Tell Me Something: Mystic Army Navy Stores owner has a book in the works

Michelle Gemma, owner of Mystic Army Navy Stores, is decked out in gear.
Michelle Gemma, owner of Mystic Army Navy Stores, is decked out in gear.

Michelle Gemma grew up in Noank and cut her teeth in the family business: A Stitch In Time Boutique, an institution in Mystic for 27 years. She became interested in black and white photography, and became serious about it in 1997. From working with the photographer Rollie McKenna of Stonington Borough, to archival photography work with the Stonington Historical Society, she realized the importance of time and place. Gemma also became part of the second family business, Mystic Army Navy Stores, and is now owner of the business with storefronts in downtown Mystic and the Olde Mistick Village. She continues to produce art for the local online magazine: Gemma is working on her first photography book, called "A Portrait of An Artist as A Young Girl", which features a timeline of photographs of one of her models from age 12 to age 28. The book will be released online at Portfire, and also in print form, sometime this spring. Gemma lives in Mystic.

Say you have a modern-day high school locker. Whose picture would be hanging in it?

Any photograph by Helmut Newton.

What's your favorite sandwich?

Falafel pita

You're locked in a museum for a night, which one would it be?

Mystic Seaport.

Which photographer would like to spend an hour talking shop with?

Sally Mann

What's your favorite word in a language other than English?

"Gezellig" - it's Dutch for "convivial".

What was your first camera?

Minolta X-700 35mm camera with a wide angle lens that I bought off of Shelley Lawrence at BeeBee Dairy one day in 1992.

What's an album you like, but can't convince others to like?

Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy".

Where is your favorite location to shoot?

Stonington Borough.

Sorry to have to tell you this, but an asteroid is going to wipe out all humanity next week. So, what's your last meal and who is coming to dinner?

Brunch, at home with Ellery Twining.

Which U.S. president, living or deceased, would you like photograph?

The first female U.S. president.

Name an item you can't live without:


Item you should live without and keep meaning to get rid of:

My Polaroid I-Zone Instant Pocket Camera. They don't even make film for this camera anymore, which is OK because now we have Instagram, a wonderful invention and essential for all visual artists.

What's the song have you been listening to on repeat the most?

"Ghosts" by Slander. "It's not the way it was before" - this particular line hit me after my father passed away suddenly last October, and I had to go to work the morning after, to take care of business, and I realized that nothing was the same anymore.

If you present day you could give advice to younger you, what would it be?

"Your father was right."

Last book you couldn't put down:

"Ariel" by Sylvia Plath.

You're a DJ at a club. What's the night's last song?

"New Jersey Deep" by the Black Science Orchestra - always a hit at the Collective dance parties.

You're going on a road trip. Pick a destination. Pick a vehicle. Now pick a song to start the trip and song to play when you get there.

Provincetown, in our blue high-top van. Start with "Little Fluffy Clouds" by the Orb, and arrive to "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys.

What's a word you can never spell correctly on the first try:

Sacrilege: it never comes up.

Which is better, coffee or tea?

Colombian Supremo from the Green Marble in downtown Mystic. N-O-B-O-D-Y does it better!

Saturday night or Sunday morning?

Sunday, late mornings

Film or digital?

Film until 14 months ago; now digital.

Anagrams or palindromes?

Palindromes. I remember when I first arrived at the UConn Storrs campus and met a graduate student from India, and she was like, "My name is Naman, the same forward and backward"

What is your pet peeve?

Sneezing onto your hands. I work in retail! Enough said.

What historical event would you like to have been witness to?

Woodstock and hanging out with Dan Curland from Mystic Disc, while listening to Jimi Hendrix that Monday morning.....

What is your favorite place in Connecticut to recharge and/or find serenity?

My teeny cottage with all of our beautiful gardens near the Mystic River. I work a lot at the Army Navy Stores, so being at home is my best energizer.

Whom alive today do you most admire?

David Lynch.


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