North American Nature Photography Association

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NANPA Oral History Project -

Erwin Bauer

Erwin Bauer

Date of Interview: January 18, 2004
Interviewer: Shirley Nuhn (SN)
Transcriber: Susie Parrent
Length: 72 minutes
(Also present are his wife, Peggy Bauer (PB), and John Nuhn, photo director, National Wildlife magazine)

Track 3: (5:00 min.)

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EB ...running and they shot right across in front of me in the shallow water, making splashes and everything. I remembered to snap a picture or two and I thought it would be nothing but it was kind of good. And like that, that's the way you get into things. Here I got this deer picture and I sent it in. Bill Ray was the editor then and he says, "That's a hell of a shot." He says, "We ought to have more of that action of wildlife in our magazine." And he encouraged me a good bit about trying to do that, and I did.

SN: A matter of just taking a chance on something, not missing out?

EB: Yeah. You know, it was something that thrilled me anyway and I got a big kick out of it. I wasn't doing anybody any favors. It was neat to see those [pictures]. First, to see this deer came down there. You didn't see them often. And then to look up like that. And I knew they were spooked and then "whoosh."

SN: That would be a classic for today, because people do get concerned about the number of whitetail that are around.

EB: Oh, yeah, whitetail became a very popular subject and we wrote at least six books on whitetails, didn't we (nodding to Peggy)? And you know they sold well - all of them, which is a lucky thing. That helped a good bit.

SN: Did you show photos to other people? Not only people who might buy your work, but did you kind of show a portfolio or show some of your work?

EB: I was still pretty na´ve about marketing and I didn't do a good job. I'll tell you when I really did a better job of marketing and everything and that was when I married Peggy in 1972. That was a change right there, because she was a good photographer, she liked to do it [marketing], and she thought of different ways to sell stuff that never occurred to a dumb old guy.

SN: So at that point you just didn't think too much about the money side? It was just more the image side?

EB: Yeah, I didn't think as much about the money side as I should have. I could see that pretty soon. And she also started checking around to see what a person should [do] with agencies. I never knew that there was a wildlife photo agency. And I guess there was really only one then. She checked with them and they gave her ideas of what she should get for pictures. Things like that, you know.

SN: Well, there really wasn't a forum. There wasn't really anything that was integrated or organized to really tell people much about how they could be doing things or to open their eyes.

EB: Yeah, but there was a surprising market, too, for wildlife pictures and I guess there weren't many of them out there in those days. Unlike today where there's several thousand members of NANPA, just for example. No clubs or anything. And there were companies that were making something or other and they wanted some kind of an animal to illustrate it. Like an angry lion, which I didn't have then, but that kind of thing.

SN: Were there any predictions you made?

EB: Any what?

SN: Predictions about your work, anything that may have come true? If you would have said, "I think that by the year 2000 I will have done something." Did you do anything like that?

EB: No. You know, it just got better. I got to get out more and take pictures, more interesting stuff. Go more where I wanted to, go further away and especially, after Peggy, it was just such a rich life. You know, it was such a - how do you say it? - a rewarding life. We had so much fun together that I never thought about that stuff. I thought, "I hope this'll never end" if I thought at all. But it's gonna end, I can tell now (laughs).

SN: Well, what would you have done differently?

EB: What would I have done differently?

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