John Nuhn is the former photography director of National Wildlife magazine, the flagship award-winning publication of the National Wildlife Federation. He also served as photo editor of NW’s sister publication, International Wildlife, until its demise in 2002. The two magazines earned 35 photography awards during John’s tenure. John left NWF in 2013 to pursue personal projects. Early in his career, he was assistant editor, associate editor and later managing editor of a small Wisconsin book publishing company. A self-taught photographer and former U.S. Navy officer, John holds a degree in journalism from Marquette University. He is a founder of NANPA and served as its president. He also served as president of the NANPA Foundation and continues on that board as a trustee. John is a charter affiliate member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and a past national board member and chapter president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He has been a speaker, panelist and judge at numerous forums, including many NANPA Summits and the NANPA Showcase competition, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s conference on nature photography, Maine Photo Workshops, Valley Land Fund competitions, Photography at the Summit, Guilfoyle Report Photo Awards, International Wildlife Film Festival, Images for Conservation Fund’s Pro-Tour competition, FotoWeekDC, the Lucie Awards, Photo District News competitions and Outdoor Writers Association conferences.
Do you have a “day” job? What do you do?
Some people can say I’ve retired, but since leaving NWF, I’ve been pretty busy. My day job now consists of working on my own projects and continuing volunteer efforts for NANPA and iLCP. One of my big personal projects is scanning and adding metadata for the thousands of transparencies, negatives and prints currently sitting disorganized in my closet. Most of these go back to my junior high days, and my university is interested in those from my college years. But there are also hundreds of images made by my father and other relatives, essentially the family archives. The earliest images I’ve come across are prints of my maternal grandfather as a one-year-old in 1891, and my paternal grandmother with her family in 1894. My hope is to have these images available for current and future family members, assuming tiff files will still be readable then.
Also, I now have a role as househusband since Shirley continues to teach and do freelance jobs. I’m getting work done around the house that I couldn’t do when I was on the magazine staff. And I’m enjoying more outdoor activities during the week, not just on weekends.
How have you been involved in NANPA or the NANPA Foundation?
Over the years I’ve served in many roles, because I wanted NANPA to be a success. In October 1993, I was invited to participate as a panelist in the first-ever nationwide gathering of nature photographers, editors, agents and enthusiasts. The conference was organized by Roger Tory Peterson and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York. At the meeting’s conclusion, a group of us met to discuss starting a nature photography association.
Through some conference calls and a constructive meeting in Denver over the next few months, NANPA was formed. I was one of the founding board members and also served on the first elected board. Following Mark Lukes and the late Jane Kinne, I was named NANPA’s third president.
At the Summits I’ve been a major speaker and an emcee, as well as serving as a panelist or moderator numerous times. Portfolio reviewing was an important part of my job, and I’ve been a reviewer at every Summit except 2010 in Reno, when the mid-Atlantic received a number of back-to-back snowstorms and I couldn’t get out of my neighborhood. It’s the only Summit I’ve missed.
In 1998, I served as acting editor of Currents for a few issues, and I’ve been a judge for the Showcase competition.
In the early days of NANPA, one of the roles of the past-president was to join the NANPA Foundation’s Board of Trustees so that the Foundation could benefit from the experience of past presidents. I became a trustee in 1999 and remain on the board today. I was elected the Foundation’s third president, once more following Mark Lukes and Jane Kinne. I believe the Foundation, as a 501(c)3 organization, can have a real impact on NANPA’s educational efforts through funding from corporations and individual donors such as all of us members.
What NANPA committees have you served on–when, and what positions and responsibilities have you assumed?
Many of the founding board members also served as chairs of the newly formed committees, and I was the first chair of the Membership Committee. I also joined the Ethics Committee, helping to draft the Ethics of Field Practices and the Truth in Captioning statement. And I joined the Communications Committee at the time, and later the History Committee, which I currently chair.
As president, I was very involved in the 1999 San Diego Summit. I joined the Summit Committee the following year to help in planning and in putting together brochures. I stayed on the committee for 12 years. I took on the task of pre- and post-Summit chair for the 2002 Summit, and was program chair for the 2003 Summit and co-chair for the 2004 Summit.
What was it about your involvement in NANPA that interested you most?
The nature photography industry in North America sorely needed an organization to promote and advocate for nature photography, to educate those interested in improving their photography, and provide better communication among the various parts of the industry. None of this existed prior to 1994. I also saw NANPA as a means to establish some standards regarding business, marketing and ethics.
What were your greatest accomplishments for NANPA?
Two of the earliest decisions made by the founding board during our discussion in Jamestown were to call it a “photography” association, because it was not meant to be only for photographers, and that it include all of North America. The idea was to make NANPA inclusive. I’ve watched it evolve through the years, surviving financial and other problems that face nearly every new organization. It has attracted attention and members outside North America. I hope that my efforts have helped it grow.
How long have you been a NANPA member?
I’m a charter member, joining in 1994.
Do you have a goal as it pertains to NANPA or a committee you work on?
As a student of history, I believe NANPA’s Oral History Project may well be its lasting achievement. Members of the History Committee have completed 22 oral histories thus far, including interviews with industry legends and leaders such as Jim Brandenburg, Ann Guilfoyle, Philip Hyde, Jane Kinne, George Lepp, Les Line, David Muench, Boyd Norton, Leonard Lee Rue and Art Wolfe. Their oral histories represent an important legacy of their work and impact on nature photography.