Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Former Miami Herald photo editor is South Florida's best 'Paparazzo of Pooches'

Growing up in Independence, Missouri, Suzy Mast Lee believed that all her friends had a darkroom and photo studio in the basements of their homes.

Suzy's father, an engineer and weekend amateur photographer, had crammed the basement of their home with studio lights, an enlarger, yellow boxes of photo paper and darkroom chemicals. Using a child's logic, she reasoned that other homes in her neighborhood were similarly equipped.

She has no memory of a time when she wasn't staring at the world through a camera viewfinder.

Says Suzy, "I've always owned a camera."

In high school, she took pictures for the school newspaper and yearbook.

At the University of Kansas, she studied journalism and worked as a photo editor on the school paper.

After graduation, she ended up in Maryland, where she worked for a few years as a freelance photographer before landing a job as a staff photographer at a newspaper in Hagerstown.

In 1991, she was hired as a photo editor with the Associated Press in Washington. Her duties included selecting and distributing images made by AP's Washington photographers and AP photographers in the Southeast.

One day, her boss told her a photographer in Miami was being transferred to Washington. That photographer, Wilfredo Lee, had been a classmate of Suzy's at the University of Kansas. The two ended up working together on many big Washington stories, including the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. One thing led to another and on Oct. 1, 1998, they married.

(Wilfredo was part of an AP photographic team that won the Pulitzer Prize for its photos of the people and events connected to Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and the ensuing impeachment hearings.)

A few months later - in December of 1998 - the couple ended up in Miami. Wilfredo joined the AP bureau there and Suzy found a job at the Miami Herald as a photo editor.

But, by 2008, the Herald's fortunes were declining, and the paper - like others in the McClatchy chain - accelerated a series of drastic cuts in its staff. After surviving several rounds of that sort of thing, Suzy had enough. She left the paper in October 2010.

With lots of time on her hands, Suzy was soon spending part of her day walking the couple's two dogs - a Cocker Spaniel named Pixel, and Weegee, a Cocker Spaniel-Dachshund mix.

Pixel and Weegee enjoy a beach run.
© Suzanne K. Mast Lee.

At some point she started carrying her camera on the walks and returning home with pictures of not just her dogs, but also the neighborhood cats, lizards, parrots and wild birds that frequented an area near a lake a few blocks from her home at the northern end of Miami Beach.

The routine dog walks had become daily photo safaris.

On weekends, Suzy and her husband visit dog-friendly beaches, shooting pictures of Pixel and Weegee learning to "surf" and playing with other dogs.

Weegee and Pixel at the beach.
© Wilfredo Lee.

Back home, the couple upload their photos to Facebook.

Suzy has uploaded more than 5,000 photos to Facebook in albums with names like "Daily Dog Walk 2012" and "Pups visit the Beach" and "Cat Faces."

And along the way, she's picked up scores of fans who check her Facebook page daily for new photos.

One of her Facebook friends is Tampa journalist Tamara Lush who says, "She captures the essence and joy of what it's like to be a dog."

One of Suzy's former Herald colleagues, Elinor Brecher, thinks she knows what makes Suzy's dog photographs so special: "I'm convinced Suzy was a Cocker Spaniel in a past life."

See more of Suzy's amazing work by clicking here or in the slide show below.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Visit Suzy's Website:


  1. Along with being a fine shooter and photo editor, Suzy is an open, generous, empathetic human being. For a news photographer, I mean. :)

  2. Suzy is extremely talented and one of the sweetest people I know. I love following her daily photo safari. I'm ready for the coffeetable book!


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