Some of Ralph De Palma’s photos of local Key West musicians can now be seen at The Grateful Guitar. Recently, Karri Daley sat and interviewed Ralph to get the story about the man behind the photos of Key West musicians. Here is that story as published in a recent edition of Keys Weekly newspaper, along with some of his wonderful photos taken at The Grateful Guitar.

Born Clarksburg West Virginia and raised in North Western Ohio, Ralph De Palma has become an amazing photographer. He has the uncanny ability to freeze any moment at just the right time.
In 1969, Ralph toured Florida’s East Coast from Jacksonville Beach to Key West and fell in love with Florida. He went back to Ohio, packed his things and moved to Miami.

Ralph graduated from Florida International University School of Business with a minor in IT. He took on jobs in technology aviation and software development.

In 1985, Ralph took a job in John F. Kennedy Space Center and worked with the space shuttle program for 12 years. He started out as a technician and soon became supervisor of engineers and technicians. In 1992 he was a technology consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton and by ’97 he was working as a freelance information technology consultant in Jacksonville.

One day in Jacksonville in 1999 he stumbled upon an old camera shop.  He decided to bring in some of his family’s negatives dating as far back as 1910. After scanning them with a Mac and Photoshop Ralph ended up walking out with family photos he had never seen before. His new found love for digital photography had just begun.  Several years later, Ralph received an opportunity to work in Key West exercising his IT skill set and his love of photography. He soon built a home in the Florida Keys and settled into a new life.

One afternoon in 2002 while scanning old photos at the Key West Library with Historian Tom Hambright, he noticed termite holes in some of the photographs.   He brought to Tom’s attention that they may lose a lot of history if they didn’t quickly digitalize their collection. Tom got a grant from the University of Florida and has since saved nearly 100,000 photographs. This opened a whole new avenue of technology for the library.

Ralph is recently retired but continues  to work as a professional photographer, shooting mostly music performances and other events.
He released a book in 2013 entitled “The Soul of Key West”. It’s the first book about the Key West Music scene with a story told by 46 musicians along with over 200 color photographs.  Ralph is in the process of writing his second book about the Key West music scene which is to be released in early 2015.  He refers to Key West as a great artist colony where everyone supports one another and he is happy to help with promo shots, live events, and even album covers.

Amazing moments happen everyday here on the island and it’s a wonderful thing that they can be frozen in time by the talented hands of Ralph De Palma.  To purchase Ralph’s book and view his gallery, please visit:

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