A Short History of Lee Mann
Lee Mann came from a distinguished line of backwoods folks, often referred to as “Hillbillies.” Both sides of his family followed the logging westward; logging in Maine; then in the great white pine forests of Michigan; then ending up here in Washington Territory in the 1880s before statehood. One of his grandfathers was fluent in the Chinook Jargon, the trade language of the coastal Indians.
His paternal grandfather had three years of education and his father eight, yet they recognized what university trained foresters refused to recognize: they were ruining their heritage, destroying the greatest biomass per acre on earth–the forests of the Northwest! When he stated that he was going to be a logger when he grew up, they both gave him many reasons why he should reconsider. Thus began his journey toward environmental awareness and a career as a photographer.
Having no money for college, he put in a hitch in the Navy and received the G.I. Bill, which just about covered tuition at a state college in those days. Working summers and part time during school terms paid living expenses.
With all that going on, he discover MOUNTAINS. Some hiking trips into the alpine zone and onto glaciers clicked in his mind and he became absolutely enamored of high, beautiful, and sometimes very dangerous places. Suddenly, every free or stolen moment was spent in mountain meadows or on a climbing rope. It was to be my way of life for the next 30 years….and, naturally, he recalled, “I wanted to photograph the beauty I saw!”
In between, he married and had a son: Bryce, who runs the business today (and is a photographer). He became a teacher of English and history….and became restless! So, one stormy day in 1964, while sitting out a fierce storm in a tent on Alaska’s Mount Denali, he turned to his partner, another teacher, and said, “I’m going to quit teaching and become a nature photographer.” He gave him the “look” and replied, “Hope this storm ends before you become violent!”
Forty years later — after trips to Tibet, Antarctica, Africa, Russia, the Canadian Barrenlands and many places in between — and after climbing mountains in Africa, Canada, Mexico, and the US and exposing many, many thousands of films, it remained forever what he wanted to do with the rest of his life…and he did!
“Yes, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is not as strong as it once was,” Mann wrote in a blog, “Yet, the joy is still there and I do not envy in the least those who, in retirement, simply fritter life away being self-indulgent. I think we are at our best when we strive to create and have goals. In reality, it is the best form of ‘play.'”
"Sitting stormbound in a tent on Denali (Mount McKinley), I made a momentous decision; I decided I would give up my first career, teaching, and spend the rest of my days photographing those things that excited me most. Thirty years, thousands of photographs and many travels later, I'm convinced I made the right choice."
"I also decided I would not take assignments or solicit advertising clients, but rather would photograph what interested me, print it to the best of my ability, and offer it for sale in the form of high-quality photographic prints. I still feel a photograph from the original negative or file printed by the photographer is the highest expression of photographic art."
"Seeking to offer a more affordable alternative to limited-edition prints, in 1994 I began producing some of my work as reproductions. Today, our distributor in North America and Europe markets 110 posters and 200 note cards."
~ Lee Mann
"Lee Mann became a mentor of sorts to me a few years ago. His encouragement to follow my heart and trust my inner voice will stick to my soul the rest of my days. Thank you Lee for all you have done to make the world a better place. There will be no replacement for you and you are already sorely missed.
~ Brad Wellman
"Hello Mr. Mann! You were my Library teacher oh so many years ago in Sedro Woolley. I have followed your career and your beautiful photos for a long time. They are very inspiring! It is truly a gift to be so talented and to be in a position to pursue it for most of your lifetime. I wish you the best.
~Sincerely, Rebecca (Ferrall) Banks
"What a talented and wonderful person, truly a delight in so many ways. A lover of nature, birds, animals, straight talking, and beauty in all forms. I will remember his work, all the fun times, and the sparkle in his eyes until the day I die. I miss you very, very much. Your pictures of the palouse are a treasure, being with you when you took them memorable beyond belief."