A Tribute to Kurt Thorson

While we all rely heavily on words to tell our stories, there is no substitute for a good photograph. When it came to conveying the work of the San Juan Preservation Trust, no photographer provided more spectacular and compelling island images to us than did Kurt Thorson, a longtime resident of Orcas Island who had deep roots on Waldron.

On June 11, we lost Kurt to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). We send deepest condolences to his wife, Robin Freeman, and their daughter, Tika.

Over the past 15 years, Kurt’s photos transformed our outreach efforts. Whenever we take our stories to the outside world, whether through our newsletters, website, brochures, or public presentations, we have leaned heavily on Kurt’s eye and images to drive home the urgency of this work. A carpenter by profession, he spent many evenings, early mornings and weekends in the field, hiking the backcountry with his camera as he chased the light. From wildlife to native plants to sweeping landscapes, Kurt was a photographic perfectionist: He would take dozens of shots of a single subject or vista before moving on to the next image.

The Preservation Trust leaned heavily on Kurt over the past 15 years, enlisting him whenever we were about to launch an important capital campaign or project. He was under-compensated, to be sure, but we know he found tremendous gratification from the knowledge that he was advancing the cause of land conservation in our islands. From Turtleback to Vendovi Island, Mount Grant to Zylstra Lake, he was responsible for most of the iconic images we’ve shared with you. Kurt Thorson may not be with us anymore, but we will continue to tell our stories, and see our islands, through his remarkable eyes.

Click here to see a gallery showing just a few of Kurt’s most enduring images.

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