John Blaustein: Renowned Grand Canyon Photographer

The modern history of the Grand Canyon is perhaps best embodied through the life’s work of professional photographer John Blaustein. Since his first trip down the Colorado River aboard a decked-over dory in 1970, this anthropology major from UC Berkeley has built his career taking pictures while indulging a personal passion for whitewater adventure. First under the apprenticeship Joe Monroe, a freelance photographer with credits in Life Magazine, National Geographic, Time and Fortune, Blaustein learned the craft of photography while building his skills rowing the mighty river with veteran guide Martin Litton. Combining his expertise in both disciplines, he created the images for his seminal treatise called The Hidden Canyon: A River Journey in 1977. With text by the great essayist Edward Abbey, the book, though out of print, is still known as one of the best ever written on the Grand Canyon and set Blaustein’s long career now spanning 40 years in motion.

“I never set out to do the book,” he told the Clymb “But it became the keystone of my photography. From there I kind of stumbled from one thing to the next without a master plan.”

Blaustein’s work as a photographer has appeared in publications that include Outside, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian and many others. With his book as a portfolio of sorts, he was successful in securing several prominent corporate clients such as Apple Computer, AT&T, New York Life and United Airlines. But truly his greatest love has always been capturing compelling images at water level while on more than 85 trips through the Grand Canyon. It was during these early experiences while rowing the Colorado River that Blaustein feels most fortunate for having begun a passionate obsession that inspires his life to this day.

“I had a lot of good luck. What I mean by that is stumbling into the Grand Canyon when I did, meeting Martin Litton when I did, the fact that he would give me a chance,” Blaustein said. “If ever anyone was a fish out of water as boatman in the Grand Canyon it was me.”

Now at the age of 66 Blaustein makes at least one plunge down the Colorado every year. Thrilled by the prospects of discovering more of its mysteries he paddles forward with his camera through the Canyon looking for that next exciting image around the bend.

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I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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