When he is not practicing law, Gilbert attorney Larry Slater traverses the globe as an independent sports photographer.
His passion for documenting pivotal moments has rewarded him with a rich mosaic of unforgettable sights and experiences.
Whether it’s capturing the gravity-defying moment of a leaping gymnast or the grandeur of the opening ceremonies, Slater has experienced it all – up close and personal.
He has traveled to many countries – including Beijing, London, Rio, Tokyo, Budapest, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Moscow, Istanbul, Guangzhou and Serbia.
Wielding his professional Canon camera, Slater has captured Olympic moments, world championships and even the July 2022 Maccabi Games in Israel – the third largest international multi-sport event with over 10,000 Jewish competitors from around the world.
Photography is a labor of love for Slater, who not only tags his pictures on Facebook and Instagram but also offers his work free of charge to teams to use on social media for their promotions or with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“I take photos of honorees with their awards, coaches and families,” said Slater. “One of my photos had a ‘Hollywood moment’ when it appeared in the movie ‘Here Comes the Boom,’ with Kevin James.”
Slater has captured shots at diverse games such as wrestling, gymnastics, synchronized diving, swimming, water polo, equestrian, fencing, badminton, golf, track, and table tennis.
The Olympics is the crème de la crème for sports photographers, he said, explaining:
“There is nothing that comes close to the Olympics. The athletes train in four-year cycles, and every sport is exciting. You see the crowds, the families, and the athletes experience the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. A second can make the difference between losing or receiving a medal.”
Slater’s wife, Sandy, reflected on her marriage to a sports photographer.
“I thought I was marrying a lawyer,” she began. “Over the years, he began exploring his artistic side. Who knew? My first trip with him was to the World Wrestling Championships in Paris, where I got hooked on the experience.
“Since then, we have traveled to Israel, Hungary, Italy, Germany, and Kazakhstan. I slowly began taking pictures with him. Eventually, one of my wrestling photos was on the cover of the ‘International Journal of Wrestling Science.”
The genesis for Slater’s second career began in high school.
While classes in lighting, drawing, and two-dimension design contributed to his success, joining the wrestling team had the biggest impact.
“I had no natural talent and lost every match in my freshman year,” he laughed. “Luckily, a coach pushed me, and I won the 1973 and 1974 high school state championships.”
Fourteen years later, Slater’s affinity for wrestling led to a game-changing moment.
While watching the Arizona Wrestling team win the 1988 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) wrestling championship in Las Vegas, he befriended Bobby Douglas, the team’s coach, who was also a coach for the world and Olympic teams.
“I watched games from a seat way back in the arena, and I noticed that guys up front alongside the mat had photographer credentials,” explains Slater.
“I asked Douglas if I could be his photographer, as he coached wrestlers who qualified for the world and Olympic teams. He agreed, got me credentialed, and I became ‘the’ photographer for his athletes.”
In 2005, Slater got another career boost when he met Gary Abbott, the media contact for USA Wrestling, while in Iowa for the World Team Trials.
His crisp photos wowed Abbott, who crowned Slater the official USA Wresting Photographer.
The upgrade came with an exciting opportunity – he could now take pictures at the NCAA, World Championships and Olympics.
There have been “didn’t see that coming” moments in Slater’s career, as in 2009 when he was photographing a World Championship basketball game with Shaquille O’Neil in New Jersey.
“There was a player from China, Yi Jianlian, who waved to the crowd,” he recalled. “I took about 400 pictures of the game, with 30 good ones. To my amazement, the Chinese wanted a few pictures, but mainly they were interested in the wave Janin gave.”
An unexpected moment surprised Slater during the 2000 Olympics in Australia as well.
“Rulon Gardner, the American, was incredible,” he recalled. “He beat the 400-pound Russian contender Aleksandr Karelin, the three-time reigning gold medalist who was unbeaten for 13 years.”
Currently, Slater is expanding his portfolio and has applied for a credential for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. He hopes to hear from the US Olympic Committee soon.