I am an Island Jane: Carol Tedesco

Carol Tedesco-Island Jane of the MonthEvery once in a while someone comes along  who is just so darn interesting, I have to take a closer look. In my travels I meet  a lot of people and I am always so fascinated to come across a person bold enough to visualize and bring into being a life that they love.

Shipwreck explorer, publicist, award winning writer, fine art photographer  and Key West resident, Carol Tedesco is one of these people. The first fascinating fact about Carol is that she is a leading expert in 16th and 17th century shipwreck recovered coins. She has worked on and curated several shipwreck search and recovery projects all over the world, including the Nuestra Senora de Atocha with Mel Fisher’s Treasures right here in Key West. She is considered a leading authority on treasure coins and has written extensively on the subject.

If this weren’t already enough, she is also a very talented wedding and fine art photographer, publicist, has written a couple of books and still has time to take an active role in the community.

If you’d like to learn more about Carol, you can read all about her on her website, – KismetKeyWest.com and in several other places around the web. For this piece however, I wanted to get to know her a little more personally,  to see what makes her tick and maybe glean a few nuggets of inspiration in the process. So here she is, answering some of my most burning questions in her own words….. Enjoy!

Carol Shaughnessy of the Florida Keys News Bureau covering the story when a team subcontracting with Mel Fishers Treasures arrived at the dock with a magnificent gold chalice discovered on the 1622 fleet Santa Margarita shipwreck site (2008). Captain Dan Porter is the one showing her the artifact. When speaking of the importance of mentors in our interview, Tedesco says of Shaughnessy, “Carol has been a wonderful friend, mentor and inspiration to me”.

Q: It appears that you have created for yourself a life that you love – one that is uniquely yours.
Start by giving us an idea of your typical day.

A: Hi Dianne,thank you so much for the interview invitation.  My typical day will depend on how well I may or may not be balancing my life at any given time. In periods of greater balance, I start every day with a one-hour power walk. The rest of the time I just roll out of bed and jump right into the first project at hand – and that would describe September, 2014 so far. I work as a photographer, publicist, and historic shipwreck professional, so some days I might wear one hat exclusively, and others will be a harmonious fusion of all the above – or a perfect storm of all the above, depending on circumstances and that balance thing. A few days ago I had a wonderful news assignment to photograph a woman who has been blind since birth as she explored the scents, textures and tastes of Key West via “Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour.” Jobs like this are simply off-the-charts on the satisfying/uplifting meter. Today I will be working on updating a business plan I prepared last year for a shipwreck exploration company. This company also uses my services as a photographer and treasure coin expert, so the prospectus will include photographs I’ve taken of some exquisite treasures the company has already discovered, along with research and data based on a coin curation system I designed for them.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: Hula Hoop. Community and arts events with my partner Michael Shields. Beach time with friends or solo. Travel when I can afford to. Read biographies of fascinating people. Hang out in cemeteries. Collaborate. I love collaborative projects; one of the most recent is a book titled “After Life – Images from the Key West Cemetery,” a collection of photographs by me and Roberta DePiero, published by The New Atlantian Library, with text by Jane Newhagen.

Q: What is your favorite thing about living in Key West?

A: Perfect timing for this question: I’ve spent a good slice of 2014 working with a shipwreck project team on an island in Latin America, and while I love the opportunity to focus almost 100% on one project, surrounded by team members who are similarly obsessed with and committed to that project, it’s also been a fresh opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the rare and unique energy of Key West and why it is such an amazing place to call home. Our island has such a large, diverse, and supportive creative community – always exploring, seeking inspiration, and manifesting a kaleidoscope of visions. It’s a vast sandbox and everyone is invited in to play: no one is too young or too old; what you bring to the sandbox in the way of creativity, originality and intelligence is more important than your bank balance, and personal eccentricities are applauded rather than judged as liabilities.

photo by Carol Tedesco

Q: What is your best advice for other women who are wanting to create a meaningful life?

A: Surround yourself with people who inspire and support you. Challenge yourself and take chances. Recognize and thank those who help you on your way and reach out and help others on their way. Be kind; but don’t be a door-mat. Cultivate your own garden; all the rhetoric in the world won’t change the world – but your garden, whether literal or metaphorical, may provide a seed of inspiration for someone just when they need it.

Q: There is an interview on your website where you talk about believing in the power of writing dreams and goals on paper to coax them into reality. Tell us why you believe this and give us a couple of tips on how we might incorporate this practice into our own lives.

A: My own spontaneous thoughts arise mostly in pictures, sound bites and little snippets of intuition. Writing aspirations and goals down on paper helps to bring them into focus. It all begins with a thought, right? Sometimes I will outline one or more possible paths to manifest a vision, but not always. For example, around 2001, at a major crossroads in life, I asked myself what my ideal vision of a fulfilling professional life would look like. What I put on paper was pretty simple – along the lines of: a career in which I can use my photography, pr/media relations, and research/writing skills both within and outside the historic shipwreck industry. Kind of like a one sentence business plan. Writing it down was a creative act that initiated forward momentum. Like a jigsaw puzzle, in the beginning the pieces were widely spaced apart and without a clearly recognizable interrelation. But by 2008 the pieces were assembling together rapidly and coherently. Of course, it is all still evolving, and there are always troughs and waves, but my career is what I asked for and what I – with the help of colleagues, friends and supporters – manifested. In hindsight, it might not have been a bad idea to visualize a wonderfully abundant annual income too, so I’d definitely advise visualizing all possible benefits when initiating the manifesting process.

Q: A big part of your work as a shipwreck explorer obviously is spent underwater scuba diving. However, in the beginning, in order to pursue your goals, you had to overcome a fear of water and learn how to scuba. What was that like for you? and is that fear completely gone now or do you still struggle with it?

A: It was very liberating and a great lesson in how something feared can be transformed into a passion. (On the other hand, you will never, ever, and I mean EVER, see me jump out of an airplane). Yes, I had to revisit the feelings of fear the first time I worked on a shipwreck site with ripping currents. It really only took a couple of dives to overcome the anxiety, learn how to cooperate with rather than fight the flow, and become confident in managing my camera equipment in that environment.  But it wasn’t just about sucking it up and jumping in. My boss on the project, Andy Matroci, had clearly explained what to do if the down-line snapped, so I was clear about the possibility of it happening, and clear about what to do in that event. And I guess that is where the benefits of visualization come in again – you can identify potential obstacles and dangers, and how you will respond.

Q: That brings us to the question of recreational diving/snorkeling/boating. Is this something you do just for fun? If it is, where do you like to go, do you have a favorite dive spot?

A: Will jump at any opportunity to get out on the water – work or play. I have not had a tank on my back in a terribly long time, and have promised myself to refresh and resume this summer.

Q: Do you have any new goals or an upcoming project that you would like to share with us?

A: A couple of books are in the works. One (long overdue) is on shipwreck recovered treasure coins. Key West based artist Kate Peachey painted the cover for that one and I absolutely love it. The second is another photo collection. One goal that that has been rolling around in my mind for a bit is to help raise awareness of how damaging grass lawns are to the environment, and how unnecessary they really are.

Q: After having already experienced a life of travel and exploration, and living in an island paradise, working for yourself doing what you love, I can’t imagine what would be on your bucket list. Will you share?

A: I dream of being able to sing like Janis Joplin or Ann Wilson of Heart – like you’re sucking the raw sound energy up out of the earth and channeling it through your body – but that won’t happen in this lifetime for sure. There are so many places I’d love to experience and so much to learn, but I think that the #1 thing on my bucket list is to be a better person each day than I was the day before.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote?

A: Many! But the one that comes to mind immediately is “Don’t believe your own press releases.”

Treasure Coins of the Nuestra de Atocha & the Santa Margarita   Carol’s book is available here.

As editor of Island Jane and FishMonster Magazines it is my job to bring you the very best of the Florida Keys. I am an avid diver, I love to kayak and paddleboard and I even like to fish a little bit 🙂 I love living in the Florida Keys and I hope I can share some of that with you.