Sure ShotPete Saloutos is hailed as a photographic legend.
June 9, 2008 · Updated 4:01 PM
"The athletes that Pete Saloutos photographs - the subjects of the work that recently made him a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens - have nothing on him, when it comes to energy and drive.Saloutos begins his day with a 4 a.m. gym workout, and gets to his computer by 6:45 - after a pit stop at Blackbird Bakery. For every one of me, there are thousands of photographers who fell by the wayside, Saloutos says. My strength is persistence.And perfectionism.To get a single shot of a row of swimmers diving from a pool's edge, Saloutos first spent six hours lighting each swimmer with her own light. A photograph of a cowboy herding sheep on a mountain crest took Saloutos six months to coordinate.Saloutos brought intention and intelligence to his art career early on, painting when he was 13. Many dads hand their sons tools, but my mom handed me a paint brush, Saloutos said. His father encouraged him as well, Saloutos says, pounding into him one key piece of wisdom: Do what you love.His father, Saloutos says, lived a life that was an example of his own advice. Son of a Greek immigrant who had fled the Balkan conflict 100 years ago, he became the pre-eminent historian in Greek studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. At 18, Saloutos acquired a camera, and his own course was set.By the time he was 23, Saloutos says, he had photographed 400 weddings. He swiftly acquired a taste for travel as he and his wife Aleta - now his partner of decades - embarked on extended odysseys, photographing and producing audio-video shows.He didn't earn much from that, he says. It was the work he found shooting annual reports for corporations that was both lucrative and creative. The 1980s and 1990s were the glory days for annual reports, an era when high end high art was the rule, Saloutos says, but that era ended with the recession. Unlike many photographers, however, Saloutos is flexible, with more than a single specialty. He shoots athletes; fine art nudes; technical medical health care photographs; scenic landscapes in a panoramic format; conceptual imagery that features collaged images that create symbols; and stock pictures that are the clip art of the photographic world.Instead of letting an agent handle his business, he prefers to keep in direct touch with clients. I like to mix it up with clients, Saloutos says. I don't like to be separated from them, because I would miss out on getting a feel for what it is they want. Recent years have brought the challenge of having to learn digital technology, imagemaking that could have threatened Saloutos' turf.I had to roll up my sleeves, Saloutos says, because it was just overwhelming, at first.Besides absorbing the new technology, Saloutos also re-positioned his market niche by ramping up his work. I try to create unique, high-end imagery so that I eliminate the competition from the clip art folks, Saloutos says. I would just be one of the crowd if I were doing what I did 10 years ago.At a time in life when some become complacent, Saloutos still seeks the edge. As soon as you think you've got it together and you know it all, that's the kiss of death, he says. I always want to run a little scared. I like to think of myself as a kid in a sandbox. That requires uncertainty - and that's good.Saloutos work is online at www.nikonworld.com. "