He’s traveled the world. He lived in a lighthouse for years. He’s photographed more than 2,000 weddings, and “has been on plenty of honeymoons without ever getting married,” Ferber says with a laugh. The longtime Marin photographer has taken headshots for the likes of Jay Leno and Willie Brown, snapped live concerts at the Sweetwater and shot prominent sporting events like the America’s Cup and the Tour de California. Ferber was on hand to shoot a private reception for Queen Elizabeth and then-President Ronald Reagan at the de Young Museum in 1980, an event where he met the likes of Billy Graham, Joe Montana and Willie Mays.
But while “The Life & Times of Gary Ferber” would likely be scintillating, the star-studded, would-be tome wouldn’t tell the full story of one of Marin’s most ubiquitous photographers.
Ferber has been an invaluable presence in Mill Valley for decades, volunteering to photograph countless events and gatherings all over town and beyond. For that unparalleled level of dedicated service to our community, Ferber has been named the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center’s 2016 Business Citizen of the Year, and will thus be honored with a Spirit of Marin Award by Bank of Marin at a reception at St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael on September 23.
“In addition to being a wonderful photographer, Gary is the ultimate volunteer,” says Ann Aversa, who chairs the Chamber’s Board of Directors and whose family owns La Ginestra restaurant. “He goes the extra mile and devotes a great amount of his personal time to attend and voluntarily photograph and document nearly all of our local events. His kindness is noticed and appreciated by all of the people and businesses in our community that Gary has touched. His skill and creative gifts have enabled our community to create a collective memory of the life of our town.”
Ferber has been a member of the Mill Valley Chamber for 22 years, photographing every one of its Monthly Mixers and dozens of ribbon cuttings over that span, as well as all of its Spirit of Marin Awards entries, 15 State of the City dinners and a dozen Business Expos. He served on the Chamber’s board for four years, and has taken photos of the annual Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tasting for 14 years as well as the Annual Winterfest celebration. Ferber donated photos shoots for families and individuals that were auctioned off to raise money to build the Community Center, which just celebrated its 15th Anniversary.
Ferber arrived on the Marin scene in the mid-1970s from Laguna Beach, drawn by Marin’s beauty and the Northern California lifestyle. “It’s prettiest place in the world,” he says. “I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen anything like Marin. And Mount Tam is just spectacular.”
Working out of his photo studio in Sausalito, Ferber connected with organizations like the North Bay Ad Club and the American Advertising Federation, which led him to volunteer work with the March of Dimes, which had him shoot fundraisers and – get this – be raffled off as an eligible bachelor.
“I was living the high life,” he says.
Through his work for March of Dimes, Ferber began connecting with other nonprofits and local organizations, including the Rotary. He met former Mill Valley Mayor Dick Spotswood through the Mill Valley Rotary and became a regular at the service organization’s weekly lunches. Through Rotary and Mill Valley Market co-owner Bob Canepa, Ferber connected with the Chamber, and quickly became the go-to photographer for nearly every major event in town. Over the years, Ferber has helped the Mountain Play, the Dipsea Race Foundation, and Harbor Point Foundation with their events.
"Whether it's been Rotary events, Chamber Mixers, our Wine, Beer & Gourmet Food Tastings or countless other local gatherings, Gary has played an invaluable role here in Mill Valley and throughout Marin County as well," Canepa says. "His commitment and service to our community is absolutely worthy of this honor."
Ferber says that despite plenty of change in Mill Valley over the years, one thing hasn’t. “People have always been warm, open and appreciative to me in Mill Valley,” Ferber says. “I’m thrilled to be honored by the community.”