Andover High School. Growing up down the road from Merrimack College, he was familiar with the school and even attended his freshman year of college here. When Salemme decided that he would like to major in photography, he transferred to the Art Institute of Boston. After graduation, Salemme started working as a photographer at Merrimack part time. In the fall of 1984, a one year temporary job in the media center opened up. While working full-time at Merrimack, Salemme took his education one step further and attended graduate school part-time at Harvard University. Although he went there mostly for the photography part, he earned his degree in studio arts, film and photography. That one-year temp job turned into what would become 29 years – and counting – here at Merrimack.
Whether it is how to add a transition in iMovie or where to eat if you’re visiting Paris, Salemme always has words of wisdom to share. His advice to college students, “Never underestimate the power of accumulating knowledge and experience. These will become your greatest strengths.”