Legendary nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen has traveled throughout the natural world for nearly 40 years observing and photographing the Earth’s last great wild places. A Nebraska native, Mangelsen’s love of nature, his life outdoors and business success were heavily influenced by his father. An avid sportsman, Harold Mangelsen took his sons to favorite blinds along the Platte River in Nebraska to observe the great flocks of ducks, geese and cranes that migrate through the valley. From these adventures, Mangelsen learned important lessons for photographing in the field, most notably patience and understanding animal behavior.
In 1965, Mangelsen began studying business at the University of Nebraska. In 1967, Tom transferred to Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, where he changed his major and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Tom continued postgraduate study in zoology and wildlife biology at the University of Nebraska and Colorado State University.
In 1970 Mangelsen moved to Nederland, Colorado. He spent two years living in the Rocky Mountains in an old mining shack without electricity or running water with his English setter, black lab and raccoon. Tom continued to work on his photography and studied arctic alpine ecology at the University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station near Nederland. There he met Bert Kempers, a CU film producer, who later hired Tom as cinematographer and film editor for his company Westwind Productions, making educational and nature documentaries. Tom longed to make a documentary about the Platte River and its great wildlife resource. He returned to the Platte each spring to film the great crane migration. These experiences led to Tom traveling to the cranes’ nesting grounds in Alaska and their wintering areas in Texas. National Geographic television wanted to produce a documentary, which would chronicle the plight of the endangered whooping crane and the efforts to bring them back from the brink of extinction. After learning that Tom had been photographing sandhill and whooping cranes for more than ten years, they hired him as cinematographer and associate producer for the television special Flight of the Whooping Crane, which was nominated for an Emmy award. Mangelsen also photographed and produced the PBS NATURE and BBC Natural World film, Cranes of the Grey Wind, a documentary on the life cycle of the sandhill crane.
Initially Mangelsen was fascinated with photographing birds in flight. In the early 1970s, Tom and his brother David began selling limited edition prints of his images. In 1978, Mangelsen opened his first Images of Nature® gallery in Jackson, Wyoming. Since then a number of Mangelsen®—Images of Nature Galleries have opened across the United States.
One of the most prolific nature photographers of our time, Mangelsen is as much an artist as he is a conservationist. Tom was named the 2011 Conservation Photographer of the Year by Nature’s Best Photography, placing his work in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He was named one of the 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers by Outdoor Photography. His image Polar Dance was selected by the International League of Conservation Photographers as one of the 40 Most Important Nature Photographs of All Time. He was chosen as one of Dr. Jane Goodall’s Heroes of the Animal Planet and profiled in the television series of the same name. Mangelsen was named one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photo magazine and honored with Nikon’s Legend Behind the Lens recognition. The North American Nature Photography Association named him Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year, and Mangelsen also received the prestigious British Broadcasting Corporation’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. He was presented with an honorary doctorate from Doane College and received an Honorary Fellowship from The Royal Photographic Society.
Mangelsen’s photographs have been exhibited internationally. Showcased in Vital Signs: Images of Biodiversity, this exhibit was a combination of Mangelsen’s art and knowledge of natural history, and stressed the importance of maintaining a balanced and diverse ecosystem. Vital Signs opened at the San Diego Natural History Museum in 1997 and was also exhibited in museums throughout the United States and Canada. Tom’s photography has been shown at the Natural History Museum in London, the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska and in a major exhibit at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming.
Tom has produced three fine art books; his first book, Images of Nature: The Photographs of Thomas D. Mangelsen, written by noted biologist Charles Craighead, was published in 1989 and contains more than 200 photographs that document the natural history of North America. Polar Dance: Born of the North Wind, published in 1997, was produced after photographing polar bears on the wild, western shores of Hudson Bay for ten years. Written by preeminent Canadian author Fred Bruemmer, this poetic story tracks a mother polar bear with her two cubs and a lone male through the seasons of a year. In 2007, Tom released his third fine art book, The Natural World, with a foreword by Jane Goodall. This book of panoramic images was the recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Coffee Table/Large Format Book in 2008 by the PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association. Spirit of the Rockies: The Mountain Lions of Jackson Hole, published in 2000, is the first photographic documentary of wild cougars. Author Cara Blessley Lowe gives a rare inside look at these secretive animals as human development encroaches into their habitat.
Mangelsen’s work has been published in National Geographic, GEO, Le Figaro Magazine, BBC Wildlife, Life, Audubon, National Wildlife, Smithsonian, Natural History, Newsweek, Wildlife Art, American Photo, Nature’s Best Photography and many other publications. Tom has also been profiled on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN’s World News, CBS News, and ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. In addition, Mangelsen is co-founder of The Cougar Fund, a founding Fellow of The International League of Conservation Photographers, on the international advisory council for the Jane Goodall Institute and a board ambassador for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.