The Fascinating Story Behind the Discover Irma Magazine

When I first saw the ‘Discover Irma’ magazine, I knew I had to have one. While it’s painful to look at the photos in said magazine, it’s also a very important reminder of what Saint Martin / Sint Maarten has been through. Those photos serve as a placeholder in time, one which most of us didn’t have to live through but it’s a time that none of us should ever forget.

Thomas Proust is a professional freelance photographer who does a lot of work for Rosdal’s ‘Discover’ magazine. You may have seen the magazine on past trips to Saint Martin. They’ll usually be available at rental car companies, hotels, restaurants, you name it. And they’re filled with great information about the island to make your stay that much more fun.

‘Discover Saint Martin / Sint Maarten’ is published once annually, normally in October. In fact, the 2018 version was ready to print when Hurricane Irma slammed into the island. And like so many other things in Saint Martin, that one day changed everything. Plans were scrapped.

On the days following the storm, Proust set out on a bicycle tour around the island taking as many photos of the scene as he could. He felt he wanted to capture what happened to his beautiful island, so that he may never forget. He was soon joined by several other local photographers, all working to capture the new beauty of Saint Martin.

There wasn’t a plan in those first few days. It was a theme that repeated itself in the lives of nearly every single person who was touched by Hurricane Irma. No plan, just do.

At the end of his bicycle tour around the island, Proust realized the historical context of what he and the other photographers had shot. He wanted to share his art with the world, and he wanted to do it in a respectful and touching way. So he contacted the editor of ‘Discover Magazine’ to pitch his idea to publish a collection of the photos in a beautifully bound booklet.

At first, the editor was understandably hesitant to put such a booklet together. Publishing photos of the worst possible storm imaginable to hit Saint Martin / Sint Maarten didn’t feel right. But, at the same time, there was a strange and undeniable raw beauty to the images.

After a month of waiting and contemplating, and at the insistence of Proust, he finally decided to go forward and print the booklet. The result is a touching, somber and strangely beautiful reminder of that fateful day.

When I was on the island last week, I met Proust and he shared this story with me. When I asked him if he thought of leaving the island after the storm, he looked at me and shook his head, “No, this is my home now and I love it here”. It’s a response you’ll hear over and over again from anyone who has chosen to stay on the island.

While there, I picked up as many copies of ‘Discover Irma’ as I could possibly carry on the airplane home with me. I put 40 of them in my carry-on and another 20 in my backpack. At 1.2 pounds each, it’s safe to say that I got quite the workout on my return flight. I’ve never been happier to get home!

If you’d like one of these booklets for your own, and I highly recommend getting one while you can (you’ll kick yourself if you don’t, I promise), you can buy one here. I only have 17 left, so act quickly. By going to get them myself, I’m able to offer them to residents of the U.S. and Canada for only $35 and $40, respectively. If you buy them through the publisher, they are over $50 each. And no, I don’t plan to go fetch any more…my back can’t handle it!


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Jon Ferlise

I fell in love with the island of Saint Martin the first time I visited to celebrate my 40th birthday in May of 2009. Since then, I've spent most birthdays there, and have visited countless other times getting to know this wonderful place and the friendly locals that make it so special. I adore the culture, the people, the community, and the beauty of this stunning island. SXM Strong is a website that I started to support humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. There was no plan, it just evolved as I witnessed the devastation that Irma caused the island and the huge need to communicate and disseminate information about what had happened and how people could help support this island and its people.

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