Steve Irwin was in the middle of wrestling a crocodile when I phoned his Australia Zoo to do an interview about his interest in photography. It was six years ago, and my family couldn't get enough of The Crocodile Hunter show since we'd gotten cable. When Irwin called me back and I heard his energetic Aussie accent just the way it sounded on TV, my first thought was that someone was impersonating him. There was something wonderfully cartoonish about the man's television presence, reportedly no different from his real persona, and I think that was part of what made him appealing to children--allowing him to engage them so effectively in wildlife and its cause. (Take that, Germaine Greer.)
Based on work we got in from the Crocodile Hunter to illustrate the article we ran about his photography in the November/December 2000 issue of American Photo, it was clear that he wasn't a top-notch shooter. But having started taking pictures about the same time he "took" his first croc--age nine, as you'll learn from the text of that story, which we reprint in its entirety here--Steve Irwin had a passion for photography almost equal to his reverence for reptiles.
When I was finished interviewing Irwin I asked if he would be willing to speak briefly with one of his fans, my seven-year-old daughter. Sure mate, he said. We'd just visited the Everglades, so my daughter first asked him which he liked better, crocodiles or alligators (the answer was a foregone conclusion), and then if he was a vegetarian. He admitted that he wasn't, she reported. Since unlike us he had probably saved more animals than he'd eaten, we forgave him.
We don't watch The Crocodile Hunter much these days, but Steve Irwin is no less vivid to us. We will miss him.