He’s young and good-looking and equally good natured, so it is hard to give Ferris Berlin too hard a time about his name. I met him while I was hanging out at the 39th Street beach taking photos of OCBP Crew 7 members and waiting for an interview. He’s a scoper. That is, he takes photos of people on the beach or boards in Ocean City and the company he works for makes them into those little telescope photo souvenirs (or key chains or about a thousand other things) you can buy as a memento. He gets either a commission or a flat rate depending upon the gig. He told me. It isn’t critical.
When I was a reporter in Berlin, I interviewed one of the early scopers, a woman who (if memory serves, I can’t find the story) was one of the first “girl” scopers. She would use a camera, but they still could turn the whole production around in a day. Ferris, suing a digital camera and a couple of SD cards turns in over in a few hours.
When he’s on the beach (he shares the 10 blocks between 34th and 44th streets with a buddy) a courier comes by at about 2 p.m. and people can pick their photos up (if they choose) as early as 2:30 p.m. Once he’s taken his last photo at about 5 p.m. he hustles back to the shop and has them turned around by 5:30 p.m. Hustle, here, is the operative word.
Scopers are hustlers in the positive, rather than the pejorative sense. They make their living by being fast and charming all at the same time. Ferris is charming enough. Mostly, he took the job to spend the summer on the beach. In the name of simplicity, he’s from outside of Philadelphia and hadn’t really intended on spending the summer at the beach.
He and his 34-44 street buddy met some girl scopers and thought it was a cool way to spend the summer. They applied together for summer of 2017 but were surprised to receive a call and an offer for the 2016 season.
“We didn’t even know they were hiring still for this year,” he said.
They got a place and now spend their days and early evenings working their sections of boardwalk and beach, taking the best photos they can and hoping to convince enough people to buy the occasional trinket that makes their time on the beach worthwhile.