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Remembering Hope Ryden Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

27 June 2017

She was a model, an airline stewardess, a photographer, a filmmaker and the author of 25 books. Her camera captured the wild animals of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia in their natural habitats. Her films followed their subjects like a fly on the wall. Her books of photographs and observations celebrated the wild animals of North America including bald eagles, beavers, bobcats, coyotes, mustangs and Key deer.

She passed away June 18 in Hyannis, Mass., at the age of 87.

Born in St. Paul, Minn., to a Lutheran minister and an organist, she earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 from the University of Iowa in English literature.

She worked as a fashion model while she was employed as a flight attendant. In 1958 she was a crew member on Pan Am's first trans-Atlantic jet passenger flight.

During the short breaks abroad required to ready a plane for its next flight, she became interested in photography, teaching herself the craft and getting her images published. She eventually becoming a contributor to National Geographic.

In 1961 she joined the documentary film production company Robert Drew & Associates, which still lists her among its filmmakers. There it notes:

Ryden once described how she learned at Drew Associates to observe and capture real life happening without interfering in it. She took that philosophy into the field as a gifted nature photographer, often spending weeks camped out in the wilds observing animals she wanted to learn and write about.

She later worked for ABC News as a documentary producer.

Her documentaries include Jane (1962), which followed the 25-year-old Jane Fonda as she rehearsed "The Fun Couple" on Broadway, and footage included in "The Loving Story," about Richard and Mildred Loving, the Virginia couple whose 1967 Supreme Court case overturned a long-standing Virginia law against interracial marriages.

By the early 1970s she had published several books for both children and adults illustrated with her photographs of wild animals. Her advocacy encouraged Congress to pass legislation protecting wild horses and burros in 1971 and helped persuade New York to name the beaver its official state mammal in 1975.

Among her many books are Lily Pond: Four Years With a Family of Beavers (1989), America's Last Wild Horses (2005), Bobcat Year (1990), Among Wild Horses: A Portrait of the Pryor Mountain Mustangs (2012), God's Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote (2005), Wild Horses I Have Known (1999), among others.

In addition to her own books, her behavioral findings have been published in National Geographic, Smithsonian and Audubon magazine.

Among her awards, Ryden received the Art and Literary Award 2002 from New York State Outdoor Education Association, the Outstanding Achievement Award from Augustana College, the Humane Excellence Award ASPCA, the Animal Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Animal Protection Institute of America, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American Horse Protection Society and the Joseph Wood Krutch Award from the Humane Society of the United States given to those who have made a "significant contribution toward the improvement of life and environment on the planet."

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