In an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon—most of my philosophy comes from cartoons—Calvin comments, “I wonder why people are never content with what they have.”
His stuffed tiger, Hobbes, replies, “Are you kidding? Your fingernails are a joke, you’ve got no fangs, you can’t see at night, your pink hides are ridiculous, your reflexes are nil, and you don’t even have tails! Of course, people aren’t content. And Hobbes continues, “Now if tigers weren’t content, that would be something to wonder about.”
Every species has traits that make it special, if only because they allow it to survive, which is an almost supernatural feat all by itself. Nature photographers seem to inherently recognize the fact that all beings are remarkable in their own ways, and that is part of what makes nature photographers so special. And it’s not just the fauna. We recognize this aura of the miraculous in the flora and the landscapes as well, and it seems obvious, almost self-evident in fact, that it is all worthy of protection. The necessity of protecting the natural world has always been apparent to nature photographers. Which means we need more nature photographers, for the more we have, the better the odds the world we love will be there for us to photograph tomorrow.
That’s where NANPA comes in. More than any other organization, NANPA is the voice of nature photographers on this continent. As a member, you are in involved in legal issues like copyright infringement, you are helping to establish guidelines for ethical nature photography, you are working on conservation issues, and you are engaged in educating aspiring nature lovers of all kinds, whether they carry a camera or not. The more members we have, the more we can accomplish. I have been a member of this organization almost from the very beginning. The first summit I attended was in 1997, and NANPA is maturing nicely. We are on the verge of some incredible things, things that almost every nature photographer will want to be a part of.
I am NANPA’s new president, Gordon Illg, and many of you may never have heard of me. Possibly you are curious about what you’re getting, just exactly what are my qualifications? My degree is in Wildlife Biology, and I pursued nature photography as a career because it was the closest occupation I could find to Jedi Knight. My wife, Cathy, and I tried to make it in this industry by selling editorial and commercial images to magazines, books, and whoever else would buy them. Like so many others, we turned to leading photo tours as the stock photo industry shrank. By a fortuitous twist of fate, it turns out we actually enjoy sharing our knowledge with others, and leading photo tours is a perfect fit. Who knew? Anyway, we’ve been working as full-time nature photographers for the past 18 years. And absolutely none of this means I’m qualified to be your president.
My personal opinion is that never before in the history of this organization has an individual been so ill-prepared to assume this post. Luckily, I’m following in the footsteps of past presidents who were much more qualified, and they initiated the programs that I will hopefully be able to build on. Some of them are still on the board, in a position where they can say, “Don’t do that! What the heck were you thinking?” In other words, my lack of political skills is not that much of an issue because I’m not alone. NANPA is blessed with an amazing group of talented board members and committee members that I will be relying upon extensively. This also gives me a scapegoat if I mess something up.
I am honored and humbled to be in this position, and I look forward to serving you.