Michael Nichols


© Michael Nichols

Some see him as the Indiana Jones of photography. Some nickname him “Nick Danger”. To others, he is the man who made wildlife photography what it is today. To many, he is simply the best photographer in his field. Having announced his retirement at the age of 66, Michael “Nick” Nichols is without exaggeration a photojournalism icon. Before joining National Geographic and producing his 25 reports for the magazine, he took his first steps in photography with the Magnum agency. A single objective has stuck with him from the very start of his career: to capture the wildest landscapes on our planet, and the creatures that call them home. Working in full immersion, he would spend months getting up-close and personal with the animals, their families, their behaviour and habitats. 

From his collaborative project with famous anthropologist Jane Goodall to his east-to-west African crossing with ecologist Mike Fay, Nick Nichols’ work has always been carried out in the name of protecting our planet’s wildlife. An incredibly rich body of work, somewhere between photography, journalism, science and technology. How do you manage to get so close to the animals? is the question Nick Nichols is most often asked by members of the public. It’s simple. Sometimes, I’m not even there at all, he laughs. And true enough, in this non-exhaustive retrospective sectioned into four over-arching chapters dedicated to one of the La Gacilly photo festival’s most faithful friends, many of the images were taken by camera-trap. These perfectly harmless systems give the photographer total geographic freedom. I had to teach my camera to do my thinking for me and without me, things like how to adapt to changes in light… 

From his work on the lions of the Serengeti and the chimpanzee report he collaborated on with Jane Goodall (immortalised in an absolutely iconic photograph) to his study of Sita and Charger the Indian tigers, this exhibition showcases a small section of Nick Nichols’ incredible journey, a career that has more in common with an adventure novel than anything else. Meticulous camera work lies at the heart of some of the most beautiful (and sometimes astonishing) photographs in this exhibition that shows our planet and its wildlife at their most natural, free from artifice, raw, dangerous, fascinating and so fundamentally untameable.

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