Terry Shapiro
Terry Shapiro

The old saying goes, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Photographer Terry Shapiro is a testament to this truth. After 50 years in the photography business, Terry still rises early to capture the landscape bliss that surrounds us. In the wee hours of the morning, he grabs a coffee at Starbucks, where “everybody knows his name,” and heads into the mountains. He’ll start photographing in the dark as the sun breaks over Mount Evans, now Mount Blue Sky. For two to three hours, he snaps away from different vantage points. Ideally, it’s not a weather-perfect type of day, because Terry likes to photograph the darker, more tumultuous weather patterns. Mind you, this is the retired Terry Shapiro! His life was quite different for many years, but always as passionate about his craft.

A boy growing up in the heart of Chicago, Terry’s family nurtured his creative ability and sent him to School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was artistic as well as athletically talented, both swimming and playing football in high school. All the while, Terry was immersed in art classes with the focus on oil painting. Photography didn’t enter his field of vision until much later, and he likes to say, “It was a slow progression.”

The progression started with developing an artistic eye for things. Terry attended the college of art at Washington University in St. Louis, then transferred to the University of New Mexico, finishing his collegiate career at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ultimately, he recognized painting wasn’t going to make him a living and focused on his minor in design. One of his first jobs out of college was at a mail order catalog company where he met his wife of 53 years, Marie, who has been instrumental to Terry’s successful career. She has been his financial guru and sales extraordinaire over the years. A reminder that even the smallest choices in life can change the course of a world.

Terry experimented with different jobs in and around the art scene, landing a position at an ad agency in Chicago. As an ad manager, he would hire photographers for different campaigns and thought, you know, I could do that… Within a few years, he left the agency and opened his own photography studio. He remembers, “I took the plunge into it. I was lucky. After the first month or two, I got a really big jewelry account that won all types of awards for its creativity. My business took off from there.”

Terry’s early work captured the essence of businesses for different advertising mediums such as magazines, billboards, playbills, etc. He was also the photographer for the Chicago City Ballet and Chicago Symphony, plus the Goodman Theater. Around 1989, he entertained a fashion job that was based out of Colorado; he traveled back and forth for shoots. Before long, Terry and his family of four moved out west to Evergreen and have been here ever since.

Moving to Colorado amplified Terry’s career in a different way. Through connections his wife made at her photo lab commercial sales job, he began working for engineering businesses during the growth boom—from new mountain resorts and hospitals to bridges and energy plants being constructed. Ironically, it was the “in between” moments that truly lit him up. If the photoshoot was in Greeley, he’d take the Rocky Mountain National Park route home. In doing so, he captured glorious sunsets, captivating vistas, and unexpected wildlife. The circuitous route—the in between moments—introduced Terry to a whole new world of photographic opportunities… landscapes.

Terry’s keen eye for lighting and angle was self-taught—the classic trial and error learning technique. He never took a photography class. He comments, “Photography is very mechanical. What you see is not mechanical. You either see it or you don’t. I try to see differently when I photograph landscapes.” This is quite obvious in the breathtaking work Terry creates. Whether it’s a desert valley, winter beach scene, or a storm brewing in the mountains, every photograph transports viewers into another world.

Terry’s fruitful career also includes 21 years as the sole photographer for the Colorado Ballet and Denver Center for Performing Arts. His work has never felt like work because it was also his passion. Now, at the beautiful age of 81, he continues to click away at the world around him because, he smiles, “It’s good for my soul.”

View more of Terry’s work at terryshapirophotography.com or his Flickr account, flickr.com/photos/114541733@N02