A Day In the Life of Paul Bowen

paul and gail

International Aviation Photographer
Written by Deana Torgerson Studio Manager, Paul Bowen Photography, Inc.

Upstairs in
old corner building near the heart of Wichita, is the office of the international
aviation photographer, Paul Bowen. Without his name in lights, his office
remains hidden from the commoners. Just where Paul likes to be-he says.

I beg to differ.
A displaced California surfer residing in Augusta, Kansas always has a joke
or story to share to the revolving invitees to his poolside gatherings. A
confessed “rhythmically challenged” dancer stole the show at my wedding reception
last summer with his grace and style. Given a spotlight, he will perform.

At 9:00 a.m.,
Paul arrives to work from an early morning workout. No, he won’t be the next
Mr. Olympia, but he can now add “railroad tie dragging champion” to his resume.
Plus, I think he likes to have an excuse for a power nap later if he so desires.

bowen familyA
steady stream of calls begins to fill his hideout with ringing sounds. Unfortunately,
the ringing of the phones does little to drown out his tunes of choice, the
Pride of Punahele strumming Maunaleo on the beaches of Hawaii. The paper processor
noise is my only savior.

Meanwhile, Tom
Jenkins, Paul’s assistant and the darkroom wizard, has found refuge in the
darkroom with his mini radio featuring static and talk radio. Again, I am
thankful for the noise of the processor. He works between two enlargers, color
correcting prints and making contact sheets of the last photo shoot. Four
minutes later, Tom emerges and views the 11″ x 14″ print from the processor.

Paul’s new emails
lay stacked on his desk, fresh from the Epson inkjet. Definitely not a generation
X techie; he rarely visits the Internet and the “e” world so he prefers to
read his instant messages on paper. He’s not afraid of technology, but likes
to know just enough about a few computer programs to produce a few volumes
of critically acclaimed aviation photography, but still claim “I’m just the
photographer” when an escape is needed.

b-25 tailHis
books, posters, notecards, original photographs and calendars are embraced
by the aviation community for the works of art they are. His Air To Air books
are his favorite toys around every other Christmas season. Currently working
on Volume III, it wouldn’t surprise me if he were eventually working on Volume

His generosity
and kindhearted spirit makes it hard not to like him; his photography skills
make it hard not to admire him. He loves what he does and he loves life. And,
he constantly reminds me with his googly eyes and loving gestures, his love
for his wife, Gail. You’d think he was the newlywed!

Stepping out
of undercover, he doesn’t stray far for his lunch ritual. Paul gives literal
meaning to Everyday Gourmet. This quaint little deli two blocks away has a
table for one, maybe a roast beef sandwich and salad, but always a piece of
pecan pie.

Back in his
hideout, Paul is hunched over the 8 ft. light table sorting through his latest
“beautifully portrayed hunks of metal”. He retrieves some stock from his files,
approximately 20 large cabinets each filled with binders full of slides, for
some clients expecting a Fed Ex package to arrive tomorrow by 10am. Within
minutes, he’s pulled the exact image he was looking for among the thousands–a
Lear 60 slightly left of head on with a stunning golden sunset. There will
be smiles tomorrow at 10am.

b-25 tailNot
always is the problem solved in such a short time, in which case he always
breaks away from the light table for his 3:30 appointment. No, not a client,
but just as important-the pool table. He lets me break-“to give me a chance
to play,” he says. As I said before, so generous! When I bring my “A” game,
I may put a little pressure on him not to get beat by a girl. He is usually
victorious, but again, generously claims I only ceded as, “it must be close
to payday.” Tom provides a much better match-up and often victorious in the
quick tournament.

Once the “important
business meeting” has ended, Paul is back on the phone to reschedule flight
arrangements for him and Tom’s next photo shoot, which was changed at the
last minute-30 minutes ago. Instead of leaving tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., they
will head out tonight to make a sunrise shoot the next morning.

My day ends
with the routine of shutting down the computers, closing the credit card machine,
and gathering the Fed Ex packages to drop off at the pickup box. I verify
when I will see Paul next and head home. (Soon, I will be reviving my ears
with some country tunes or great 80’s music in my car!) With the help of Tom,
Paul gathers his cameras, film, and equipment and heads to his next stage.
It’s nearly show time.

Click here to read a book review on Paul Bowen’s Air to Air II