Bill Bowers was born in Colorado Springs in 1903. Yes, that makes him 96 years old, but you'd never guess it if you met him. He's had enough fantastic experiences in those years to fill even his long life. As a young man, Bowers was in the brokerage business, and was married just one day when the stock market crashed in 1929. His military career includes being a lieutenant in the black "Buffalo" regiment of the Calvary, a captain of an anti-aircraft artillery unit in the Army during World War II and an aerial photographer for the Air Force, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel. He has worked as a professional photographer in Colorado Springs for over 50 years since then. He was married to his wife Louise for 69 years, and he has two sons and three grandchildren.
When did you get started in photography?
It would have been about 1913. My father had a 4-by-5 glass-plate camera with no shutter. You just took the lens cap off and replaced it when you thought you had the correct exposure. I developed the photos in the sink and built an enlarger to make prints. In 1916, I took my first aerial photos using a Brownie camera attached to a kite. I rigged the camera so a slow-burning firecracker "punk" would burn through a string, releasing the shutter after I got the kite in the air. I had to bring it down and reset it for each shot.
Were you doing photography in college?
Yes, I was the photo editor of the yearbook for three years, and I took the senior portraits for a couple years before they brought a professional in to do it. While in college, I went to Asia with the dance band I was in at the university. It was a nine-month tour of Japan, China and the Philippines on the Admiral Oriental Lines. We shipped out of Seattle and played on board for the guests and on land when we made port stops. I was a saxophone player, but I also got to take many photos along the way for myself.
How did you begin your professional photography career?
When I settled back in Colorado Springs after the war, I decided to do what I loved. I opened a studio with a partner and did portraiture, weddings, babies, etc., but I eventually moved toward doing more commercial work. I worked with Hewlett-Packard for more than 15 years, making photos of their equipment for advertisements and brochures. I also shot movies of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb for Firestone for 27 years. Of course, I've been with the Fine Arts Center for 51 years now. I photograph items in the collection for a visual record as well as for promotional use. I also photograph people at the center's functions.
What has kept photography interesting all these years?
The contact with people and nature is probably the best thing. Also, the technology has continued to change and keep me learning.
What has your long life taught you about living, and what keeps you going?
Value your friends. I've always said your friends are your wealth, without friends any man is poor. It's also important to keep busy doing things you love. Staying active is essential. Someone else asked me recently what has kept me young. I told him, "A good sex life." He went right home to tell his wife.
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