The Photographers of TPS

The Story

There are a number of specialists — underwater photographers with different skills — one works in very deep water; a couple photograph at all depths and temperatures; one dives in caves, another holds his breath under whales; and then there is a guy who just works in puddles.

Explaining the diversity of this group is the easiest way to answer the question, “How do I become a National Geographic photographer?” I usually answer this question by saying: “It is not easy or glamorous (see Reality Check). And this is not where you begin your career. You are competing with world-class documentary photographers and within that genre there are men and women who are the absolute best at their specialty. There are a number of specialists — underwater photographers with different skills — one works in very deep water; a couple photograph at all depths and temperatures; one dives in caves, another holds his breath under whales; and then there is a guy who just works in puddles. One photographer travels all over the world to strap a big fan on his back to shoot aerials. There is a bug guy, an archeology specialist, and a number of folks that photograph critters. There are climbers, conflict photographers, portrait photographers and landscape specialists.” Then I usually end with how amazed I am that I can survive in this crowd as a generalist… in such esteemed company. – Randy Olson

Why we do it ?

  • Resource Awareness Impacts and Sets Policy

    I hope the stories I’ve done on resources have had some affect . . . I know the story I did on Sudan was used by the USAID and others to set policy. I’ve done resource stories about Oil in Sudan, Salmon in Russia, Suffering from GOLD extraction, Water in the Omo Valley, Timber in Congo, Water in Serengeti, nickel pollution in Siberia, land conservation in the South Pacific, fisheries and population issues worldwide . . .

  • Malaria… Global Impact Beyond the News Stand

    A story I did on malaria not only raised awareness of this often overlooked problem, but it also helped raise funds for numerous NGOs working in the field. A story I did on Global Aid also raised awareness and funds for the plight of children in northern Uganda. A story called Food Crisis helped get the attention of NGOs for the Afari people left languishing in the desert of Ethiopia, and helped bring funds to those NGOs. All these stories have a far-reaching impact beyond just their shelf life on a newsstand or in an iPad. They change policy, raise monumental awareness on such dramatically important issues of our time, and shape the way the next generation thinks about the Earth we live on. There’s no one example. There are countless examples by all of us.

  • Wildlife and Fragile Ecosystem Protected

    My coverage of Orangutans of Gunung Palung National Park has promoted increased conservation funding and efforts there. My Hornbill coverage in Thailand has helped conservationists raise funds and carry out programs. My Fiji reefs coverage helped push Marine Protected Area status there. My Bioko primates coverage is helping conservationists get increased protection for monkeys. My Philippine biodiversity coverage was used to lobby government for more protection. There are many small but significant examples like this in the stories we do.

  • A Businessman Becomes a Conservationist

    I met a young man who told me one of my articles changed the course of his life. He switched from business to become a primate conservationist. This is the kind of impact we can have with our stories. It makes me proud to shoot for National Geographic.

  • An American Woman Helps Educate a Child; Press Laws are Changed

    One of my photos from the Niger Delta of a 14-year-old boy working in a slaughterhouse compelled an American woman to locate him and she now pays for him to go to school. My photos of the Kurds changed press laws in Turkey and were adopted by Kurds around the world to help explain their history and culture.

  • Narwhal Slaughter Reduced; An Oil Pipeline is Prevented

    The Phoenix Islands were turned into the second largest marine protected area in history. We have reduced the slaughter of narwhals; we have showed Antarctic scientists that it is safe to swim with Leopard Seals so they can do their research. Our Spirit Bear story may help prevent the building of an oil pipeline into the Great Bear Rainforest.

  • A U.S. President Creates the Largest Marine Protected Area

    I was told by a member of the Bush administration that the Northwestern Hawaiian Island story helped convince President George W. Bush to create the world’s largest marine protected area.

  • The Army Corp Re-Examines Levee Rebuilding Post Katrina

    I felt like the story we did on New Orleans after Katrina and the levee systems helped push the Army Corp to re-examine their levee rebuilding effort.

  • FBI Agents Request Training in Human Trafficking

    21st Century Slaves received the biggest response in the history of National Geographic. Positive responses from numerous NGOs and praise from the US Department of Justice for the effect it had on awareness of the issue . . . including spurring FBI agents to request training in human trafficking, and prompting monetary contributions to organizations working to stop the problem.

  • Global Reach and Responsibility

    The ability to tell complex geo political and cultural stories with accuracy and depth, and know it’s reaching tens of millions of people around the world is a great responsibility. Also it is important to inspire young people to learn about the world.