Michael Nichols on Never Looking Back

“As soon as I was with those animals, I realized I was home in a way, and I knew I could be a voice for things that can’t talk.” —Michael Nichols

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An elephant charges in response to the photographer’s scent. Dzanga Bai, Central African Republic, 1993.

Michael “Nick” Nichols credits an “obsessive personality” for his years of dedication to photography. He began his career after being drafted into the Vietnam War. “In that space I discovered photography and I kept growing at it,” he said. It was there he started exploring caves and experimenting with gear “to escape the regimentation” of the military.

Nichols is still pushing boundaries to look at stories from unique angles. In “Redwoods: The Super Trees,” Nichols and his team developed a rigging and stitching technique to create a composite of a 300-foot-tall tree.

For his latest project photographing lions in the Serengeti, Nichols used remote controlled helicopters and a camera robot to capture never-before-seen views of his subjects.

He has photographed nearly 30 stories during his time with National Geographic and considers the ultimate success of his photographs to be their influence in creating national parks to protect land for animals. —Caitlin Kleiboer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This video portrait was produced by National Geographic magazine in partnership with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It is part of an ongoing series of conversations with the photographers of the magazine, exploring the power of photography and why this life of imagemaking suits them so well. Learn more about the making of the series and watch the full trailer here.

View more of Michael “Nick” Nichols’ work on his website.

Video Production Credits
Photographer: Michael Nichols
Producers: Pamela Chen, NGM
Chad A. Stevens, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Associate Producer: Elyse Lipman, NGM
Editor: Caitlin Kleiboer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Camera and Sound: Spencer Millsap, NGM, Shannon Sanders, NGM