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Illinois Photographer's Work Is Now Forever


I'm with the Postal Service and wanted to give you a heads up that Illinois photographer Justin Fowler beat the odds by having his photo appear on a Forever stamp.

The Postal Service receives about 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas each year, but only about 20 to 25 topics make the cut.

To have your work immortalized on a stamp is quite rare. In this case it's Fowler's photo of a Monarch and a goldenrod. Please feel free to reach out to Justin. He's a great interview.


Here's the link to the news release.

Here's his background in his own words.

It is truly an honor to have an image on a USPS stamp that is also raising the public's awareness of a topic such as the importance of pollinators.

I grew up in Columbia, Ky. and studied photojournalism/political science at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. Throughout my studies there I had internships at the Lexington Herald Leader in Lexington, Ky., The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, Mo., The Naples Daily News in Naples, Fla., and the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., the last of which is where I have been a photojournalist at for the past eleven years thanks to my photo editor, Rich Saal, offering me a position at the end of that internship in 2005. My work has been recognized by College Photographer of the Year, Illinois Press Photographers Association and the National Press Photographers Association. I was also was named Illinois Sports Photographer of the Year for 2010.

As far as how the images came to be is just like any other day as a photojournalist. My job involves daily assignments that run the gamut of subjects from news and politics to sports and sometimes a butterfly assignment. The migration of the population of monarch butterflies that makes the two-way journey from the northern U.S. and Canada to Mexico makes it's way through Central Illinois. They travel by day and congregate in areas to roost at night.

In September of 2015 a local property owner in Sangamon County contacted my photo editor, Rich Saal, to let us now that the monarchs had roosted in a piece of former farmland that they had converted back to a natural prairie habitat. According to the owner there were thousands of the butterflies on the property so I was the lucky photographer that got the assignment to go and see if it would make a picture for the paper.

The owners were gracious enough to lead me to the piece of property that was tree-lined from what used to be an old railroad line on a late afternoon that September. Beyond the trees was an area that looks like the illustrations you see of what Illinois prairie used to look like before much of it was converted to farmland.

When we first walked out into the area I was a bit worried because I didn't see any of the monarchs the owners were referring to, but once we made our way around the perimeter along the tree line, you just needed to pause and look up to see them congregated in packs with very little movement. It was then that pockets of orange among the green leaves of the trees appeared as the groups would flap their wings in unison as one left or returned to the group. It was a rather magical thing to see.

The longer I stayed the more active they seemed to become with one or two leaving the groups at a time to venture out to the various plants to feed. What I had hoped to be the "golden hour" of light that afternoon didn't really work out as some clouds moved in and muted the sunset, but the light was even and I spent about an hour or so chasing the monarchs.

You can see more of the images from that assignment here.

How the image came to be on a stamp . . . I got a phone call on my personal cell phone from a really nice lady who was asking me about the photographs of the butterflies and was interested in the rights to the images.

As a staff photographer for the State Journal-Register I don't personally own the rights to the images I take; the company owns the copyright. I get requests for images for various purposes often and I'm usually pretty quick to give them the proper person to contact and I don't spend too much time with it. After I had given the information she needed, she stopped to ask me, "Well don't you want to know what the images are for?"

It was then she told me that they were interested in using them on a stamp. I must say it was pretty neat to hear that an image I took was going to appear on a USPS stamp. I still get excited to see my photographs on the front page of the Journal-Register; that has never gotten old. But to know my photograph is on a stamp is truly a unique moment in my career.

As far as the camera info:

The main background image of the page of stamps - Canon 1DX w/ 70-200mm IS II F2.8 handheld at 200mm, shot at ISO 3200, 1/1000 sec at f2.8

The image that is on the stamp - Canon 1DX w/ 70-200mm IS II F2.8 handheld at 200mm, shot at ISO 2500, 1/1600 sec at f2.8

It's all natural light, just muted sunset. I may have lost the golden hour light due to clouds moving in, but It also worked out in my favor that the edge of the tree line where the butterflies were congregated was still getting light. The tree line behind them however was dark which allowed for clean backgrounds as the exposure of the tree line was a few stops under that of the butterflies.

My work can be found at the State Journal-Register and on Instagram at justinlfowler.



INSTRUCTIONS FOR REPRODUCING STAMP IMAGES: The stamp design must be reproduced in its entirety, including denomination and perforations. If the stamp design is reproduced within 75-150% of stamp size, a line must be placed through the denomination to 'cancel' the reproduction and prevent its use as actual postage. The appropriate USPS trademark and copyright notices must be included: ©2017 USPS.


Comments welcome.


Posted on August 8, 2017

MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - Climate Deniers' 4 Top Scare Tactics.
SPORTS - The McEnroes In Antarctica.

BOOKS - Foxconned.


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