Retrospective of National Geographic Photographer’s Groundbreaking Work, ‘Wild: Michael Nichols,’ Opens at National Geographic Museum Oct. 12: Features extraordinary images of wildlife and wild places through the eyes of legendary photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols

Photography has been an indispensable tool in National Geographic’s nearly 130-year history of advancing global understanding and inspiring solutions for the greater good. A new exhibition, “Wild: Michael Nichols,” opening at the National Geographic Museum on Oct. 12, exemplifies the profound impact of visual storytelling, with stunning images of wildlife and wild places through the eyes of legendary National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols. Organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibition will be on display at the National Geographic Museum through Jan. 15, 2018.

Visitors will travel to the more remote reaches of the globe through Nichols’ stunning, evocative, and technically innovative photos of our natural world. “Wild: Michael Nichols” is the first major exhibition of Nichols’ work, showcasing his more than 25-year career with National Geographic as one of the world’s leading photographers. Keenly interested in the conservation of wildlife habitat, Nichols has collaborated with scientists on groundbreaking projects about great apes, elephants, and big cats, as well as the landscapes of Africa’s Congo Basin and the American West. Nichols has spent more than half of his life photographing African animals and has produced more than 25 stories for National Geographic magazine, including “Orphans No More,” the final chapter of his 20 years documenting the emotions and intelligence of elephants.

In this in-depth survey, Nichols’ photographs reveal the enduring importance of the wild—those parts of our world that remain untouched by humankind. An NGS-produced video provides a brief biography of Nichols’ life and career, highlighting several of his most memorable assignments and taking the visitor into the field with this intrepid explorer.

Nichols has always approached the photographing of his subjects with great imagination, using innovative camera trap work and other technology in service of his goal: to photograph the wild without disturbing it, a strategy he calls “not being there.” However he captures his subjects, Nichols insists on being transparent about his methods so that viewers may understand the process.

“Wild” is organized around two themes that have preoccupied Nichols throughout his career and that form the titles for two of his book projects, “Brutal Kinship” (1999) and “The Last Place on Earth” (2005). In “Brutal Kinship,” Nichols and primatologist and National Geographic Explorer Jane Goodall explore the relationship between humans and chimpanzees documenting chimps in captivity, in sanctuaries, and in the wild. The book argues that our complex dealings with chimps offer a framework for understanding our interactions with wild animals and places. In “The Last Place on Earth,” Nichols documented scientist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay’s trek across the Congo Basin—the largest untouched area on the planet—recording its rich biodiversity. An image of surfing hippos in Gabon from “The Last Place on Earth” was included in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential Images of All Time” and is among the photographs on view in the exhibition.

Prior to opening at the National Geographic Museum, “Wild” was on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it was curated by Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Melissa Harris, author and independent curator. The presentation in Philadelphia included Nichols’s photographs presented along with paintings, sculpture, and other media selected from the museum’s collection to demonstrate the enduring importance of the wild.

The National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., is open every day (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Press Preview:

A press preview of “Wild: Michael Nichols” will be held on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Nichols will give remarks and offer a tour of the exhibition. To RSVP, please contact Farley Fitzgerald at or Lexie de los Santos at

Public Events:

Nichols will give a behind-the-scenes look at his work during a talk on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. and the exhibition will remain open until 7:15 p.m. on this date. Tickets are $25. For more information, please see here. In a special Student Matinee, students in grades 5-8 will learn about the fascinating ways Nichols uses his camera to create unforgettable and engaging images, and why we should all care about the wildlife and wild places he photographs. For more information on National Geographic’s student matinees, please see here.

Media Note: 

Images and usage requirements are available here.

About Michael Nichols

Michael “Nick” Nichols is an award-winning photographer who has consistently broken new ground in photography, using innovative techniques that show us the world and capture our imagination in new and exciting ways. Dubbed “The Indiana Jones of Photography” by France’s Photo magazine, Nick has been featured in Rolling Stone, Life, Aperture, American Photographer, and many other magazines. Nick was a staff photographer for National Geographic magazine from 1996 to 2007, served as the magazine’s editor at large from 2007 to 2014, and was its editor at large for photography from 2014 to 2015. He’s published several books full of his memorable photographs, including “Last Place on Earth,” “Brutal Kinship,” and “Earth to Sky;” a visual biography of his life and work, “A Wild Life” by Melissa Harris, was released in June 2017.

Museum and Events

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