Award-winning photographer John Partipilo is known for capturing striking imagery. For more than 40 years, his photos have showcased the highs and lows of the human condition, often pulling a viewer into moments of crisis, unity, and historic relevance.
He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. By building trust with those on site, he can get past safety barriers and into dangerous situations for the perfect shot. He can win over the toughest of people in the most difficult places, and blends into the crowd while the action unfolds.
“Never ask permission, just beg for forgiveness.” – John Partipilo
The excitement of photography for John began when his camera was taken away by a nun in Catholic school, as he explains in The Creative Push video episode attached below. The attention from that experience gave birth to his love of photojournalism early on.
As a freshman studying fine art at the University of Arkansas, he considered being a writer while working with the college paper. That direction changed when the editor handed him a camera after their photographer became ill and was unable to cover a story. A friend of John’s secretly entered those photos into a University of Missouri photo contest and they unexpectedly won. The prize allowed him to shadow three National Geographic photographers, and that event marked the moment John decided to pursue photojournalism. You can find out more here in the story for Launch Engine.
While in college, John studied visual storytelling on his own because UA didn’t offer photojournalism classes. Despite this, he admits that the creative assignments and foundational learning of the arts while in college enhanced his artistry. He still uses many of his early school assignments today to generate new photography ideas.
After college, John worked for The Arkansas Gazette before moving to California to work with photographer Douglas Jones at Look magazine. Jones also taught classes at the Brooks Institute of Photography where he continued to learn. There he gained knowledge in commercial photography and perfected his lighting skills. Jones became John’s mentor for the next 10 years.
Over the years John has worked with the Baxter Bulletin, The Tennessean, People, Newsweek, and The New York Times. He photographed war imagery with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq and covered assignments on President Obama. He documented Crosby, Stills & Nash while they were on tour, and has covered other prominent musical groups in Nashville over the years.
“I don’t try to think about things too much, I call it ‘Zen photography.’ You can think yourself out of a photograph. I have confidence that I’m going to get something really good and I just wait for it.” – John Partipilo
In the recent interview with John below, he shares his motivation, work ethic and journey to where he is today.
During COVID-19, John created a pandemic portrait series. He continued his work as a photojournalist in spite of the risk COVID presented, covering the Nashville BLM protests, the Nashville Christmas bombing, and various other political events. Most recently he photographed the seven remaining Nashville Civil Rights activists, the Freedom Riders.
“Right now a lot of things with race are really coming to a head. I am glad that things like this are happening because it is really bringing attention to what needs to be changed in our country.” – John Partipilo
He says he tries to anticipate what might develop by watching and studying what’s happening around him. He believes in showing up early and staying late to get the best shot, and knows he has to always be ready no matter what. He carries a camera with him at all times, which has helped him stand out in the profession.
“I am not much on using my phone as a camera, I prefer to shoot with my digital SLR, the first time you miss a shot it will forever cure you of not having the right camera.” – John Partipilo
John makes it a point to take pictures every single day, and will randomly pick a subject that will spark his creativity.
“A lot of times I just open up a dictionary, point at a word and go shoot it.” – John Partipilo
John doesn’t look at other photographers’ imagery for ideas, he prefers to concentrate on his own work and push himself to create differently. His commitment to his craft and his passion in what he does is truly inspiring!
For more information about John Partipilo, be sure to visit his website.
If you missed Episode 1 with Visual Artist Randy L. Purcell, be sure to check that out! Thank you so much for reading! Be sure to sign up for the Learn and Create newsletter to stay a part of this creative tribe!
More great stories are on the way!!
Do you know someone who would make for an interesting interview? Please feel free to reach out via email and social media! I’m always looking to connect.