Christian Davis - For the Launstein family, professional wildlife photography is a passion and also the family business. All of that came together at the early July opening of their art gallery on Blairmore's main street (20th Avenue).
Josiah, Melanie, and Jenaya
John, Melanie, and Josiah
The Launsteins live west of the Oldman River Dam, north of Pincher Creek. Father John Launstein has been a professional photographer for years. John's wife Melanie assists in all things, including the home education of their four children: Jenaya (18), Marlise (16), Josiah (11), and Charis (14). Jenaya has graduated and entered the workforce. Jenaya and Josiah are both award winning photographers, and are well known around the art world. Marlise enjoys both photography and other visual arts such as drawing. Charis enjoys sculpture. Melanie and Charis are "the wildlife spotters and official family cheerleaders". Marlise and John do most of the framing.
According to John Launstein, the family considered several options when deciding upon a location. Editor's note - there are a lot of vacant commercial properties in southwestern Alberta. Pincher Creek and Waterton were seriously considered. John explained "We wanted to have a year-round gallery, and perhaps expand from there, and not start with a seasonal gallery and try to expand from there." They picked the location they did, which is just across the street from the Greenhill Hotel parking lot, because the tourist trade is consistent for most months of the year.
A former family health and beauty business has been transformed into a gallery displaying unique framed photography prints, sculptures, and other art pieces, all of superlative quality. Of the space itself post-renovations John said "It was really close to what we had drawn up of what we wanted to do."
In addition to art works by members of the Launstein family, the gallery also hosts wildlife pieces by Longview area sculptress Donna Wilson. "She owns a gallery with Debbie Garside, who is a great wildlife and horse photographer," said John. "I have been a big fan of her work for some time. When they opened this winter, I thought 'I'm never going to get her work in our gallery'."
Detail of larger Donna Wilson sculpture
As for John's background he said "I started a commercial and fine arts photography business when I was still in high school, so there is a lot of parallels between me and Jenaya." His eldest daughter has already had phenomenal national and international successes and her work has won awards and is currently displayed by the Smithsonian. "I had nature photography limited edition prints in galleries across North America, but with special emphasis on the west." His work is available at many galleries across Canada and the United States, but a growing family curtailed his pursuit of photography as a business. Then his daughter's interest pulled him back in.
Josiah is the youngest of the family and seeing his father and sisters enthusiasm made him curious enough to get involved. His father is quick to say Josiah has great patience and dedication. He apparently has an eye that knows how long to wait for that perfect moment. Josiah is the youngest ever winner of the Young Outdoor Photographer of the Year for the United Kingdom, one of the many contests he has entered. "That has really grown our business in Europe quite a bit, he was really celebrated over there," said his proud father.
|Josiah Launstein - First Snow|
Josiah had two of his pieces chosen for London's Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year. "That is possibly the biggest accomplishment that any of us have pulled off. Jenaya and I have not succeeded in cracking that competition, despite a decade of trying."
|Jenaya Launstein - In The Rafters|
Even though Josiah is gaining acclaim, at the opening the best selling piece in the gallery is one of Jenaya's. It's a now world famous picture of a personable porcupine.
From Jenaya's bio page on the Launstein Imagery website:
In late 2014, Jenaya joined fellow award winners Art Wolfe and Tin Man Lee along with several other winning photographers for the award ceremony at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Her winning image of a wild porcupine from the Yukon Territories was chosen to be part of the Nature’s Best Photography exhibition at the Smithsonian through April 20, 2015, and now hangs on the walls of their main office.
Jenaya’s most recent recognition was being named the overall winner of the Youth Division in the 2015 Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition, as well as being Specially Commended in Por el Planeta and receiving an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards.
Her work was also part of the opening exhibit at the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis, MO, and has been selected three years in a row to be on exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, ON.
In addition, Jenaya’s images have been published in numerous national and international magazines including Canadian Geographic, Nature’s Best, Nature Photographer Magazine, NWF’s National Wildlife and Ranger Rick, Jr., CWF’s Canadian Wildlife magazine, and WILD Magazine, amongst others. She was also featured in Outdoor Photography Canada as one of Canada’s best-kept secrets in wildlife photography.
As for the porcupine print from the Smithsonian show, "It's back in the Smithsonian," explained John. After the show the Smithsonian office staff decided to keep the print on display in their office rather than sending it to the archives. "The Smithsonian, working with Natures Best Photography, and they picked 113, I think images out of 500,000 from the last 20 years. They wanted to do a huge exhibit this year called 'The Best of the Best'. They picked the porcupine again."
The family goes camping for more than a week during some of their photo shoots. "It's a numbers game," explained John. "A lot of hours, a lot of exposures, and a lot of investment, at all levels."
Oh the results!
|Josiah Launstei - High Country Bighorn|
|John Launstein - Springtime in the Rockies|
|John Launstein - Long Winter's Nap|
|John Launstein - Fall in the Rockies|
Editor's note: viewing on a screen does scant justice to the originals.
- Local youth photographers garner international accolades
- Meet This Award-Winning Family Of Young Nature Photographers