Commercial photographer Mike Spinelli ’67 recently had his photographs of professional golfers Tom Watson and Payne Stewart selected for permanent display at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida. Two of his photographs also hang in the Oakland Raiders’ permanent exhibit at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Spinelli grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and then moved to Louisville, where he graduated from Trinity High School. At Bellarmine, where he majored in biology, he was a photographer for the school newspaper, The Concord, and the yearbook, The Lance. “I discovered that my real passion was to be a professional photographer, and those publications allowed me to polish my skills,” he said.
He also worked for United Press International in Louisville, “and that kick-started my career,” he said. “With UPI, I had the opportunity to cover the Derby and the NCAA Final Four basketball finals as well as other news and sporting events.”
Spinelli then moved to Northern California, where he became a staff photographer for a San Francisco metropolitan daily newspaper. His assignments included high-profile news events as well as every major U.S. sporting event, from the World Series to the Super Bowl to the U.S. Open. He now lives in Anthem, Arizona, where he photographs nature and wildlife and still works as a commercial photographer.
His work has appeared in Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, GQ and Vogue, and his many awards include honors from The Associated Press for outstanding news photography and Best of Show and first-place honors in the military’s Biennial Inter-service Worldwide Photographic Competition, which drew 15,000 entries the year that Spinelli, a U.S. Air Force veteran, participated. The Smithsonian Institution selected his photo of children on swings in Hermosa Beach, California, for its photography archives.
Spinelli studied early in his career with Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, and Cole and Brett Weston and credits Adams with instilling in him the philosophy of the basic image as being the score and the final print as being the performance.
“As I look back, it was at Bellarmine that not only did I earn my degree,” Spinelli said, “but also found the opportunity to pursue what would be my life’s work.”