Sanna, Anthony Raphael
MADISON - Anthony Raphael Sanna died peacefully at his home on Dec. 21, 2020, with his wife, Stephanie, and three children by his side. At 72, Tony succumbed to thyroid cancer, 12 years after his diagnosis, and slipped away on the longest night of the year.
Tony was a gifted photographer and designer, a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He was born to Bartel and Louise Willard Sanna on June 25, 1948, in Menomonie, Wis., the youngest of three children. In 1961 the family moved to Madison where the family business, Sanna Dairies, had its headquarters.
In 1966 Tony attended the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he met Leigh Skinner, his wife of twenty years. It was here in Utah that Tony found his calling. Uniting his love of nature and photography for a common purpose, Tony explored hundreds of miles of rugged canyons on foot, relying on his survival skills, following his inner eye, and making remarkable images of the time-swept forms of rock and river. His color photographs of Utah's slot canyons and rocky landscapes provided the material for his first exhibitions.
A formative influence on Tony's work from this time was Minor White. It was at White's Zen photography workshops that Tony recognized his deep commitment to photography. In 1973 Tony enrolled in the MFA photography program at Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, and Lisette Model. Siskind became a mentor and close friend; Tony assisted Aaron with his work, and traveled and photographed with him in the Southwest and Mexico.
After receiving his MFA from RISD in 1975, Tony and his brother, Raymond, joined his father's new company, SACO Foods. Tony, Leigh, and their infant son, Kyle, relocated to Portland, Ore., where a daughter, Maija, was born. From Oregon, Tony traveled the western states, promoting SACO Foods and building the company's products to become household names. His love of travel and outdoor adventure remained strong; family vacations inevitably involved camping, skiing, or cross-country road trips in Lulubelle, his beloved 1970 Land Rover.
In 1983 the family moved to Madison for Tony's work with SACO. A few years later, Tony and his wife separated. Tony later married his high school friend, Stephanie Meeker, and welcomed his youngest son, Gabriel. They lived in a modest house in Shorewood Hills that Tony later remodeled and redesigned, his aesthetic gifts and attention to detail evident inside and out. Tony and family traveled often to Italy, the country of his ancestors, and to Norway, Mexico, and Portugal.
At 65, Tony retired from SACO Foods to focus on family, travel, and on a new body of photographic work. For these "cultural landscapes," he followed the two-lane highways of the Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada and through the southern states, recording the intervention of man upon the land. Tony was active in his photographic practice until the last possible moment, doing what he loved most: following his nose down the backroads of the Midwest in search of new images and the feeling of discovery.
Tony had a gifted eye. He pioneered digital image processing and was an expert at color control. He applied his aesthetic sense and attention to detail to everything he did, whether working on his images, his prints, or in his thoughtful gifts or letters to loved ones. He took great enjoyment and pride in his children and grandchildren.
Tony is survived by his wife of 28 years, Stephanie; his three children, Kyle, Maija (Dan), and Gabriel (Teresa); his three grandchildren, Dylan, Wyatt, and Sophie; his brother, Raymond (Jeannie) Sanna; and his ex-wife, Leigh. He was preceded in death by his sister, Carol.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, a celebration of Tony's life will be held at a later date. Donations in Tony's name can be made to Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (gsenm.org). Tony's work can be viewed at tonysanna.com.
Tony's family would like to thank Agrace Hospice and Graceful Guidance for the compassionate and skilled care they provided at the end of his life.