"You come to appreciate REAL quick that you are the best intervention between a tragic situation and the person it impacts."
In this month's issue of Frontline, our spotlight shines not on a player, but on a frontline hero whose contributions play a significant role in the paintball community. It is a role that without which we, the players, promoters, and field owners, would not have nearly the exposure for ourselves, our teams, our events, and our fields that we are able to enjoy today. That role is that of the paintball photographer and those in paintball media who, bravely, jump right onto the field with the players in order to get in the middle of the action and capture every breakout, bonus ball, and bunkering for our entertainment.
On the Job | Fire Chief John Petrakis is a 25-year veteran of the fire service, spending the last nine years serving as Fire Chief with the Channahon Fire Protection District in Illinois. Over his long career, he has also selflessly served with the Heyworth Ambulance Service, Algonquin LITH Fire Protection District, Hanover Park Fire Department, and Princeton Fire Protection District, where he also served as Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Chief. Chief Petrakis has always like helping people. "As you get more experience into your career, you find there is more to the job than just helping. You come to appreciate REAL quick that you are the best intervention between a tragic situation and the person it impacts. It is quite the 'superpower' we are given as first responders." Chief Petrakis draws inspiration from knowing what he and his men are capable of on any person's worst day and the power they have to halt the emergent circumstances.
On the Field | Chief Petrakis, better known in the paintball community as the Lead Photographer/Owner of Spartan Photography, first got involved in paintball in 2014 thanks to his wife purchasing him and his son a Groupon to a local paintball field in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. That outing gave John and his son Ethan the opportunity to get outdoors and spend some time together. From the moment Ethan picked up the Tippmann A-5 he was hooked and an outing here and there turned into full days and weekends spent at the field. When John's son took the tournament route he wanted to support him and help him pursue his passion. It was then that John took the photography route. He enjoyed playing with his son when he was younger but having the ability to hunker down on the tape, watching him tear up the dorito side, and capture it through photography was about as awesome as it got for John.
The dynamic environment of competitive paintball is something he loves. Having the opportunity to follow teams at weekend practices and MPPL events has been extraordinary. He has and continues to meet such a wide variety of people from all walks of life. For John, "it has become more than taking pictures. It has evolved into being a part of the energy in the pits, making it a memorable day for the teams I follow, and telling the story of the extraordinary efforts that take place on the field." Some of his best memories over the years have come from paintball: Picking up JP Johnson's Nikon camera for the first time and falling in absolute love shooting pictures with a fast paced environment; collaborating on a name for the photography gig with his son; and watching friends and teams he has had the opportunity to shoot during events excel on the field and see them evolve into warriors.
Strictly Personal | John has been married to his beautiful and "VERY supportive and tolerant" wife of 22 years, Angela, who works as a kindergarten teacher. Angela is also a Reiki Master Teacher and when she is not in the classroom, she invests her energy in guiding people with spiritual and energy healing. John and Angela have two children, Ethan (18) and Lillie (15). Ethan will be pursuing business administration after high school and Lillie has an interest in criminal justice and forensics. And as if there wasn't enough craziness in their lives with paintball and being a fire chief, they also have four dogs; Bella, Ollie, Bunker, and Honey. "My love is holding my camera when I am not at the firehouse. It is my escape, my zen, and balances me. Looking through the lens is more than taking a picture; It teaches perspective and influences your visual interpretation of the world."