Portrait of Ken Caminiti. Concept was to show his toughness and grit.
I used to be a sports photographer. Then reality set in….. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I grew up in a small Kansas farm town, Macksville, and I loved sports. I don’t ever remember sports not being a part of my life. My two oldest brothers excelled in whatever they did. My next oldest brother Mark was a pretty good pitcher, my sister, Debbie, was just as talented as my older siblings and my youngest brother was probably the best of us all. The only problem was he was ten years younger than me. I only learned his exploits from Mark’s writings in the local newspaper. But what about me? I was short changed in the talent department. As hard as I worked and studied sports, the reality was I didn’t “have” it. But boy it sure took me a long time to accept it.
I played on the high school team and then was the backup place kicker on the Mesa College football team. Looking back I think it was only because Coach Smorin didn’t cut those that wanted to be there. I wanted it bad. So I stayed. During the offseason I was in the first car accident of my life and as a result had to quit playing. That was one of the best events that ever happened.
During the offseason I had gotten married and my sister-in-law, Carole had loaned me her 35mm Yashica to play with. I was quickly hooked and soon photographing sports for the school paper at Mesa College which allow me to stay in touch with my team mates. An obsession to learn followed and within four years I was working in the newspaper realm, covering news and the sports I loved.
After eight years as a staff photographer at the San Diego Union Tribune I started my own business and became immersed in the sports photography profession. I worked for the wire services, trading card companies, San Diego State University and then got my dream job. Along with a former Sports Illustrated photographer we started an in-house full service photography department for the owner of the San Diego Padres. It was a sports photographer’s ideal job. We were on the inside documenting the team and the franchise, the players and the owners. We were given access that few photographer ever are given.
During the six year stint we lived a great life. I photographed hundreds of games and saw a rare insight into what some people call the Greatest Game. The Padres had a good team and even better marketing. Their quest to expand their brand took us to Mexico several times, once to play the Mets, to Hawaii to play the St. Louis Cardinals and then the winning began. We went to the playoff and then the World Series. I saw Tony Gwynn at his prime, I saw him injured and I saw him retire. On his final game he personally gave me an autographed bat which I have to this day.
But times change. Due to internal politics I was not renewed. And to add insult to injury I was replaced by the mailroom clerk…. the timing was terrible. They waited until ten days prior to spring training which precluded me from working with another company.
Losing that contract was the best event that happened. I’m now an architectural photographer. I miss sports but I love my new challenge. But that’s another story. Check out my website, www.zwink.com
About the photo: This was a portrait of Ken Caminiti done for the Padres Magazine. Camy was one of the most intense, dedicated hard working people I ever met. He loved baseball. Padre fans loved him.