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Member Profile - Rick Peterson

Member Profile



Please give us a thumbnail sketch of your life/career.


I grew up in Honolulu and was exposed to the multi-cultural diversity of that city, rich in natural beauty and ethnic traditions. I count myself lucky to be a minority in a city that is a crossroads of people from all over the globe teaching me appreciation and an acceptance of the world around me. I was a kid going to the public schools with Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, South Pacific Islanders, Portuguese, Europeans and Asians of every description. My buddies and I would go sand sliding and boogie boarding on hand crafted boards at the beach, hitting the shore break, making our best moves. Honolulu gave me the experience of cultural diversity, natural beauty and easy going island lifestyle contrasted with big city sophistication and the fast pace of a world class tourist town and Pacific Rim hub of vibrant business.


Fast forward to the next years … I chose Brooks Institute as my choice of schools for what was to evolve into a career. Upon graduation, I tried out Los Angeles … my eyes burned from the smog … and then I returned to Honolulu to carve out a place for myself, becoming one of the top four commercial photographers. I did mostly agency work for the hospitality trade, with Sheraton Hotels in the Pacific as one of my main clients. Years of successful business passed till there was a devastating national and local economic downturn forcing me to rethink my career direction. So onward I went to New York where I did business for four years before relocating to Tucson. I contunue with advertising photography and have an established group of catalog and corporate clients.


Peterson - Observatory

© Rick Peterson


How did you become interested in photography?


I’d say it began with a birthday present from Mom and Dad of a camera and a darkroom kit I got one year in early high school. It was magic. I took pictures of my buddies surfing at Sandy Beach. When I was a copyboy at the Honolulu Advertiser I watched the power of journalistic photography and then I was inspired by the poetic imagery of Gordon Parks.


What has been your most interesting or favorite assignment/ situation/or person?


I’ve had a number of interesting assignments and situations, but let me tell you about one of my favorite ... most influential and interesting persons  ñ Phil Cohen, my instructor at Brooks Institute. Phil Cohen was more than just a teacher of illustration photography, he was a mentor and friend with a genuine interest in sharing his vast experience. Phil taught me photographic technique, but what he really taught was that I had the ability to create whatever I wanted to in my life and through my expression in photography by applying research and personal intention. Phil encouraged me to read and absorb whatever knowledge necessary to apply myself to whatever task and ambition at hand.


Interesting assignments? The most recent was for a corporate annual report style shoot for the Keck Observatory in Hawaii in the spring of 2006. This is a world class observatory with telescopes on the 13,600 foot summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai’i and headquarters on the base of the volcano in Kamuela. I spent days between the telescopes on the summit and the headquarters where brilliant astronomers do their research. On the summit I was fitted with oxygen supply and a down jacket while I worked in sub freezing temperatures within the twin telescope domes and the research offices beneath the telescopes. After dark, I watched as laser beams shot into the heavens to align the aim of the telescopes and looking to the sky, the stars and the Milky Way Galaxy blazed overhead with amazing clarity. 


Peterson - Umbrellas

© Rick Peterson

What is important to you?


Those things that are important to anyone change as time goes on, don’t they? I’d tell you one story ten years ago and a different one twenty years ago. I think of the important career ambitions that in the past have been either realized or squashed and now I look less at career and more to my personal life. My career as a photographer today is sustained by a network of clients, referrals and marketing. So now I look at the importance of my friends, family, health and lifestyle.


How have you taught yourself to adapt to change?


Hey, don’t go changin’… I love you film cameras just the way you are…


I would guess the question asks how I adapted to digital. Or did you mean how I changed when my hairline began to recede? OK, digital it is. While in New York (in another life) I had a transitional pause in my career when Apple came out with the latest computer, Photoshop advanced to version 7, the Internet and the World Wide Web began to explode and the whole thing absolutely captivated me. I drove to B&H in Manhattan and bought the latest greatest Mac and then at a New York City seminar won a copy of Photoshop as a door prize and then connected with an old buddy pioneering in digital photography. As I said, it was a transitional period for me so I had months to sit in front of a computer, read manuals and experiment. This period propelled me into pioneering into my first digital camera before many had thought of such a thing. Today I am reading “The World is Flat” and realizing what an amazing period in history I’m living in and so fortunate to be a part. Remember my telling you about my mentor and friend Phil Cohen who taught me photography in 1972? He told me back then that one day there would be no film and photographic images would be recorded digitally.  I couldn’t quite comprehend that, but I think it sparked my imagination.


Peterson - Hood Ornament

© Rick Peterson


What are the most important things you have learned?


I’ve learned that results come from patient and diligent efforts. I’ve learned that it is important to be honest and genuine in my dealings with others. I’ve learned that candor and humor go a long way. I’ve learned that being an advertising photographer is a really fun game but it is only a part of the things that defines me.


What is your favorite food?


Now you’re talking. Have you ever had a genuine Hawaiian plate lunch from a beachside lunch truck? Teriyaki chicken with sticky rice and macaroni salad, washed down with passion fruit juice and finished off with a banana/guava shave ice? Ah, such simple and wonderful pleasures. Thai is a favorite … French Provencal too ñ it’s all good.


Please explain why you joined ASMP?


As a student at Brooks Institute, I attended ASMP meetings in LA and I was hooked. Those photographers were doing the things I aspired to and they belonged to the association that helped them become who they were.


What is your current project?


This week I’m developing some style ideas for jewelry photography the client runs as full page ads in mainstream women’s magazines. I see jewelry floating … no maybe swirling … no maybe elegantly placed on stainless steel … I’ll have to get back to you on this …


What is something you would like people to know that was not asked?


The career path of photography, as with any personal endeavor is not always an easy one, but can be hugely rewarding if you stay the course through the thick and thin of it. Be true to yourself, be honest and humble in your dealings with others and be sure to have fun, life’s short!