Sam Loizzo has an abundance of friends.
So many, that he had to create a second Facebook account for himself.
The limit for one account is 5,000 friends. Loizzo is now at 5,500.
The former Janesville Craig social studies teacher retired in 2009 after 32 years of teaching. Many of his Facebook friends are former students, former students’ children and former co-workers.
But many more stem from his work behind a camera. Loizzo loves taking photos of area sporting events and making his photos available to players, parents and anyone else who is interested.
And many become friends.
“It’s amazing how many people I get to see,” Loizzo said. “I’m out and about, that’s for sure.”
Loizzo first “developed” his love for camera work in the late 1970s. UW-Whitewater offered photography classes at Craig High. Whitewater resident Fran Achen taught the classes.
Achen was Craig’s audio/visual head, and was a veteran photographer. Achen filmed Warhawks football games for decades, and his photos grace the halls of Williams Center on UW-Whitewater’s campus.
“If I had a question about developer and mixer or anything like that, you would go to Fran,” Loizzo said. “He was very good about answering questions from rookies and novices like myself.”
At the time, Loizzo’s roommate was Dave Riemer, who now is president of Harris Ace Hardware in Janesville, Beloit and Monroe. They lived in a three-bedroom trailer.
“The third bedroom was a darkroom,” Loizzo said. “Not really a bachelor pad. It was a photo setup.”
There no longer are needs for developers and mixers with digital cameras.
And the bachelor pad isn’t needed anymore, either. Sam is now married to Laura, and the couple has two children—Jessica and Pete.
But Loizzo’s passion for photography did not end in the 1970s. It is such that he hardly is ever seen without a camera.
When he retired, he did not want to become a substitute teacher. Loizzo was popular with students. He made the classroom fun, but also held his students accountable. They knew what was expected of them, and they knew what the boundaries of behavior were.
“If I came back as a sub, things would have been different,” Loizzo said. “Especially if I had freshmen, and they didn’t know me or know my personality.”
So he created a website on SmugMug, a company that stores photos and makes them available for sale. The company gets an annual fee and a percentage of sales.
It was a reunion made in heaven.
Loizzo had eight terabytes of photos stored there. Even after looking terabytes up, I have no idea what that is.
Loizzo put it into something I could comprehend.
“I think I’m close to 1.2 million photos online,” he said. “I have over 3 million in my collection.”
Those range from high school sports, college sports, 50th anniversaries and senior photos. Also included is a special event for Loizzo—the sixth and seventh games of the 2016 World Series, won by Loizzo’s favorite team—the Cubs.
Loizzo’s son, Pete, is a scout for the Cleveland Indians. Although he was with the Indians for just more than a month when the Indians played the Cubs in the series, Pete was able to secure tickets for Sam and Laura.
Pete had provided his father with many opportunites to shoot baseball events.
Jessica, meanwhile, is also in photography—especially now while she is in the midst of a year-round trip around the world. She has sent photos of Paris, camels in Egypt with pyramids in the background, and the Great Wall in China.
Sam and Laura plan to meet her in Italy, but he can settle for a Janesville Jets hockey game or a Craig High volleyball match. He also goes to Milton, Edgerton, Delavan and Fort Atkinson events.
Loizzo does charge for his work, but most people are surprised how low his fees are.
“I do it because I enjoy it, and my wife lets me do it,” Loizzo said. “Now she is retired, she has two book clubs and she has a Adams (Elementary) group of teachers that are retired and a Madison (Elementary) group of teachers and a library board.
“So, we hardly see each other.”
That is not true, but it’s close. The love of photography has put 10,000 miles on his car last year, but also has put smiles on the faces of people he has photographed.
“For me, a lot of this photography stuff is giving back,” Loizzo said.
The more than 5,000 Facebook friends indicate he’s given back a lot.