Voyageur and Steve Maslowski have launched the planning phase for Wildlife Photographer: The Life of Karl Maslowski, a one-hour documentary for distribution to public television viewers, teachers and students.  Karl Maslowski (1913-2006) helped introduce the wonders of the natural world to generations of American students, teachers and television viewers through his pioneering work as a wildlife photographer and filmmaker. During a remarkable career, Karl Maslowski contributed to some of the first nature films of Walt Disney, the National Audubon Society and National Geographic. During World War II, he filmed air battles as a combat cameraman under Major William Wyler, an Oscar-winning Hollywood director. Maslowski contributed thousands of photographs to books, calendars and magazines, including such National Wildlife, Time and Life. He also wrote 2,500 nature articles for The Cincinnati Enquirer. And, as a passionate conservationist, Maslowski helped establish two vital conservation organizations in Greater Cincinnati – the Cincinnati Nature Center, and Oxbow, Inc.

The documentary examines the story of the man behind the camera. Karl Maslowski’s extensive writings, photographs and archival film are combined with interviews and fresh video and for an inspirational look at how a self-taught man of modest means became one of America’s first wildlife filmmakers. Photo: Karl Maslowski carries a photo blind into Reelfoot Lake cypress swamp, 1937. Courtesy, Maslowski Family.

Project Support

The planning phase for Wildlife Photographer: The Life of Karl Maslowski is made possible with support from Brome Bird Care, Inc.

Karl Maslowski Biography

Karl Maslowski was forced to leave high school and work upon the death of his father, an immigrant gardener.  Nonetheless in spare time from his job, Maslowski quickly mastered the challenges of stalking wildlife and early photography and using an $8 still camera and a borrowed movie camera.  His earliest still images were shown as lantern slides, but he soon started selling black/white prints to magazines, which clamored for photographs because of new printing methods.  In 1937 Maslowski persuaded The Cincinnati Enquirer to carry his weekly nature column.  Shortly thereafter he began supporting his family as a full-time freelance writer, photographer, and cinematographer by covering nature around Cincinnati and across the continent in close-up detail.  In WWII Maslowski served as a combat cameraman in Italy under Major William Wyler, an Oscar-winning Hollywood director (The Best Days of Our lives, Ben-Hur, Funny Girl).  At the front, Maslowski observed, “Those big German shells come over with a swish like a jilted blonde’s skirt. Ours sounded just as mad when they went back the other way.” Training from Wyler and the Army Air Corps Combat Camera Unit proved invaluable after the war. Photo: Karl Maslowski with film camera during WWII, 1944. Courtesy, Maslowski Family.

Returning home, Maslowski jumped back into wildlife photography. He not only sold wildlife photos and articles to scores of publications, including Time and Life magazines, he began producing outdoor documentaries for clients.  In subsequent decades he made dozens of them for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Standard Oil of Ohio, and others. Simultaneously, Maslowski produced and narrated nature films for the popular lecture series of the National Audubon Society and National Geographic. He even contributed to the “True-Life Adventure” series – Walt Disney’s first wildlife films. Maslowski frequently claimed he lived “the abundant life.” The wealth he found resided in the forests, the waterways, and the wildlife around him.  Maslowski’s lifetime devotion to the outdoors and conservation was recognized by many, including the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Photo: Karl Maslowski (center) with Walt Disney (standing) and Roy Disney (seated), circa 1949. Courtesy, Maslowski Family.

Production Team

Wildlife Photographer: The Life of Karl Maslowski is co-production of Voyageur Media Group, Inc. and Steve Maslowski. The production team is working to raise $5,500 for the planning phase of the project, which will feature a one-hour documentary, a companion website and educational materials designed for classrooms and workshops.

Voyageur Media Group, Inc, is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of public media about science, history and culture. Tom Law, President, Voyageur, says “Wildlife Photographer: The Life of Karl Maslowski is not only a compelling story, it’s also a natural extension of A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun, which examined the life and legacies of one of America’s foremost ecologists. A co-production of Voyageur and Meg Hanrahan Media, A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun has earned critical acclaim and strong viewership from broadcasts on regional and national public television stations starting in the fall of 2018.

Steve Maslowski – a son of Karl Maslowski – has produced over 75 educational videos about nature, geology and astronomy for Discovery Communications/Education, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Hamilton County Park District (Great Parks). He has served as a chief cameraman for Marty Stouffer’s Wild America” (PBS); “Birdwatch” (PBS), and “National Geographic Explorer.” Steve Maslowski says his father’s pioneering work motivated him to produce the documentary. “Dad left behind a mountain of A/V material and writings,” says Steve Maslowski. He adds, “The more I dig into them, the more interesting he and his era become. This documentary will present the picture behind the pictures.”

Other Key Personnel

Meg Hanrahan (Associate Producer). Meg Hanrahan is owner of Meg Hanrahan Media and the Vice President of Voyageur Media Group, Inc. Hanrahan is an award-winning documentary maker, media producer and writer. Her related credits include Sacred Spaces of Greater Cincinnati (2008) Cincinnati Parks: Emeralds in the Crown (2009) and A Force for Nature: Lucy Braun (2018). Hanrahan has also produced media for Procter & Gamble, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cleveland Health Museum, and Ft. Worth Zoo. She has a BA from the Union Institute and University, and serves as an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College in the Electronic Media Department.

Parker Bauer (Assistant Writer/Editor). Parker Bauer has written and edited documentaries distributed by National Geographic, Discovery, and the National Park Service. He has also worked as writer/editor on several commercial programs, including “One More Cast with Shaw Grigsby” (20 seasons); and scriptwriter for “Bigmouth” narrated by Rod Serling. Bauer is a past president of Outdoor Writers of Ohio, and was a long-time field companion of Karl Maslowski.

Frank Proto (Music). Frank Proto played double bass for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. As a composer he has written for Eddie Daniels (clarinet), Cleo Laine (singer), Doc Severinsen (trumpet), Francois Rabbath (double bass), and others.  His orchestral arrangements such as “A Carmen Fantasy,” are played worldwide.