Wayne Rainey

Scottsdale - Photographer

Arizona native Wayne Rainey has made a life out of creating beautiful images. The photographer, who also dabbles in art and film, has showcased his work in countless exhibitions. “Along the way I’ve had a lot of incredible experiences,” says Rainey, who ranks meeting and photographing Muhammed Ali as one of his greatest accomplishments.

Q&A:

Hometown?

I was born in Tucson, but grew up here in Phoenix, as did my father. My great grandfather and three sons came to Phoenix from San Saba, Texas in 1918. They were cowboys, hard as they come, and they made a mark.

Place you call home now (neighborhood)?

My wife, son and I live in the Evans Churchill neighborhood just off Roosevelt Row, in the old historic Fennemore House (1912). We found it in it pretty bad shape several years back and have been loving it back to it's former grandeur. We really enjoy the history, urban tempo and walkability of downtown and it's important to us to exemplify responsible historic stewardship.

Any notes on your education?

I attended and later taught at Phoenix College for a short period, and eventually in 1996 participated in a summer program as a teacher in Guanajuato, Mexico, where I first began to formulate a plan to be an artist/photographer.

Favorite sport to play?

I like to play everything, but can sometimes, perhaps, be slightly overly enthusiastic and or competitive (at least that's what my wife tells me).

Best vacation ever?

I’ve traveled pretty extensively: Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and I even lived in Alaska, but nothing compares to Arizona.

Dream trip destination?

My best trip was a 10-day excursion on a raft through the Grand Canyon and the Colorado river. It shifted me somehow and I hold on to the peace I found there. It’s really was like going back in time.

I intend to make the canyon trip again but in 2028, when my son is 10 years old. I want him to understand the delicate balance of nature and know that our planet is as alive as he is and can be hurt and that it belongs to no one and everyone. My hope is that there will still be wild places for him to take his own sons and daughters.

Favorite dinner?

Whatever the chef at Tuc Shop is featuring—it’s usually a good steak and that works for me. The Pepe’s Special at Pepe’s Taco Villa is a near tie or better.

Favorite dessert?

Red Chile Pecan Pie, (my own recipe) or maybe the Butter Cake at The Nook Kitchen (Hilton Garden downtown.)

Underrated food?

My mother is from South Carolina, and grits are an art form there. Grits are just the canvas, but if you know how to paint them—man, oh man!

Dish you’re best at cooking?

I really enjoy making variations of shrimp and pasta, usually with a roasted red pepper cream sauce. Add some sliced grilled tomatillos and a few slivers of Serrano with some zucchini spears and it’s a meal you can get lucky with.

Best meal you've had at a restaurant?

This is a tough one. I’d say the one that really stands out, that I haven’t been able to get since, was the abalone at The Boat House Restaurant on Harbor Island, San Diego.

Road trip—three in the car with you. Living or dead. Who are they? Why?

My father, uncle and I and my best friend, drove North through four corners then through Utah and Colorado and Wyoming, staying in camps in the Tetons and Yellowstone, heading west to the coast and down to Yosemite, and, finally, all the way down to San Diego before heading back to Phoenix. We traveled almost a month, I think. We bonded as men do when they travel far and wide together. It was time I’ll always treasure and, of course, I couldn't know then that both my father and uncle would pass suddenly within a few short years. It’s funny how a different place can make you see even your own blood in a new light. I'd do that trip again as an adult and I would do almost anything to have those same conversations again with those men and with the benefit of 40 years.

Favorite TV show as a kid?

I guess it’d be The Andy Griffith Show. I suppose I was born nostalgic for a generation that I had just missed. I liked the life lessons though and the quiet masculinity of the sheriff without a gun.

Favorite movies?

Again, you'll chuckle, but The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is my favorite movie.

The very flawed hero, played by John Wayne, and the excellent supporting cast of Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and others, just make for a really poignant and memorable film. Cowboys in a changing country—hits home a bit.

Favorite actress and or actor?

Meryl Streep is probably my favorite. I loved her in Out of Africa. Al Pacino is a close second.

Favorite bands?

Lately, with my young son Will, I’m rediscovering a lot. We went to see Bill Callahan recently and loved him. The Fleet Foxes always make me smile. Richard Buckner tears me up and Willie Nelson makes me want to sing more. But everyday is a Led Zeppelin day, if only just to get rolling.

Most impressive live performance you ever saw?

I went to the old Mason Jar in my younger years a lot. I went to see a new band one time in 1990 and got there early. A “young kid” was drinking at the bar while the opener played. The kid and I drank scotch and talked and enjoyed the opening band “Tad.” They were pretty hard and loud and the place kind of went off. After a time the kid disappeared, but when the main act started, low and behold that little guy I’d been drinking with was onstage and man he could sing. It was inconceivable till that point that a voice like his originated from a body his size, but it did and that was the best show I ever saw. The band was called Nirvana.

Car you drive now?

A ridiculously oversized Expedition Max, but we’re building a cabin on a couple of acres bordering the National Forest at the base of Mount Humphreys, so it makes sense for us right now.

Car you’d like to drive?

I like my SUVs, but I want to decrease my carbon footprint as much as I can, so maybe the next car is a Tesla.

Best car you've owned?

Dad always said it wasn’t about the car but who actually arrives. I drove my mom’s 62’ Impala in high school. I guess that was pretty cool, but I sure didn’t know it then.

Motorcycle?

When I was younger, I liked to dirt bike a lot. I’d just ride off into the desert from dad’s offices out in Rainbow Valley and Avondale. I’ve always really enjoyed the desert and I've always enjoyed being alone a lot. It’s so alive and multifaceted out there if you just look. Besides that only tough things persist there, and that’s something I have always admired.

Wear a watch?

Mostly just a Fitbit, but I have a couple of nice Tags too (one a present from my lovely fiancé just before we married).

Summer drink of choice?

Iced tea.

Winter drink of choice?

Coffee—lots of it.

Bourbon or Scotch?

This is a loaded question but there is only one sane answer here. Yes. Scotch, of course. Specifically, Glenlivet.

Cologne?

I do have a soft spot for Chanel for men after shave balm.

It's hard to find now but my dad started giving that to me when I first shaved and he wore it too. It’s very masculine, with a little citrus for punch.

Go-to red on a wine list?

Any decent, fat Cabernet. I haven’t spent enough time developing a sophisticated enough palette to really have a credible opinion. I am always deeply grateful to my sommelier friends for their direction though and immensely enjoy a distinct vintage.

Favorite beach?

There is a beach town in Oaxaca, Mexico called Huatulco and a beach there called La India. No cars, no vehicle access. You have to take a boat—pretty beautiful. There is another beach on an island off the Turkish coast that is similarly beautiful. I hope I can find my way to see them both again one day.

On a Saturday, your favorite errand to run is?

Breakfast with Alison (my wife) and Will, our boy.

Otherwise, you’ll be busy doing what?

Probably yard work—I love working on our house and we've planted about 30 trees now. It's just fun to watch.

Best work advice you ever got?

“Always fulfill your commitments” and “Learn when it hurts."

Best thing about your career?

It’s funny because my career seems to have very porous lanes. I’ve played a hit man in a movie with blockbuster actors, I’ve developed some key downtown real estate and pioneered co-working and affordable housing for artists. I was for a long time maybe one of the most seen photographers on the planet because I shot all the covers of Skymall Magazine and they had 17 different airlines all over the world, so it’s hard to look back and say what was best because it’s all so different and mostly pretty great. I can say this for sure though, my present job is by far the most thrilling and satisfying. I’ve only been at it for 13 months now, but I think I’ll be a dad until I leave this show entirely.

What do you do now for work? Tell us something about your work and career path.

I still make art and shoot photographs for ad campaigns and do real estate development. I love what's going on in Phoenix right now. We have an incredible opportunity to make a sustainable city like no other and the potential is immense. I’m working with a good friend Jonathan Vento and others at True North Studio and I love his energy and his enthusiasm. I think people might look back on this time period and say we were truly visionaries, at least that's my hope.

Do you have any philanthropic interests/endeavors?

I started a 501c3 many years ago called Shade Projects. Its mission is to enhance, promote and protect the integrity of the arts, artists and the missions they choose. I believe that’s important today and without artists we would soon be under the thumb of tyrants. If you think about how you are influenced by culture and art you'll understand its artists that often give us a moral compass.