Home / Articles / Arts & Entertainment / Books / Life in focus
Print this Article
Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 12:10 am

Life in focus

Professional photographer David Beatty has used a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera since he began his career in 1945. He is shown here in his Fifth Street studio, circa 1979.
Hardworking, faithful, and resilient in the face of what others might call setbacks, professional photographer Dave Beatty has enjoyed a career photographing corporate jets and entertainment stars, political leaders, rickety bridges and deep coal mines. Beatty’s new autobiography, Living a Life in Focus, is intended to teach others how to take prize-winning photographs.

At 88 years old, Dave Beatty’s eye for a good photograph, and a good opportunity, is just as sharp as ever. “I’m a doer, not one to sit still,” says Beatty.

Making work work

Beatty’s entrepreneurship began early and grew quickly. He first started working at 11 or 12 years old, he recalls, as a newspaper carrier. “In those days,” Beatty writes, “paperboys had to also collect for the paper, so I expanded and sold magazines too.”

Then Beatty put to use his love of building, flying and photographing model airplanes on a government assignment at Langley Field in Virginia. That assignment at just 16 years old started him on the path that would take him all over the world photographing corporate jets.

At 17, in 1945, the State Journal and Register hired Beatty to work in the ad morgue for 15 cents an hour, and quickly promoted him to fill an opening as a photographer when his boss learned he knew photography. He said yes, determined to learn the new skills on the job.

Dave and Wilma Beatty with governors William Stratton and Otto Kerner, Jr. in the Executive Mansion.
In 1951, scheduled to ship out with his National Guard unit to Germany, Beatty again saw opportunity to make some extra money. “I knew they didn’t have popcorn on troop ships so, before boarding, I bought enough bagged popcorn at 10 cents per bag to fill two of my duffel bags. I waited two days on board then walked the ship eating popcorn. In four days, I had sold 140 bags at one dollar each. I had money in my pocket when I got off the ship.”

Following God’s lead

And so it has gone all of Beatty’s life. When his parents had to relocate into a new school district, Beatty quickly fit in and became an events photographer for the new school. When he was ready to expand his business, he and his wife, Wilma, dedicated part of their home as a studio which quickly brought in additional work. Referrals and teaching assignments became new professional opportunities. Beatty found ways to adopt new techniques to advance his work. And he even briefly switched careers after contracting polio. Whatever the situation, Beatty’s hard work and good reputation turned change into opportunity.

“I know God gives each of us a talent, a gift. It didn’t take me long to know I had been given the gift of photography.” So, he says, when he gets an idea to do something and it doesn’t work, “then something’s not right. I’m not in the center of God’s will.”

Actress Jayne Meadows, arriving for a show at the Illinois State Fair.
For Beatty, the center of God’s will has been trying to live according to biblical principles personally and professionally, working hard, constantly learning, striving to always do his best, serving his church and other Christian organizations, writing his book as an encouragement to others and, he says, always paying cash.

These days, through his book and speaking engagements, Beatty hopes to inspire young people to find their own gifts. If it’s photography, he says, “Go beyond the basics. See what you can do as a professional photographer to be authentic and realistic, and to make the most of your subject, whether it’s a Boeing jet or a newlywed couple. Follow the rules – tell a story with your photograph, define one subject, keep the background in the background – and you’ll make prize-winning photos.

“But, if it’s not photography, whatever your vocation is,” he continues, “use your gift and go to work.”

Copies of Living a Life in Focus are available at Beatty Televisual, 1287 Wabash, for $10 apiece. For more information, call 787-4747.

Illinois Times contributor DiAnne Crown took her first photographs on a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera in the pine woods of the old Boy Scout camp, with her dad.

“The Funniest Man on Earth,” Spike Jones, with some of his crew at the Lake Club in Springfield, 1954.


Log in to use your Facebook account with

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on IllinoisTimes


  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed