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Photographer Tom King started out as a skier taking pictures of his skiing friends to help improve their skiing skills. This led to an interest in photography, which began a 40-year career as a water ski and boating photographer.
He was a member of the Sarasota Ski-A-Rees competing in both show ski and three-event tournaments. As Tom puts it, during this period his photographic skills progressed much faster than his skiing skills.
Tom’s home was in Bradenton, school was in Daytona and on one trip between the two he stopped in Winter Haven to visit Tom Hardman who bought some of his photos of the 1977 U.S. Team Trials, put one on the cover and immediately sent him off on assignment to cover the AWSA Nationals at Tivoli
Tom King remembers Tom Hardman as “extremely kind & generous to a 20-year-old kid... I will always be indebted to him and remember working with him fondly for many years & many cover photos. He was one of my first clients and a very valuable one.”
On another trip between home and school he stopped in to see Walt Meloon and Larry Meddock and was immediately put to work shooting for them. Tom feels that he “was very fortunate that the waterskiing industry started to need better photography for the new “newsstand” print magazines just as he was becoming a photographer. The timing was perfect for me & pure luck!”
Tom met Terry Snow when Terry was planning “World Water Skiing” magazine (which would eventually combine with “Spray” magazine to become “WaterSKi” magazine) and a friendship developed that led to over 100 covers for “WaterSKi” and helped grow Tom as a photographer and World Publications as a powerhouse publishing business.
Based in Orlando, by the end of the 20th century Tom had a studio large enough to bring boats inside opening up an avenue for controlled lighting of products that few photographers could match. In addition to the magazine work Tom was the photographer of choice for water ski equipment and boat companies for product shots, shooting all of Master Craft & Malibu advertising/marketing product photos for well over 20 years as well as for many other ski and boat manufactures off and on throughout the years.
Tom was the innovator of Boom Pole rig type shots, that had his competitors wondering how he got those pictures without a photo boat wake in the shots, He managed to keep his "rig" a secret over the years, but here's hope that he will share the rig set-up secret when he retires... He was also one of the early photographers to use helicopters for water ski and boating photos.
Tom was one of the first group inducted into the Wakeboarding Hall of Fame in 2015. His photos have won awards from Communication Arts Magazine and the American Advertising Federation and have been exhibited in shows at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida.
In 1987 Tom’s photography work was profiled in the “American Photographer” magazine, the cover photo was his shot of Ron Scarpa barefooting!
In the words of his friend, T.J. Beatty, “Tom was a man of tireless energy, dedicated to getting the best shot for every project. From 4am wake-ups to 9pm wraps, then et up and do it all again the next day, he never seemed to tire when shooting. The proof is in his collection of a career of never-ending GREAT photography.”
Tom feels very fortunate that his early career overlapped with a glorious “Golden” period in the history of the sport of waterskiing. With newsstand print magazines, the Pro Water Ski Tour, high viewership Cable TV coverage on ESPN & ESPN2 weekly every summer, it was a great time for to
be documenting the sport we all love.
He worked with an incredible collection of talented & personable athletes including Hall of Famers Sammy & Camille Duvall, the Roberge family, Bob and Kris LaPoint, Ron Scarpa, Scott Clack and many, many others who were all, as Tom put it, “wonderful partners to work with promoting waterskiing.”