(Article published in the Skokie Review, Thursday, December 26, 2013, By MIKE ISAACS  misaacs@pioneerlocal.com  )


Skokie photographer rings in 2014 with a perfect shot


Stephen F. Pavkovic's  photograph of Arches National Park in Utah graces the cover of a six-month AARP Foundation calendar for 2014. Pavkovic had given up photography for decades before returning to his earlier love.  |  Photo courtesy of Pavkovic

Stephen F. Pavkovic's photograph of Arches National Park in Utah graces the cover of an AARP Foundation calendar for 2014.  | Photo courtesy of Pavkovic

SKOKIE — It might take someone nearly 22 hours to drive from Skokie to Moab, Utah, and they would have to pass through states like Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado first before they arrived. So what could such a far-away place with drastically different topography and climate possibly have in common with the more urban Skokie?  The answer is octogenarian photographer Stephen F. Pavkovic.

A picture speaks a thousand words, and what a picture Pavkovic has rendered for the cover of the 2014 AARP Foundation calendar.

Pavkovic, a long-time Skokie resident, had abandoned photography for decades to raise a family and make a living, but he returned to it not long before he turned 80. He said digital photography made it possible — and easier — to become a photographer once again.

Only a couple years ago, Pavkovic displayed a collection of 50 of his beautiful photographs — more than two-thirds of them taken in Skokie — at the Emily Oaks Nature Center, the first public showing of his work.  It certainly turned out not to be his last. His lovely photograph, capturing the solemn serenity of Arches National Park in Utah, will be seen by countless numbers of people.  He shot the photo April 28, 2011 while on a photo safari.

“I left my lodging in darkness and set up shop in a relatively level area,” Pavkovic said. “Fortune smiled upon me, and I happened upon some small shallow pools created by condensation of moisture in the cool morning air.”  The pool reflected in the photographer’s image is about 2 feet across and 1 to 2 inches deep, but it took on the appearance of a lake when Pavkovic placed his camera at the water’s edge.  “The image was taken with my first DSLR, making larger prints possible,” he said.

A former Loyola University chemistry professor for nearly four decades, Pavkovic came to photography relatively early in his life.  “It was in the genes,” he said. “My mother was an avid amateur photographer. She had a little Brownie (camera). We had hundreds if not thousands of pictures.”  Pavkovic had a trunk filled with those photographs, but they were destroyed in a basement flood — a loss he has always felt.

Inspired by his mother, Pavkovic began using a 35 millimeter camera to take his own photographs — scenery mostly rendered from family trips.  At that time, the family was taking vacations to splendorous settings like the Grand Canyon and other national parks. The 35 millimeter slides that Pavkovic created contained vibrant, gorgeous colors that just inspired him onward.  “The SLR wore out in the 70s,” Pavkovic recalled.  ”My children were teenagers then so I put this aside and didn’t replace the camera until digital cameras came out.”  With his children grown, a job no longer staring at him every day and revolutionary technology at his fingertips, it was the perfect opportunity for Pavkovic to return to his earlier love.

His daughter persuaded Pavkovic to enter the AARP photography contest. Ironically, he was in Utah this spring (the 10th day of a two-week, solo photo safari of the Southwest) when he received word that his photo had been selected for the cover.  “What a complete and unexpected surprise,” he said. “I had totally forgotten about the contest, which I entered largely because of my daughter Karen’s encouragement.”

Although thrilled he would be part of the calendar, Pavkovic didn’t know that his image was the cover shot until later. But now he does. He knows that 2014 will begin for many with a crystal clear rendering of a timeless image in Arches National Park — a world far removed from his hometown of Skokie.