Summit Memories with Jane
By Shirley Nuhn, NANPA History Committee Co-Chair
Civics, geography, history. They’re still among my favorite subjects. History was going to figure largely in a few of my NANPA Nature Photography Summit memories, and they revolved around a remarkable woman named Jane Kinne.
The first came on a sunny day in San Diego in 1996, during NANPA’s second Forum, as it was called then. Jane was a widely known and respected photo agent and one of the founders of NANPA. She was elected president later that year. During a break between events, she caught up with me and talked about starting a history committee. She had already heard about my pull toward oral history. And I was in graduate school at the time, deep into phonology and other areas of language.
Would I like to chair the committee? And would I like to put oral histories into action?
Yes and yes. One did not say “No” to Jane. By this time, she had become my professional godmother.
The endeavor involved purchasing high-quality recording equipment and peripherals, developing core points of discussion to supply in advance to each photographer, photo editor or photo agent to be interviewed, and a contract regarding rights and NANPA’s purpose in using the recording. Plans for transcriptions would follow.
My husband, John, and I began our work days after the 1998 Forum in Haines City, Florida, had concluded. National Geographic photographer Bob Sisson was my first interview subject. We put other esteemed professionals on our to-do list and recruited committee members. As time passed, the committee gathered video as well as audio recordings.
There are now 23 oral histories that committee members have done, including eight of professionals who are no longer with us. This unfortunately includes Jane. However, I’m thankful to have interviewed her for an oral history during the NANPA Summit in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2002. Jane’s story, and those of the others, remain for posterity.
I long admired Jane’s persistent attention to protecting photographers’ copyrights and managing a photo business. Though not an attorney, she became the go-to expert witness for photographers at courtrooms nationwide.
Until her passing in 2007, she also gave seven breakouts for photographers at various Summits—four on copyrights and three on setting up and managing a photo business. Titles included “The ABCs of Copyrights” and “Loss! Damage! Unauthorized Use! How to Handle the Really Tough Problems.”
You would walk away from one of her sessions brimming with information. This led me to help create and co-present a professional workshop of my own (a refresher) at the college where I taught.
Another lasting Jane memory, and history of a different kind: Most attendees were aware of the colorful jacket that she wore on special occasions, such as the awards banquets at NANPA Summits. It was called Jane’s “coat of many colors.”
Recently, I spoke with Jane’s spouse, photographer Russ Kinne, about the jacket’s source. Was it a gift? He recalled that he ordered it by mail but didn’t remember the label or other details.
What I learned later was that, owing to Jane’s slight stature, it’s possible people would miss her in a crowd. Something bold, something stunning, something, well, Jane, was just the remedy.
After Jane’s death, Russ donated the jacket to the NANPA Foundation, and it was auctioned off. The winning bidder gave it right back to the Foundation.
I told Russ that when antique shopping in Leesburg, Virginia, with my niece, I spotted a jacket that sort of resembled Jane’s iconic one. But it would have been a bit snug for me. I will keep looking.
With deep gratitude, I hold memories of vivid historic Summits. Yet nothing could truly match what Jane has accomplished for NANPA.
Shirley Nuhn, along with her husband, John, has been involved in a variety of roles in NANPA, beginning with the 1993 conference at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute at which the idea for NANPA was formulated. She’s chaired NANPA’s History Committee since 1996 and is often credited as “the godmother of Nature Photography Day.” Shirley is a writer, editor, professor, podcaster, and researcher. For more than two decades, she has served as faculty in English as a Second Language—mostly oral communications and reading—and composition at Northern Virginia Community College.