Westchester Photographer Featured On U.S. Postage Stamps
You might soon be seeing this local nature photographer’s work in your mailbox.
Courtesy Bonnie Sue Rauch
Bonnie Sue Rauch is a local commercial real estate property manager. She is also a pilot, a reiki master, an adjunct Professor at Westchester Community College, and Ericksonian past life regression therapist, and has an MBA in psychology as well as an MA in Integrated Health and Healing. Oh, and she’s a prominent local nature photographer, whose photograph of a monarch butterfly on a zinnia will be featured as a stamp, part of the Protect Pollinators Forever stamp collection.
Rauch moved to Westchester from New York City in 1972. “At the beginning I didn't like it,” she says. “People talked to you – strangers talked to you – people were nice. Cars stopped when you tried to cross the street.”
It was also around this time that Rauch had her first child. “We were not allowed to go back to the workforce — times were different then.…My husband had two cousins who were professional photographers, so while I was pregnant they taught me a whole bunch of stuff and I wound up with a camera.” It was Westchester’s diversity of nature, wildlife, and farm animals that sparked in Rauch her now life-long love of nature.
Rauch typically shoots stock nature photography. Her aerial work is currently featured by NASA, so it would not be a pun to say her photography has been on the government’s radar for some time. When the “Beauty of Pollinators” series was coming together, they reached out to Rauch’s agency. “They wanted bees and butterflies, and they wanted the monarch because it’s really American, so to speak.”
Monarch butterflies famously flutter thousands of miles each year in a regular migration pattern that takes them from Mexico in the Winter to as far North as Canada in the summer months. Honeybees, meanwhile, perform a crucial role in the pollination of many American crops. Unfortunately, parasites and Colony Collapse Disorder have severely impacted North American honeybee populations, while the number of monarch butterflies has dropped due to scarcity of their primary food source, milkweed.
U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro said ahead of the dedication, “Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators sustain our ecosystem and are a vital natural resource. They are being threatened and we must protect them.”
Rauch is quite passionate about helping to return butterfly populations back to what they once were. “The photo was taken nine years ago,” she says. “I was picking organic wild raspberries at a farm, and they had a zinnia garden, and it was so covered that you couldn’t even see the flowers — with butterflies. Now I go out and there’s one or two. There aren’t many. … It would be a real tragedy if you’re reading a story to your children next year and you say, ‘Look at this book. When mommy was a little girl we had butterflies and this is what they looked like.’”
Part of what drew the Postal Service to Rauch’s photography is her preference for minimal if any retouching. “We have to embrace what is. It’s probably not to my advantage from a marketing standpoint not to make things pretty, but if a butterfly has a broken wing it is. And if they all have broken wings, it’s a statement.”
Officially released at a first-day-of-issue ceremony on August 3, the “Beauty of Pollinators” series also includes photographs of monarchs and western honeybees by Michael Durham, Justin Fowler, George Lepp, and Karen Mayford. “The photographers I’m with are famous, wonderful photographers. I’m really very grateful to be with them.…It was just an incredible honor.”
Philatelists, lepidopterists, and anyone else interested in the “Beauty of Pollinator” series can purchase sheets and commemorative keepsake sets through the U.S. Postal Service.