Michael "Nick" Nichols is an award-winning photographer whose work has taken him to the most remote corners of the world. 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, the prestigious cooperative founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. 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. Nichols lives in Sugar Hollow, Virginia, with his wife, artist Reba Peck.
Nichols has photographed 27 stories for National Geographic magazine, most recently "Orphans No More" (September 2011), the final chapter in his 20-year endeavor to document the emotions and intelligence of elephants. In "Redwoods: The Super Trees" (October 2009), he used groundbreaking rigging and stitching 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 a 60-foot-tall print of this composite at its 2010 festival. Another story, "Family Ties, the Elephants of Samburu" (September 2008), was shown at the 20th anniversary of Visa Pour L'Image in 2008.
From 1999 to 2002 Nichols documented conservationist Mike Fay's Megatransect expedition across Africa. Fay walked 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) on foot from Congo's deepest rainforest to the Atlantic coast of Gabon, studying Africa's last great wilderness. Nichols's 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's photographs and Fay's journals from the Megatransect expedition. Nichols has produced 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. He is currently working on a new book, Earth to Sky, which will illustrate the complex and emotional relationships of elephant families. In August 2011, Nichols released an iPad app featuring his life's work, with new stories and never-before-published images.
Nichols has been featured in Paris Match, 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.
Nichols is the co-executive director and founder of the annual LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now in its sixth season, this three-day celebration of peace, love, and photography includes on-stage interviews, gallery exhibits, multimedia projections, and workshops from both established and emerging photographers, as well as an interactive exhibit encouraging all festival attendees to share their photographs.