Photographer Spotlight – Rick Sammon

July 16th, 2010 by Chris Klapheke

From books, to iPhone apps, to podcasts, Facebook and Twitter, Rick Sammon is everywhere.  A Canon Explorer of Light, Rick is also everyman’s photographer.  One of Rick’s basic photography tenets is that he “Specializes in not specializing”.

When we talked to Rick for this article, his opening comment to us was “I never thought, in 1969, when I was 19 and dancing naked in the mud at Woodstock, I’d have 36 books and a bunch of iPhone and iPad apps”.  We knew we were in for a good story.

After Woodstock, Rick attended the famous Berklee College of Music in Boston, receiving his formal education in Arrangement and Composition.  He wanted to play jazz, and play he did.  Late night shows and jam sessions over the next few years left him plenty of free day time, so to stir his creative juices, he began shooting images and submitting them to publications.

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In 1978 Rick submitted an image and article to Studio Photography Magazine.  On this first submission, the magazine invited him to be their editor.  Rick traded in one keyboard for another, and entered the publication world.

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Good editors get noticed, and the giant (at that time) Minolta Corporation’s main ad agency came in and snapped Rick in 1980 up to head up Minolta’s ad campaigns.  Rick now had to wear a suit and tie, and was nested high up in Rockefeller Center.  In the 80’s, life as Minolta ad manager was good—Minolta was rocking, the photo industry was exploding, and yes, Rick went to Studio 54 now and then.

Rick’s desire to capture images and get them published still burned.  But as an ad man for a camera line, Rick wasn’t allowed to publish, at the peril of his job.  Rick’s solution?  Submit his images under made-up names!  No, we can’t disclose those names.  Suffice it to say that Rick continued to be published.

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Rick had always had a passion for scuba diving as well as photography, and in 1985 he developed a specific five-year plan for a career change.  For the next five years, whenever possible, and on every vacation, Rick dove and stocked his portfolio with underwater images.  Five years later, in 1990, Rick had amassed enough images to leave his advertising job and publish underwater photography books.  Going from an office 70 stories up to a studio 70 feet under, Rick published five underwater photography books while traveling the world over the next few years.  He became a full time photographer, albeit a wet one.

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In 1998, in Rick’s own words, “the world had seen enough images of a Clownfish”.  Rick crawled back on land, and began to capture images of the people and of the cultures he had encountered in his travels while diving.  That trajectory, from specialization to not specializing, has propelled Rick to the worldwide photography stage.

When you see Rick talk in person, or when you watch his video podcasts, his enthusiasm for photography—all types of photography—is infectious.  Although he knows the technical side of photography and processing inside out, he doesn’t bog down on those minute details.  He stresses the basic values of photography:  preparation, planning, vision, awareness, and applies them to facets of our craft too numerous to mention, be it HDR, panoramas, processing, gear and more.  One basic theme permeates all his thought, tips and tricks:  photography is your hobby, your avocation, so make sure and have fun!   

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Rick’s list of accolades and achievements are almost too numerous to mention.  His books have won the Golden Light Award and the Ben Franklin Award.  He’s a Canon Explorer of Light, has been nominated to the Photoshop Hall of Fame, and is a member of the elite Explorer’s Club.  Rick has photographed in nearly 100 countries around the world, and gives dozens of workshops each year.

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Rick has embraced new technology and the current trend of social media.  He’s actively producing apps on iTunes for the iPhone and the iPad, and you can find Rick on podcasts, Twitter, Facebook and more.  As always, Rick is not sitting still.  Who knows what his next five-year plan will be?

Editors note:  Speaking of workshops, I’m pleased to be assisting Rick this October in beautiful St. Augustine, Florida, at the St. Augustinescapes Workshops.  Come join us!  For more info see www.staugustinescapes.com.

You can learn more about Rick’s books, workshops, apps and more at www.RickSammon.com

Catch Rick with Juan Pons on their website The Digital Photo Experience at  www.dpexperience.com

Follow Rick on Twitter at @ricksammon

Rick is on Facebook here.

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