Whether Paul Sasso is capturing images at high school football games or watching a wild elephant for hours, he always waits for a “peak moment.”
“I have no control on what the animal or player does,” Sasso, who lives in Flowery Branch, said. “To me, that adds another element of challenge. Wildlife and sports are similar, and that’s why I gravitate toward those.”
In late October, Sasso was named one of 60 gold medalists during the Professional Photographer of America’s 2020 International Photographic Competition.
A panel of 36 jurors from across the U.S. selected the top photographs from over 5,000 submitted entries at PPA headquarters in Atlanta. Only 865 images made it to the final round to be featured in the PPA’s “Loan Collection” book. Two of Sasso’s photos were selected for this year’s hardcover book, published by Marathon Press.
One of the photographs titled, “Angels from Above,” includes the image of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron flying over Atlanta, and the other titled, “Catch Me If You Can,” captures a moment from a football game between the University of South Florida and Temple University.
Sasso said he wasn’t competing against other photographers in the international event, but instead competed against the “elements of photography.”
When examining the photos, he said the judges critique 12 elements, including the “impact” or emotion evoked by the image, the story it tells, composition and lighting.
Sasso, a certified master photographer through the PPA, said he felt humbled to be chosen among those he has admired for so long.
“Looking back five to eight years ago, I’d look up to those people and say, ‘Wow, that’s awesome, I hope that someday I can be at that level,’” he said. “To be there, it’s really an honor.”
Sasso said his passion for photography sparked from high school after he received his first 35-millimeter film camera as a graduation gift.
“I taught myself,” he said. “I did landscapes, family photos. I grew up playing sports, so I gravitated toward that.”
As his children began to grow up and joined sports teams, he said families would ask him to take photographs of their children playing games. Little by little, he said the hobby transformed into a fulltime job. Before becoming a photographer, Sasso said he served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years.
For the past 20 years, Sasso has run his own photography business called, MV Photo Concepts, where he takes “action shots” for individuals, sports teams, dance studios and others.
“Growing up I played sports my whole life,” he said. “I look back now because things were printed back then, there was no digital. I was driven by the ability to preserve memories for student athletes or college athletes.”
Sasso said he photographed Stephon Tuitt, defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Michael Gallup, wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, during their early football days at Monroe Area High School. Years later, Sasso said he was able to follow up with them to take photos when they played their first NFL game in Atlanta.
“So, for me to be able to do that and provide those images to the coaches that coached them when they were youth league or in high school, I felt great about that,” he said. “If they didn’t have me or someone to do that, they would just have memories.”
Two years ago, Sasso traveled to South Africa to spend 12 days taking images of animals on a property that protected wildlife.
The photographer said he will never forget capturing a moment between a cheetah family and a hyena. While staying quiet in a vehicle, Sasso and several other photographers watched as a mother cheetah taught her cubs how to hunt an impala.
As the sky began to darken, Sasso said their guide told him that hyenas tend to hunt at night and will often steal kills away from cheetahs.
Before his eyes and camera, the scene began to unfold.
“And that’s what actually happened,” Sasso said. “The mother cheetah did her job, and she brought her cubs to the downed impala. Within two minutes the hyena was there, and the mother was more concerned about her cubs, so she just ran off with the three cubs.”
Having recently moved from Monroe to Flowery Branch with his wife, Eileen, Sasso said he is looking forward to capturing moments for individuals and sports teams in the area.
“We sold our house and moved here and we’ve been happier ever since,” he said. “We love Hall County, and we love the Flowery Branch area.”
For more information about Sasso, visit art4sports.com.