By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE - Luke Bhothipiti has made a name for himself in the world of photography - even though he hasn't finished college yet.
The local photographer's work has been featured in local and national media, with JPG Magazine and regional Nikon websites among his credits. He won a photography competition sponsored by The Macallan, a Scotch whiskey maker, winning a grand prize of a 10-day trip to Scotland and leading to exhibitions in London, England, where his images were featured alongside works from famous photographers Annie Leibovitz, Albert Watson and Rankin.
"Three heavy-hitting photographers and one random dude from Port Orange," Mr. Bhothipiti, 27, said about the achievement as he sipped coffee during a recent interview at Starbucks.
Soon he won't have to travel too far to see his work in a gallery - the Southeast Museum of Photography at Daytona State College will feature his photography in a spring 2013 exhibit.
Mr. Bhothipiti first became interested in photography just before graduating from high school. Although he was self-taught for most of his early career, he went on to enroll in Daytona State College's photography program through its Southeast Center for Photographic Studies, which shares resources with the University of Central Florida. He expects to earn his bachelor's degree at the end of the year.
He said he chose photography as a career path because it blended his interests in art and gadgets, and he enjoys the creativity of the medium.
"I can do whatever I want to do," he said. "I'm not pigeonholed into one genre."
Mr. Bhothipiti still has his specialties. Much of his work includes landscapes, portraiture and documentary photography.
He said his professional photography work is not yet enough to make a living, but it's "getting there." Much of the pay he's received for his photography came from his automotive photography work for clients in Texas.
What Mr. Bhothipiti enjoys the most is capturing subjects that aren't normally photographed. For example, he took a series of documentary photos inside a strip club.
"A lot of people picked up on it because it's not something you usually see," he said. "You're either wasted or embarrassed to be there."
Another subject he enjoys is taking photographs by moonlight, saying even though it appears to be pitch black at night, "there's a lot of light to be seen there."
Mr. Bhothipiti's website lists some of his skills: "I teach (well), I write (badly), and I lecture (awkwardly)." Specifically, he said he's taught workshops on nighttime landscapes and long exposures at the Southeast Museum of Photography, used to write feature stories for local magazine Floridian View, and gives lectures for various camera clubs in the area, including the Port Orange Camera Club.
He says his goal with his work is to be "professionally awesome," which he defines as high quality and laid back at the same time.
Those Mr. Bhothipiti had the chance to work with said they admire his work.
Gary Monroe, a photography professor at the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies and a longtime documentary photographer, complimented Mr. Bhothipiti for his work ethic and his ability to produce photographs across multiple genres.
"Luke is accomplished because he's disciplined and driven," Mr. Monroe said. "He's versatile and responds in a way that ensures that he'll prevail in the competitive world of editorial photography."
Victor Rollins, a friend of Mr. Bhothipiti who's taken classes with him and worked alongside him at Floridian View, described his work as "gorgeous."
"Luke is very, very skilled in a lot of mediums of photography," Mr. Rollins said. "He's extremely talented. He's savvy, he knows his equipment and what's best for him. He has no qualms about letting people know how he feels about their work."
Mr. Bhothipiti, who is engaged to third-grade teacher Lauren Luwisch, said he simply enjoys taking pictures and working with the equipment he has.
"I'm just a dude with a camera going where life takes me," he said. "I don't have a big broad mission statement. Have camera, will travel."