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Ken Sklute: Never Live on Yesterday's Accomplishments - PPA Today

Ken Sklute: Never Live on Yesterday's Accomplishments

SkluteHeadshot_2008.jpg"No matter how many awards I've won, there is always someone better doing something that I haven't thought of yet," comments Ken Sklute, M.Photog.Cr., of Contemporary Images. "I set a personal goal every year to reinvent something in my work. I never live on yesterday's accomplishments!"

From the very start of his photographic career, you can tell that Sklute lived by those words. This is a guy who came into photography very randomly...but with a vengeance. And it's thanks to model cars.

At a young age, Sklute loved building model race cars, and he actually won a few competitions doing so. Then he went to the racetrack to see the cars in action. In fact, he actually met a driver who noticed his enthusiasm and gave him the opportunity to come out onto the track and help. "None of my friends believed me," he explains wryly. "So the next time I went to the track, I borrowed my mother's 126 Instamatic camera and ended up selling photos from my first roll of film! The hook was in."

Two years later--at just 16 years of age--he met and apprenticed with a wedding photographer. Three months later, he was photographing weddings on his own.

(c) Ken SkluteNow, Sklute is one of Canon's Explorers of Light and has expanded his photographic repertoire from car racing and weddings to include almost everything: weddings, portraits, landscapes, aerials, professional sports, car racing, food, architecture, fine art and even motion with video in the new Canon DSLRs. When asked what intrigues him about all these different subject matters, he sums it up with a simple, "I love photography!"

"Opening myself up to all kinds of subjects helps me be even more creative with what I'm photographing at the moment," Sklute elaborates. "All of the rules that we learn--composition, light, story-telling--apply to everything that we photograph. I continue to be excited and passionate with all of it."

His passion and excitement drew him to PPA in the 1970s with the lure of what he refers to as a "world-class" photographic competition. "Entering photographic competitions has been a wonderful growth experience and education," he says. "Even now after 30-plus years, I continue to enter."

Ken Sklute, Guardian of 
the BayEntering that competition was part of the challenge to earning the PPA Master of Photography degree, and he soon became hooked on the rest of the education and camaraderie he found in the association.

"I have met and learned from some of the most wonderful people in the industry just by attending PPA's educational conferences and schools," Sklute says. "They so openly shared--and continue to share--their knowledge. After being in the business for so many years, I am happy to be giving back to the industry by sharing my own vision and experience, mentoring and influencing photographers to be the best that they can be."

(c) Ken SkluteAlong with sharing his expertise as an instructor (like at the PPA Tour), Sklute recently became a PPA-approved affiliate juror, meaning he'll be judging the very photographic competitions that drew him to PPA in the first place. It's just one more example of Sklute's belief in pushing forward and never living on yesterday's accomplishments.

"Becoming a PPA-approved affiliated juror is such a joy for me," he adds. "It is a long task to accomplish, but it's so wonderful to see the beauty in someone's work or be able to gently nurture them with constructive feedback and watch their work mature. I feel like a proud papa at times!"

(c) Ken SkluteIn fact, Sklute finds it hard to pinpoint what it is that interests him the most about judging photographic competitions. He enjoys identifying a print's strengths and weaknesses because his hope is to "educate the maker to do better or acknowledge him or her for a job well done." He even enjoys the challenge of quickly (but carefully) articulating his thoughts on an image or when he feels the need to challenge and defend an image. And he loves simply being exposed to some of the finest work in the world.

After all, he believes that sharing and learning from one another helps raise the bar in our industry.

"One of the many things I love about our industry is we can never stop learning or growing," Sklute explains. "Be serious about what you do, but don't take yourself too seriously. If you think you know it all, then it's time to quit."

Don't miss Ken Sklute when he speaks during the PPA Tour at Sacramento, Calif., April 20, 2010.

Ken has been honored as one of Canon's Explorers of Light, a designation shared by only 50-60 top photographers worldwide. During his 35-year photographic career, he has been named Photographer of the Year a total of 27 times between Arizona, New York and California. Ken has also earned his Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees from PPA; the Accolade of Photographic Mastery, Accolade of Outstanding Photographic Achievement, Accolade of Exceptional Photographic Achievement, Accolade of Highest Photographic Achievement, and the Accolade of Lifetime Photographic Excellence from Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI).

In 2009, Ken was awarded the Photographer of the Year award from the Professional Photographers of California, as well as Illustrative Photographer of the Year. He also received his 15th Kodak Gallery Award! In recent years, he has been awarded Best in Show (and Photographer of the Year) at the Western States Regional Print Competition, Photographer of the Year - Silver Level from PPA, Drag Racing Photographer of the Year from, Wedding Photographer of the Year and Photojournalist of the Year from the Professional Photographers of California, the Heidi Mauracher Starlite award for Best Wedding Photograph, and 15 Fuji Masterpiece Awards. Ken spends much of his time teaching and lecturing, both nationally and internationally.

For more information and to view his work, visit

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on April 13, 2010 6:08 PM.

Awards Win New Clients was the previous entry in this blog.

Give Seniors What They Want: FAME is the next entry in this blog.

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