Photo Op Social
For some he is the Indiana Jones of photography. Others believe that without him animal photography would not be where it is today. Most, however, simply see him as the best photographer in his field. Michael “Nick” Nichols (born in 1952) remains a major figure in photojournalism. He earned early successes at GEO magazine in 1979, three years later he joined Magnum Photos and was a member of that prestigious agency until 1995. From 1989 to 2015, Nichols created over 20 photo reports for National Geographic magazine.
From the start, he had only one goal: to highlight wild, untouched landscapes and the creatures that inhabit them. He immersed himself totally in his work, spending several months on getting as close to the animals as possible and learning about their habitats and their way of living.
Nick Nichols worked with leading figures like primate researcher Jane Goodal – famous for her 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees – and Mike Fay, the environmental activist with whom Nichols crossed Africa from east to west (Fay walked 3,219 kilometers on foot from Congo’s deepest rainforest to the Atlantic coast of Gabon, studying Africa’s last great wilderness.)
Each time, Nichols dedicated his work to maintaining the natural habitats. In his comprehensive oeuvre, photography blends with journalism, but also with science and technology.
“How do you manage to get so close to the animals?” he has been asked many times. He often answers tongue-in-cheek: “It’s simple – sometimes I am just not there.” Indeed: Nichols, took many pictures of this retrospective – which is subdivided into four main sections – using photo traps. These devices remain totally unnoticeable and allow the photographer to be present and absent at the same time. “I had to teach my camera to think independently, in my place, and to adapt, for instance, to the light conditions …“
The exhibition WILD offers an overview of Nick Nichols’ brilliant career: it features his work on the lions of the Serengeti, a study of Indian tigers Sita and Charger, a joint report with Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, his long term project documenting conservationist Mike Fay’s Megatransect expedition across Africa.
All these impressive images are the result of painstaking work. They present nature and its creatures in their original condition, neither embellished nor styled, and show them as dangerous, fascinating and untamable.
Number of Works: 75 black&white and colour photographs
Size: various size, ranging from 60×60 cm to 150×100 cm
Type of print: 40 framed digital prints; 26 photographs printed on canvas; 7 Alu Dbond
Additional material: 8 making-of videos taken on the field
Catalogue: Michael Nichols, WILD
320 pages, 222 images
Born in 1952 in Alabama, Nichols’s 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.
He became a staff photographer for National Geographic magazine in 1996 and was named Editor at Large for photography in 2008. From 1982 to 1995 he was a member of Magnum Photos.
During his career, Nichols won many awards, including the World Press Photo Award, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award, Sony World Photography Award.
TIME magazine named his photo Surfing Hippo “one of the most influential images of all time”.
In 2017, his single exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art attracted 250.000 visitors.
Nichols lives with his wife, artist Reba Beck, in Sugar Hollow in Virginia.