Senior’s photography show reflects natural wonders
Stephen F. Pavkovic talks about his photography show entitled "12 x 18 by 80" on display through the end of August at the Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
STEPHEN F. PAVKOVIC
Who: Amateur photographer, retired Loyola University chemistry professor
Age: 80 in October
What: His first public photography show, “12X18 by 80.”
Where: Emily Oaks Nature Center, 4650 Brummel, Skokie
When: The show is on display during regular hours through the end of August.
Websites: Pavkovic’s art can be seen at www.sfpivphotos.net/pws/. More on Pavkovic and his chemistry can be seen at www.luc.edu/faculty/spavko1/minerals/
Updated: September 3, 2012 12:31PM
For almost three decades, Stephen F. Pavkovic put aside his passion about photography so he could concentrate on career and family.
Then came digital photography.
“I was busy trying to establish a career and raising teenagers,” Pavkovic said. “So I didn’t have time to miss it. I was too busy.”
But now, Pavkovic, who turns 80 in October, has returned to an early love in his life — in large part thanks to digital photography. A collection of 50 of his beautiful photographs — two-thirds of them taken in Skokie — are on display through the end of August at the Emily Oaks Nature Center.
It’s the first public showing of the longtime Skokie resident’s work — a collection ranging from a shimmering reflection in Emily Oak’s own pond to natural wonders in Arizona and Utah, macro images of plants and crystal clear images of area wildlife.
Pavkovic, a Loyola University chemistry professor for nearly four decades before he retired, 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 still feels today.
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.
“My SLR wore out in the 70’s,” Pavkovic recalled.”My children were teenagers then so I put this aside and didn’t replace the camera until digital cameras came out.”
Digital photography was a major factor in bringing Pavkovic back to his early hobby.
“When I understood you could take an image and not take it to the drugstore and wait a week to get it processed, and you could take a picture and throw it away if it didn’t work out well, I was sold hook, line and sinker,” he said.
When Pavkovic began his hobby again, he spent hundreds of dollars for a new camera with three mega pixels — fewer than you find today in cell phone cameras and iPads. There was no DSL digital camera at the time.
But to Pavkovic, digital photography was a wonder.
His camera got better as the technology improved at a staggering rate. Pavkovic began taking macro images, rendering compelling close-ups of plants, flowers and other subjects.
He has a game he plays with his family called “What Am I?”
“Once a month I’ll send them a picture that’s part of a macro where I’ll ask them to guess what it is,” he said.
Although a Skokie resident for decades, Pavkovic only discovered Emily Oaks Nature Center six years ago. He calls it a “Godsend,” “a beautiful place right in our own community.”
About one-third of the photos on display were taken at Emily Oaks, a new favorite venue for Pavkovic.
Family friend Susan Rossen, who worked at the Chicago Art Institute as a publications editor, suggested to Pavkovic that he check with libraries and other public venues about displaying his work.
But he had no thoughts about a one-man photography show until he celebrated a 50th anniversary with his wife in an upstairs room at Emily Oaks. He graciously brought prints of his photographs and offered one to each guest who attended.
It was then that Emily Oaks Facility Manager Lee Hansen saw Pavkovic’s work for the first time. Impressed, she worked with Pavkovic on creating his show, which he calls “12X18 by 80” — the 80 reflecting his nearing age.
As Pavkovic moves around the rustic room at Emily Oaks, describing each of his photographs — where it was taken, how he was able to capture such a lovely image — there is noticeable vibrancy in his voice.
“I get so involved and excited in these photographs,” he said. “That’s the only time I feel this alive.”