VOLUNTEER: Mark Lukes

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© Linda Helm

NANPA founding president and lifetime member Mark Lukes was also founding chair of the NANPA Foundation and the Center for Fine Art Photography. He is currently president of Art for Conservation and recently completed his tenure as the first board chair of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Mark’s company, Fine Print Imaging, has long been considered the top printer for fine art photographers and artists across North America. He is also a photographer. Be sure to read Mark’s answer to the last question in this interview for insight into NANPA’s beginnings. — The Editors

Do you have a “day” job? What do you do?

I am the founder and president of Fine Print Imaging, a fine art printing studio that has been printing for serious photographers and artists for more than 40 years. Many of our customers are NANPA members. Interesting fact: the company employs 11 professionals who represent over 230 years of work experience at Fine Print Imaging!

How long have you been a NANPA member?

Since it began in 1994.

How did you become involved in NANPA?

I am honored to say that I was among the small group of NANPA founding members back in 1993. I served as NANPA’s first president for two-and-one-half years and served as the founding chair of the NANPA Foundation. My wife Linda Helm was the best advisor anyone could have asked for. While she shunned the action and bright lights, she was always a guiding light of NANPA. Together with Alice Robertson, Linda and I served as co-founders of the NANPA College Student Program.

What NANPA responsibilities have you assumed?

I currently serve as past chair of the Past Presidents Council and chair of the NANPA Nominations Committee. I also was chair of the short-lived NANPA Fine Art Committee.

Do you feel you have learned something from your volunteering? Explain.

I was a 45-year-old youngster when NANPA started. I had been searching for years for a way to coalesce all of Fine Print’s photographers. Back in “the day,” nature photographers were a pretty solitary group of individuals and on chance occasions, they would meet other photographers in the field. (Well, OK… fall in Yellowstone brought together a fairly large group of solitary photographers.) Anyway, when the concept of a nature photography organization began to gel at the Roger Tory Peterson gathering for nature photographers in Jamestown, New York, in 1993, I couldn’t believe that this could actually happen.

As we all know, it did happen.

I was thrust into a leadership and organizational position. I learned more in my first 5 years with NANPA than I had learned in the previous 45 years. My passion for conservation and all the individuals (and flora and fauna) that were a part of nature filled my heart and soul a thousand times over. I am somewhat of a workaholic and don’t get away from work much, but interestingly, I have made hundreds of friends through nature photography. Working and volunteering side by side with NANPA members has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Do you have a goal as it pertains to NANPA?

NANPA has gone through a number of changes since its inception. Environmental photographers like Gary Braasch pushed to make NANPA a conservation organization. The consensus at the time, however, was to make NANPA more inclusive and focus on recreational as well as conservation photography. Over the years, NANPA has taken on a more conservation focus. I completely support the move to make conservation a primary message and mission for NANPA. Our planet is rapidly changing. Photography is the one medium that can forcefully and passionately deliver the message that it’s up to all of us to care for our precious planet.

How did NANPA come into being and what part did you play in that?

This is a story that would take volumes to tell! Here are some bits of information that very few people know.

After the Roger Tory Peterson Institute (RTPI) gathering in October 1993, RTPI leaders offered their resources to help form a professional organization of nature photographers. Because photographers are a rather independent and largely self-employed group of individuals, we all went our separate ways and nothing happened. Later that year, Linda (my wife) encouraged me to follow up. I phoned RTPI and discovered that no one else had contacted them about their offer. With their encouragement and funding I agreed to get the ball rolling, and we planned our first conference call. (The internet and email were still in their infancy.)

Sixteen picture professionals participated in the initial conference call. Top on our agenda was selecting an organization name. Gary Braasch promoted OPEN, Organization for Photography of the Environment and Nature. Linda Helm suggested the American Nature Photography Association. Frans Lanting felt that we should be more inclusive and proposed the North American Nature Photography Association. We settled on the North American Association for Nature Photography (NAANP), which we changed to the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) in 1994 .And here we are 22 years later!

I spent virtually every day for the two months following that conference call researching how to form and run a non-profit agency. Again, no internet. So all of my research took place at the local library. It became apparent that this was a more daunting task than I had anticipated when, quite by accident, I came across the concept of “multi-management” companies — businesses that specialize in serving as the leadership and staff of non-profit organizations. After interviewing and learning from three such organizations in the Denver/Boulder area where I live, I proposed to the founding board members that we select The Resource Center for Associations founded and run by Francine Butler and Jerry Bowman. This proved to be one of many good decisions for the budding NANPA organization. And trust me, we — or I should say I — made a number of less wise decisions over the years. But that’s a whole ‘nuther story.