Brad LaPayne grew up in rural northern Illinois and began taking pictures when he was eight years old. His first subjects were
farm scenes, family members, and animals. He attended Toulon High School and his first real assignments were for the school yearbook.
LaPayne attended the University of
Illinois in Champaign, majoring in Agricultural Communications. As a sophomore, he bought his first 35mm camera, and began taking classes in photography when he could get them. He also worked
part-time for the student newspaper photo department. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree from Illinois, Brad became a photographer for a church directory company.
and a half later, he made an unusual career move - becoming a firefighter with the Champaign Fire Department. Testing for the highly competitive firefighter position had been started by him while
still attending classes at Illinois. He never really dreamed that his 14th position on the eligibility list would be good enough to actually get a job, but it was. Out of the approximately 500
candidates who started the testing process about 40 were put on the list for hiring. The call from the city personnel department came as quite a surprise: “Mr. LaPayne, you are next person on the
firefighter eligibility list, are you still interested in the position?” “Yes I am!” came the immediate response, and so a new career began. The change in working environment was a bit of a
divergence from the photography career pathway, but an exciting and challenging one.
By doing this, it allowed him to keep a regular paycheck while expanding his interest in
photography. He continued to do "normal" photo shoots such as weddings, portraits and sorority composites, but after a trip with another photographer who did some photos with a Cirkut camera,
acquiring one became an immediate goal. The opportunity to acquire a #10 Cirkut came along in 1986 when LaPayne located a 1920’s model camera after a 6 month nationwide search. Intending at first to
shoot city skylines and landscapes, he changed his mind after shooting Shea Stadium on a trip to New York in September of 1986. After the Mets won the pennant, he had a chance to shoot the 1986 World
Series for them. This was a springboard to a new facet in his career: sports photography. City skylines, National Parks and other scenic photos were still a part of the subject matter of choice, but
the sports market consistently brought in more income.
In 1988, Brad shot what was to be one of the most significant photos of his career: Wrigley Field’s Opening Night
(8/8/88), the first night game with the new lights. Once Cub fans got a look at the 10" x 69" photo, the word was out. Among his other sports photos: Chicago Bears’ "Walter Payton Day," Busch Stadium,
Yankee Stadium, NBA Finals at Chicago Stadium and United Center. Recognition for LaPayne photos has become widespread through word of mouth and from art shows. Currently being marketed by about 30
galleries and framing shops in Chicago, Manhattan, Detroit and 20 or so others scattered across the country, his photos have also shown up in numerous corporate offices, sports bars and restaurants
across the country.
In February 1990, LaPayne Photo Gallery opened in Champaign, Illinois. Still on a 24- hours-on and 48-hours-off firefighter schedule, Brad hired three
employees to manage the gallery, do framing, matting and shipping. He continued a back-and-forth schedule during his 48 hour off- times (using vacation leave, comp time and Kelly days for longer
trips), photographing the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, along with city skylines of Boston, Chicago, Columbus (OH), Denver, Indianapolis, New York, Portland,
Seattle, and St. Louis. His many scenic landscapes include stunning shots of Montana, Glacier National Park and Death Valley in California.