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 13: (5:00 min.)

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EB: Although in my case it might be just that the old goat is too unwilling to change his old ways or something. It might just be too hard to comprehend.

PB: It's the after-photography thing that you worry about. Not taking the pictures - that's easy enough. But we've got 250,000 slides in there and we'd have to have a whole new filing system for digital pictures and I don't know if I'm ready to take that on at this age.

EB: That's really a bewildering thought, you know.

SN: Well, there would be the access that people would have in libraries and other places. The machines would have to be totally different, the technology to get people to access them and actually use something like that. There is one aspect that I want to get on the record and that is how you and Peggy met and began your work together in nature photography.

EB: Well, I was just getting into the business of writing books then. I didn't have a contract, but I had what you'd call an agreement to do a book on the wildlife islands of the world. This was in early 1971 and I'd been to quite a few of those islands like, you know, Kodiak and those up there.

PB: Galapagos.

EB: Yeah, a lot of the wildlife islands. But I was going to go to another [one] and I went into the Lindblad Travel agent's office. I don't know where it was I was asking her about going to - some place [laughs]. Oh, my memory is just so shot. The Galapagos. I'd already been there but I didn't tell her [travel agent]. She said, "That or the Seychelles." She said, "That's an interesting place. We're going to have a trip going there soon. It's not expensive and it's not very well known." I knew roughly where they [the Seychelles] were. And I said, "Oh?" I said, "Give me the details." She did, and I went home with all these details and looked up about the Seychelles and it sure as hell was interesting. You know, it's that little archipelago in the Indian Ocean. So I said, "Okay, I'll go." And I signed up and I went. I was going to go by way of British Airways to London and then fly down to the Seychelles. I did that and I arrived at the airport in London, BOAC in the evening, and I walked through there carrying my cameras, not too many then. I looked over to my left and there was the most beautiful woman I ever saw in my life. And she was there surrounded by admiring family or friends or something and they were taking her picture.

PB: It was in New York, not London, at Kennedy.

EB: Huh?

PB: It was at Kennedy in New York, not London.

EB: Yeah, it was at Kennedy. If I said London, I'm sorry. And [I thought] "Oh my God, isn't she something?" Anyway, they were all having a good time and laughing and taking pictures. I went on past her into the waiting room for the flight. Got on, went to London, stayed there overnight and the next day flew to Nairobi. I came down to the Nairobi [hotel] lobby in the morning ready to catch the bus for Mombasa and then go out into the Indian Ocean. I'm standing in the lobby there, in the Hilton lobby in Nairobi, and a lady - kind of a flighty lady - came up to me and she said [imitating a flighty lady's laugh], "Ha ha ha, you're going to be our trip leader, I'll bet." And I said, "I'll bet you I'm not." She wanted to talk anyway and so she says, "I sure like that khaki suit you're wearing."

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