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Gary Braasch (1944-2016)

By March 27, 2016No Comments

GaryBraasch2010Gary Braasch (1944-2016) passed away on March 7 while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. Gary was a founding NANPA board member, 2003 NANPA Outstanding Photographer of the Year and a NANPA Fellow. He was also a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and Nikon “Legend behind the Lens.” Gary received Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography in 2006 and was named an influential nature photographer by Outdoor Photographer magazine in 2010. In addition to his many contributions to national and international magazines, he was a frequent teacher at the Maine Media Workshop and created many museum exhibits. We asked some of Gary’s friends and associates to share some words on this very special photographer and conservationist who will be greatly missed.—The Editors

An exemplar is “a person or thing serving as a typical example or excellent model.” From my perspective, Gary Braasch was an exemplar of what a nature, environment and conservation photographer should be. Gary was the chair of the NANPA Environment Committee when we formulated the NANPA Environmental Statement (Read and ponder it here: He was the driving force behind the creation of the statement and he, more so than any photographer I know, lived up to the standards set in the statement. From becoming a self-taught naturalist to producing children’s books, to working with scientists and environmental and conservation organizations, to making presentations to the public; that was Gary Braasch, he did it all.—Tom Carlisle, photographer

Gary was an inspiration and a friend.  When I was thinking about creating an organization for conservation, Gary was the first person I called.  Of all the photographers I have ever met, Gary was the first one who truly understood how the power of photography could help nature.  I remember sitting in my car way back in 2004, on a cold fall day, during one of my daughter’s soccer practices, and discussing with Gary the first ideas for the ILCP.  His ideas, his passion and his guidance were a huge part of my thinking and his support was instrumental in making the ILCP a reality and a success.  I last spoke with Gary a month ago when we were discussing the walrus haulouts in Alaska.  He was as passionate, concerned and outspoken as ever about climate change.  I was privileged to know Gary and work with him and I will miss him.—Cristina Mittermeier, founder and fellow at ILCP, photographer, author

I’ll always think of Gary Braasch as an ambitious kid sleeping on my couch while in NYC. He was in the city trying to do business while gambling that he could get home in time to document the Mount St. Helens eruption.  That was in 1980 when I was Audubon photo editor. He made it in time, and the eruption was his first big story. Gary told me something back then that has governed my thinking ever since. He said that Nature would always be the biggest story, that when she decided to blow all else would look small. Gary Braasch was a true voice for the environmental movement, and he put his photography where his mouth was, influencing a lot of us along the way.—Ann Guilfoyle,

Quiet voice, quieter demeanor, but a powerful and passionate advocate for the environment. In a room full of photographers, Gary was content to listen and observe. He was that quiet, patient observant while in nature too, a requirement for photographers who spend hours, even days, waiting for the light or for an animal’s behavior that will indicate its character.

Gary was also a teacher, but more a mentor. He led workshops for us in Maine, in Tuscany and other places were nature was in peril and needed a voice to speak on its behalf. As a teacher, he was better one-on-one than in a lecture hall, but if he was speaking before a crowd about his work as an advocate for the wilderness, his passion came through in the images he showed and the few words he spoke.  —David Lyman, founder and (for 34 years) director of The Maine Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media).

Gary was determined to visually document global warming.  In 2000 some saw him as “The Photographer from La Mancha.”  But Gary knew climate change was no illusion, and he tilted at windmills because they would reduce CO2 emissions—“one of the very most worldwide issues we face,” he said. Gary encouraged many of us to forge our own paths in conservation photography with his conviction that: “When captions suggest this may be the last time to see a certain scene because it’s being destroyed, that extra information usually compels people to be concerned; to learn more; and to take action.” We have lost a very special NANPA member.—Alison M. Jones, director, NWNL

Alison’s blog tribute to Gary for her company, No Water No Life (NWNL), can be found at:; her interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting about Gary’s work;; and a 2011 NWNL interview:

I worked with Gary while I was the manager at his first stock photo agency, PhotoUnique, back in the early 1980s. He made frequent visits to New York City to shop his stories, using PhotoUnique as his home base. He was our first “nature” photographer, and try as I might, I could not convince him to give up shooting trees (which didn’t sell well) and switch to kittens and puppies. Money was never what compelled Gary, though he certainly was relieved to have a break when his highly-sought-after images of Mt. St. Helens erupting gave him some much-needed breathing room. Back in the 80s, he seemed to be a lonely man on a quest and didn’t have much backing. Being a conservationist was not cool or profitable and he paid the price professionally and personally. I was delighted to see in recent times a real appreciation for his work (People were finally paying attention!), publications in which he was proud, and a blossoming love for “his Joan.”—Sharon Cohen-Powers, freelance photo/text/web editor and graphic designer

Gary was a special person and I enjoyed getting to know him 13 years ago at my first NANPA Summit and in the years that followed. He was passionate about conservation and was always up for discussing the issues that plagued our planet with colleagues or opponents.-Miriam Stein, picture editor