Michael “Nick” Nichols, a native of Alabama, is an award-winning photographer whose work has taken him to the most remote corners of the world. He became a staff photographer for the National Geographic magazine in 1996 and was named editor at large in January 2008. From 1982 to 1995 he was a member of Magnum Photos, the prestigious cooperative founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa.
He has photographed 25 stories for National Geographic magazine, most recently “Redwoods: The Super Trees” (NGM October 2009), breaking new ground in his photography of the world’s tallest trees by using innovative rigging techniques to create an 84 image composite of a 300-foot-tall, 1,500-year-old redwood tree. The Visa Pour L’Image festival in Perpignan, France featured this story at its 2010 festival in the form of a 60-foot tall print of this imiage. His September 2008 National Geographic story “Family Ties, the Elephants of Samburu” was shown at the 20th anniversary of Visa Pour L’Image in France in September 2008, and “Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma” (NGM March 2007) has generated a large response from the public, raising awareness and funds to protect the elephants of Chad.
From 1999-2001 Nichols documented conservationist Mike Fay’s Megatransect expedition across Africa. Fay walked 2,000 miles (3,219 km) on foot from Congo’s deepest rainforest to the Atlantic Coast of Gabon, studying Africa’s last great wilderness. Nichols’ work from this undertaking can be seen in the 2001 National Geographic magazine articles “Megatransect: Across 1,200 Miles of Untamed Africa on Foot,” “Green Abyss: Megatransect, Part II,” and “End of the Line: Megatransect, Part III.”
In 2005 National Geographic Books published The Last Place on Earth, a book featuring Nichols’ photographs and Fay’s journals from the Megatransect expedition. Nichols’ work has appeared in five other books, including Keepers of the Kingdom, a photographic essay reflecting on changes in U.S. zoos; The Year of the Tiger, which focuses on the world’s remaining tigers; and Brutal Kinship, a look at the timorous bond between man and chimpanzee, with text by Jane Goodall.
Dubbed “The Indiana Jones of Photography” by Paris Match, Nichols has been featured in Rolling Stone, Life, Aperture, American Photographer and many other magazines. He has won first prize four times for nature and environment stories in the World Press Photo competition. His other numerous awards come from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Pictures of the Year International competitions. In 1982 the Overseas Press Club of America granted him a prize for reporting “above and beyond the call of duty,” an honor usually reserved for combat photographers.
Born in 1952, Nichols’ training in photography began when he was drafted into the U.S. Army’s photography unit in the early 1970s. He later studied his craft at the University of North Alabama, where he met his mentor, former Life magazine photographer Charles Moore.
Nichols is also very involved in fostering community among photographers. In 2007 he founded the annual LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, VA. This three-day celebration of peace, love and photography includes interviews, exhibits and projections from established photographers as well as an interactive gallery encouraging all festival attendees to share their photographs.
Nichols lives in Sugar Hollow, VA, with his wife, artist Reba Peck. His archive is represented by National Geographic Stock.