For 46 years, Joseph Ricco has stood behind the lens of hundreds of events at Miami Dade College.
The friendly 66-year-old known simply known as Joe to those whose lives he has chronicled as a photographer and videographer in the Media Services Department at North Campus retired on March 28.
“I went to school here, met my wife (here), and have been a mentor and even teacher for those who had no idea which end of the camera to point forward,” Ricco said. “This school has given me everything… literally.”
Ricco started taking classes at North Campus in 1967, hoping to complete a career in music. That year he became a student assistant for the audio and visual department—now known as Media Services—eventually taking a part-time position there once he finished his degree in music.
He was offered a full-time position three years later on the terms that he stop staying up late trying to fulfill his music career. But that didn’t stop Ricco from learning. He earned degrees in photography, and radio and television production.
“You have to wear different hats,” Ricco said. “You can’t just be specialized in one thing. It doesn’t work like that with me. I prefer doing photography, but if I am called to do audio or video I could do it.”
Working in the Media Services Department has allowed Ricco to work with photography, video and editing. Depending on the event and the day, he had a different task on his list.
“I make sure to take a lot of his tips into account,” said Brian Cobas, a technology specialist, who has worked with Ricco since 2006. “I feel honored to be able to learn from him. We’re definitely going to miss him. He always had something to say and we were always exchanging ideas.”
Throughout the years, Ricco was able to build relationships with a wide-range of people within the school and out. He has met celebrities and politicians such as President Bill Clinton and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He even met his wife, Astrid Ricco, at North Campus.
“He’s a photographer who has evolved his technique,” said John Angel, who has worked with Ricco since July. “He is able to capture a story when a picture is taken and not that many photographers can achieve that. He can capture the true emotion in that given moment he takes his pictures.”
During his tenure at MDC, Ricco has adapted to new technology.
“We use to shoot everything on film and it was a very stressful process,” Ricco said. “You never knew when a picture was going to come out right until you developed it.”
Developing film took a week, Ricco said, and it was expensive. When Ricco stumbled across Photoshop he was intrigued and never wanted to spend another moment in a darkroom developing film.
Ricco has also seen the North Campus evolve. When he first arrived, only building one, two and three were complete. Building five was in the process of being built, and he took classes in barracks. The campus was once an army base back in World War II.
Cobas said Ricco was like having “a time machine always around” because he could recite stories about the history of the campus.
Despite his retirement, Ricco said he has not captured his last memories at MDC. He plans to work out at the North Campus Wellness Center and he is considering enrolling in photography classes.
And if his buddies at the Media Services Department need him to take some photos part-time, he wouldn’t mind.
Off campus, his plans include traveling to New York in May to see his step-son graduate from Columbia University, and going to Italy with the hopes of buying a home where he can live six months of the year.
And he also has a message for students currently enrolled at MDC: “If you have dreams of doing something important,” Ricco said, “then this is the time to make those dreams happen.”