For Gavin Peters, everything is about perspective.
Whether he’s looking for the perfect angle to capture the grease dripping from a hamburger or connecting with potential clients across the country, Peters relies on his unique perspective to succeed.
“I always try to connect with everyone I meet,” Peters said. “You can find salt of the Earth people anywhere.”
Peters grew up and went to school in Wichita but spent the weekends on his family’s farm in Lehigh.
“The city kids called me a hick, and the country kids called me a city boy,” Peters said.
Today, he uses this perspective to grow his photography business. He shoots photos for major companies like Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Cargill, Lycra and Wichita State University.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy, however.
After a high school internship at the Marion County Record sparked his strong interest in photography, he went to the University of Kansas to work for the student newspaper and pursue his degree.
There, he was told he would have to wait two years to join the student newspaper staff.
“Obviously, I was disappointed and a bit miffed,” Peters said. “I mean, that was the reason I even decided to go there.”
He quickly moved back to Wichita, where he graduated from Wichita State University and completed an apprenticeship with a local photographer.
When he started his own company out of college, work was hard to come by.
“I was shooting for companies I had never heard of,” Peters said.
As he worked his way up in the photography world, he interacted with people from all sorts of backgrounds.
No matter who he met, he said, he was “able to speak their language.”
This helped him grow his company nationwide.
“It’s all through word of mouth,” Peters said. “You’re only as good as your last shot.”
So, he makes a point of connecting with his clients and “over-delivering” on every promise.
Now, he travels across the country, shooting for country artists in Nashville and restaurants in San Francisco.
And still, he maintains his local perspective.
“The more I have traveled, the more I have realized my home isn’t so bad,” Peters said. “I think Kansas is one of the country’s best kept secrets.”
Although Peters has lived in Wichita for most of his life, he thinks of Marion County as “back home.”
He remembers going to the Marion County Fair as a child. That’s where he discovered his love for food.
“I loved going there and eating the pies and kolaches, my favorite things in the world,” Peters said.
The food he ate growing up inspires him in his work today.
“I am very drawn to hot, fresh, real food,” Peters said.
To capture a dish at its best, Peter said, the photo must be taken while the food is “still piping hot.”
“Food photography goes super fast,” Peters said. “As soon as the food cools, it starts to congeal and look less appetizing.”
Peters said food photography techniques have dramatically changed over the years.
He said when he first started, the food was filled with so many dyes and preservatives that it was no longer edible.
“Sometimes they’d spray it down with Armor All,” Peters said. “It all looked so fake.”
Today, Peters said, the trend is to keep it real.
“Sometimes when I get done with a shoot, they tell me, ‘Here, take this home and eat it,’” Peters said.
The free food may seem like it’d be the best perk of the job, but for Peters, it is the people he meets.
“I have met so many amazing people,” Peters said. “I’ve found that the people you wouldn’t expect to get along, the people on opposite ends of the social spectrum, are the ones that end up connecting the most. It’s amazing.”
That’s why he said he seems himself taking photos and bringing people together for the rest of his life.
“It’s not a question of whether I want to do it,” Peters said. “I have to do it. It’s what I love.”