About Randy Olson

Randy Olson is a photographer in the documentary tradition. He often works with his wife, Melissa Farlow and their work has taken them to 50 countries over the past 20 years. Even though they are published in LIFE, GEO, Smithsonian and other magazines, they have primarily worked on projects for the National Geographic Society. They normally work individually, but have co-produced National Geographic magazine stories on northern California, American national parks, and the Alps. They photographed the southern United States for a book by Collins Publishing and have collaborated on over 70 books by various publishers.

Randy’s 30+ National Geographic projects have taken him to almost every continent. National Geographic Society published a book of his work in 2011 in their Masters of Photography series. Olson was the Magazine Photographer of the Year in the 2003 Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition, and was also awarded POYi’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1991—one of only two photographers to win in both media in the largest photojournalism contest operating continuously since World War II.

In 2011, Randy founded The Photo Society (thephotosociety.org) that is open to any photographer who has produced a full-length story for National Geographic magazine. The purpose of the organization is to find economic opportunities and provide exposure to members as the economics of print dwindles. The National Geographic photographers elected Randy to represent them on the Photographer’s Advisory Board (PAB) for National Geographic and The Photo Society grew from Randy’s work on the PAB and his realization that the management at the National Geographic Society didn’t really understand the hazards their photographers endured.

While working as a newspaper photographer at The Pittsburgh Press, Olson received an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship in 1995 to support a seven-year project documenting a family with AIDS, and a first place Robert F. Kennedy Award for his story on problems with Section 8 housing in 1991. He was also awarded the Nikon Sabbatical grant and a grant from the National Archives to save the Pictures of the Year collection.

Feature Length Publications (Solo):

2013 —Suriname Bio Blitz, National Geographic magazine

2012 —Easter Island, National Geographic magazine, July

2011 — Seven Billion, National Geographic magazine, January

2010 — Africa’s Last Frontier: Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, National Geographic, March

2009 — Camel Pageant: Isn’t She Lovely? National Geographic magazine, August

2009 — Kamchatka: Where the Salmon Rule, National Geographic magazine, August

2009 — Price of Gold, National Geographic magazine, January

2008 — Gilded Age, Gilded Cage, China’s Bling Dynasty, National Geographic, May

2007 — Global Fish Crisis: Still Waters, National Geographic magazine, April

2006 — Heartbreak on the Serengeti, National Geographic magazine, February

2005 — Ituri Pygmies: Who Rules the Forest? National Geographic, September

2005 — Conversations with Apes, Bonobos, National Geographic KIDS magazine, April

2004 — Wet Down Under, Australia’s Monsoonal North National Geographic, November

2004 — Whitesburg, Kentucky, National Geographic magazine, May

2003 — Beyond the Looting: What’s Next for Iraq’s Treasures? National Geographic magazine, October

2003 — Shattered Sudan: Drilling for Oil, Hoping for Peace, National Geographic magazine, February

2003 — 11 Days of Sudan, Global Journalist, July

2002 — Crucible of the Gods, National Geographic magazine, September

2002 — Catfish Hunters, National Geographic magazine, May

2001 — Deep Black Sea, National Geographic magazine, May

2001 — Hibernia Oil Fields, National Geographic magazine, assigned and unpublished

2001 — Treasured Islands of Palmyra: Nature’s Stronghold in the Pacific, National Geographic magazine, March

2000 — Remote Russia: Expeditions to Putorana Plateau, National Geographic magazine, November

2000 — Samoan Way, National Geographic magazine, July

2000 — Indus Civilization: Clues to an Ancient Puzzle, National Geographic, June

2000 — Thailand, National Geographic Adventure magazine

2000 — Smokies, National Geographic Adventure magazine

1999 — The Lucky One, Mother Jones magazine, June

1998 — Ozarks Harmony, National Geographic magazine, April

1997 — County Fairs, National Geographic magazine, October

1997 — Amish, Bucks County, GEO magazine

1997 — Silent Company, A Family with AIDS, LIFE magazine

1996 — Abandoned at Birth, People magazine

1995 — Earth Day: 25 Years, National Geographic magazine, April

1995 — Window on the Past, Iowa’s Amana Colonies, National Geographic Traveler, July/August

1994 — Ste. Genevieve Missouri, National Geographic Traveler, September/October

Feature Length Publications (with Melissa Farlow)

2006 — Meltdown: The Alps Under Pressure, National Geographic magazine, February

1994 — Our National Parks: Legacy at Risk, National Geographic magazine, October

1993 — Northern California, National Geographic magazine, July

Single Photograph Publications

There were over 8000 instances of photographs used in publications since 2001 (when my main agency started computer records). I can make the spreadsheet available, but I am not going to list them here.

Grants and Awards

I stopped entering contests in 2005 when I became a member of the advisory board for Pictures of the Year International. Any award past 2005 is a result of someone else entering a contest for me.

2011 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Series or Special Section, 1st Place, National Geographic, “POPULATION 7 BILLION”

2010 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL FEATURE STORY – MAGAZINE, Award of Excellence, National Geographic Magazine — AFRICA’S LAST FRONTIER

2009 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE/NATURAL HISTORY PICTURE STORY, Award of Excellence, National Geographic Magazine — “KAMCHATKA SALMON”

2009 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL NEWS STORY – MAGAZINE EDITING, Second Place, National Geographic Magazine — “THE PRICE OF GOLD”

2009 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL ISSUE REPORTING STORY – MAGAZINE EDITING, Award of Excellence, National Geographic Magazine — “WHERE SALMON RULE”

2007 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL FEATURE PICTURE STORY, Award of Excellence, National Geographic — “China’s Middle Class”

2005 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Picture Editing Portfolio, First Place, National Geographic Magazine (Named in Award to Picture Editor Kathy Moran)

2003 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Multiple Page Editing News Story, Second Place, National Geographic Magazine, “Shattered Sudan”

2002 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Photographer of the Year, First Place, Randy Olson, National Geographic Society

2002 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Division / General Reporting, Award of Excellence, National Geographic Society, “Cane Worker”

2002 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Division / Feature Picture Story, First Place, National Geographic Society, “Keepers of the Golden Fleece”

2002 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Division / Feature Picture Story, Award of Excellence, National Geographic Society, “Yayla Migration”

2002 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Division / News Picture Story, Third Place, National Geographic Society, “Sudan’s Civil War”

2001 — Communication Arts, Magazine Division / Editorial, National Geographic magazine, “Indus Civilization”

2001 — Communication Arts, Magazine Division / Editorial, National Geographic magazine, “The Samoan Way”

2000 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Photographer of the Year, second place, National Geographic Magazine

2000 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Science/Natural History, third place, National Geographic Magazine, “Palmyra Atoll”

2000 — Eisie Award, LIFE magazine, The Lucky One, Mother Jones magazine

2000 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Portrait/Personality, first place, National Geographic Magazine, “Ariadna”

2000 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Portrait/Personality, Award of Excellence, National Geographic Magazine, “Bird Hunter”

1998 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Photographer of the Year, third place, National Geographic

1998 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Portrait personality, first place, National Geographic, “Jack Waits for his Uncle”

1998 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Pictorial, Award of Excellence, National Geographic, “Mail Stop”

1998 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Issue Reporting Picture Story, second place, National Geographic, “Ozark Epicenter”

1997 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Sports Feature, Award of Excellence, “Amish Harness Racing”

1997 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Pictorial, third place, National Geographic, “Talent Show”

1997 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Feature Picture Story, first place, National Geographic, “County Fairs”

1996 — Nikon Sabbatical Grant, Managing AIDS in the 1990s: A Family Struggle

1995 — Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, Managing AIDS in the 1990s: A Family Struggle

1992 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Newspaper Photographer of the Year, First Place, Randy Olson, The Pittsburgh Press

1992 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Newspaper Feature Picture Story, Award of Excellence, Randy Olson, The Pittsburgh Press

1992 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Portrait Personality, Award of Excellence, Randy Olson, The Pittsburgh Press

1992 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Feature, Award of Excellence, Randy Olson, The Pittsburgh Press

1991 — Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, First Place, Photojournalism

1991 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Portrait Personality, Award of Excellence, Randy Olson, The Pittsburgh Press

1988 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Magazine Picture Story, third place, The Pittsburgh Press, “Truancy”

1985 — National Archives Grant to preserve the Pictures of the Year International print, and slide collection at the University of Missouri.

1983 — PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL Feature, first place, San Jose Mercury News, “Eight is Enough”

Books (Solo)

2011 — Masters of Photography, I Grandi Fotofrafi-Randy Olson, National Geographic Italy, January 2011

1997 — County Fairs, National Geographic Books Division

1995 — The South: The Beautiful Cookbook, Collins Publishers

Books – Selected (Group)

2012 —50 Greatest Pictures, National Geographic Special Edition

2011 — Searching for Treasure, National Geographic Special Edition

2012 —Cats and Dogs Special Issue: National Geographic Society

2011 —Visions of Paradise, Elizabeth Krist, National Geographic Books Division

2011 — The Photographers, Cathy Newman, National Geographic Books Division. The book highlights the last five years of photography on assignment for NGM.  Cathy interviews 15 different photographers, which accompanies a portfolio of the photographer’s work.  The featured interview about Randy Olson is about 800 words long and includes information on his style of photography, and what it’s like to work on assignment for NGM.

2011 — Human Geography, by Erin Fouberg, Alec Murphy, and Harm deBlij, Wiley and Sons, 2011

2011 — Visions of Earth: Beauty, Majesty, Wonder, National Geographic Books Division

2011 —Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places (National Geographic Collectors Series), Ferdinand Protzman, National Geographic Books Division

2010 — Simply Beautiful Photographs, Annie Griffiths Belt, National Geographic Books

2010 —50 Greatest Photos, National Geographic Books Division

2010 —Complete Photography, Scott S. Stuckey, September 20, 2011, National Geographic Books Division

2010 —National Geographic Image Collection, Maura Mulvihill, National Geographic Books Division

2010 —In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits, Leah Bendavid-Val, National Geographic Books Division

2010 —National Geographic 125 Years: Legendary Photographs, Adventures, and Discoveries That Changed the World, Mark Collins Jenkins, National Geographic Books

2010 — Earth Pulse, State of the Earth 2010, Chris Johns, National Geographic Books

2009 — Through the Lens: National Geographic Greatest Photographs, Leah Bendavid-Val, National Geographic Books Division

2009 — Live, Laugh, Celebrate, Ferdinand Protzman, National Geographic Books

2008 — Book of Peoples of the World: A Guide to Cultures, Wade Davis, National Geographic Books Division

2008 — Love, Ferdinand Protzman, National Geographic Books Division

2006 — Guide to Digital Photography, Chris Johns, National Geographic Books Division

2004 — 100 Best Pictures, Unpublished, Bill Allen, National Geographic Books Division

2004 — Pictures of the Year, Chris Johns, National Geographic Books Division

2003 — Swimsuits, 100 Years of Pictures, Sarah Leen, National Geographic Books

2003 — Families, Leah Bendavid-Val, National Geographic Books Division

2003 — National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures, Bob Caputo, National Geographic Books

2001 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

2000 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

1998 —One Digital Day, Against All Odds, Rick Smolan

1998 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

1996 — 24 Hours in Cyberspace, Times Books/Random House

1995 — National Geographic’s Last Wild Places, William R. Gray, National Geographic

1995 — National Parks of North America, William R. Gray, National Geographic Books

1995 —Over America, Weldon Owen, Andrei Codrescu, also a PBS series

1994 —Passage to Vietnam, Against All Odds, Rick Smolan

1994 —Descubriendo Ecuador, Pablo Corral Vega, Loup Langton

1993 —Odd Jobs, Library of the Curious and Unusual, Time-LIFE Books

1992 —A Day in the Life of Hollywood, Collins Publishers San Francisco

1992 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

1991 —Our Fifty States, National Geographic Picture Atlas

1991 —The Circle of Life, Rituals from the Human Family Album, Harper San Francisco,

1991 —Baseball in America. Collins Publishers San Francisco

1991 —A Day in the Life of Ireland. Collins Publishers San Francisco

1990 —A Day in the Life of Italy. Collins Publishers San Francisco

1990 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

1990 —The Power to Heal, Ancient Arts and Modern Medicine, RxMedia Group

1989 —The Jews in America. David Cohen, Collins Publishers

1989 —A Day in the Life of China. Collins Publishers San Francisco

1988 —Christmas in America. Collins Publishers San Francisco

1988 —A Day in the Life of California. HarperCollins Publishers

1987 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

1982 — Best of Photojournalism, National Press Photographers

Non-Print Publications – Selected: (Solo)

NPR Picture Show: Easter Island

Terry Gross, Fresh Air, NPR, Interview about the Price of Gold story in National Geographic Magazine.

Non-Print Publications – Selected: (Group)

National Geographic’s Most Incredible Photos, DVD. What really sets these photos apart are the stories behind them. In three full-length programs, National Geographic’s Most Incredible Photos reveals the memorable, behind-the-scenes stories of the best of the best photos from National Geographic magazine.

Ten Best Photos of 2010, National Geographic Television

Ten Best Photos of 2009, National Geographic Television

National Geographic’s Most Amazing Photos, National Geographic Television

2000 — Pictures that Made a Difference, Photo District News, May issue and PDN.com

iPad Apps (Group):

App – National Geographic 50 Best Photographs and the stories behind them. Over the 124-year history of the National Geographic Society, these are the 50 best photographs. Two of my photographs are in this group:

App – Population 7 Billion: How Your World Will Change. I did the overview story for the yearlong series of stories National Geographic magazine ran when the world population hit 7 billion. The main subjects of the overview were urbanization, immigration, poor young countries and rich elderly countries and how those interrelate.

Lectures and Workshops – Selected:

2012 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 64, Faculty

2012 — Annenberg Space for Photography, IRIS Nights Lecture Series, No Strangers exhibit and 4K Motion Installation, Speaker and film profile

2011 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 63, Faculty

2010 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 62, Faculty

2010 — Hallmark Design Symposium Series, University of Kansas, Speaker

2008 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 60, Faculty

2008 — SomosFoto Workshop, Dominican Republic, Faculty

2007 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 59, Faculty

2006 — National Press Club, Speaker, May 19

2006 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 58, Faculty

2005 — Grosvenor Auditorium, National Geographic Society Lecture series, Pygmies: Who Owns the Forest?

2005 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 57, Faculty

2004 — Australian Embassy for Australia Monsoon NGM Story, Speaker

2004 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 56, Faculty

2003 — Flying Short Course, NPPA lectures in Norfolk, Cleveland, Memphis, San Antonio, and San Jose, Faculty

2003 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 55, Faculty

2003 — Grosvenor Auditorium, National Geographic Society Lecture series, Sudan

2002 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 54, Faculty

2001 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 53, Faculty

2000 — Maine Photographic Workshop in Cuba, Faculty

1999 — Anderson Ranch Workshop, Faculty

1998 — Grosvenor Auditorium, Photographer’s Seminar, National Geographic Society, Silent Company, A Family with AIDS, Speaker

1998 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 50, Faculty

1997 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 49, Faculty

1996 — Northern Short Course, NPPA, Faculty

1996 — Eddie Adams Workshop, Faculty

1996 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 48, Faculty

1996 — Canadian Photographers’ Association Edmonton, Faculty

1994 — Flying Short Course, NPPA lectures in Hartford, Detroit, Nashville, Dallas, and Spokane, Faculty

1993 — Missouri Photo Workshop, MPW 45, Faculty

1993 — Aids Symposium, University of North Carolina, Speaker

1991 — Santa Fe Workshop, Houston FotoFest International, Faculty

Exhibitions (Solo):

2011 — Duality, iWitness Gallery, Portland Oregon, February 4 – May 4 (with Melissa Farlow)

2011 — Randy Olson, PhotoWorld Photography Center, Istanbul, Turkey,

2010 — Omo River Valley, Visa pour L’image, Perpignan France, September

2009 — The World at Our Door, Silver Eye Gallery, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, September 23 – January 2, 2010 (with Melissa Farlow)

2007 — Global Fisheries, Visa pour L’image, Perpignan France, September

2004 — Sudan, Carnegie Library and Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

2003 — Sudan, Visa pour L’image, Perpignan France, September

Exhibitions – Selected (Group)

2012 — Christies Auction: THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC COLLECTION: THE ART OF EXPLORATION CELEBRATING THE LEGACY OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, Sale 2603 New York, Rockefeller Center | December 6, 2012

2012 — 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic, which showcases some of National Geographic’s most compelling photographs, September 29, 2012 – January 13, 2013, Fawick Gallery Cleveland Museum of NATURAL HISTORY

2013 — MAGMA exhibit: In Librino, a neighborhood of Catania, Sicily, Fiumara d’Arte has been working for 10 years with various artistic projects (including photography) to put an end to cultural and social confinement. MAGMA, a unique photography museum will be articulated in the shops and commercial centers of Librino: bakeries, gyms, hairdressers, supermarkets, etc, that will all have pictures from world famous photographers exhibited inside the shops. Visitors will be handed a map with all the museum’s locations and will have the possibility to visit the neighborhood and the photography museum passing from one small shopping area to another.

2012 — No Strangers: ancient wisdom in a modern world, November 2012 – January 2013, Annenberg Space for Photography. Photographers featured in the exhibit are Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, Wade Davis, Chris Johns, Lynn Johnson, Steve McCurry, Randy Olson, and Chris Rainier. The exhibit will feature an original short documentary on these photographers shown in vivid detail on two 14’ by 7’ screens in 4K resolution.

2012 — Beyond the Story: National Geographic Unpublished 2011 Grosvenor Hall, February 23, 2012 – August 5, 2012. Selected from images shot on assignment for 29 articles, the photographs in this exhibition offer a glimpse at the richness of what is left behind after editing is complete.

2011 — I Colori del Mondo, Rome Un mondo di colori di Guglielmo Pepe. A major national exhibition of National Geographic Italy. The Palace of Exhibitions in Rome – “Colors of the World” at the Exhibition Palace in Via Nazionale in Rome: 12 February – 1 May 2011

2011 —Through the Lens of National Geographic, Celebrating a Century of Visual Exploration, June 30 through October 22, 2011, Mexican Cultural Institute

2010 — Water: Our Thirsty World The Annenberg Space for Photography presents an exhibit examining the precarious state of the world’s fresh water.  Coinciding with National Geographic’s special issue “Water: Our Thirsty World,” this exhibit features the work of award-winning photographers looking at our most precious resource from environmental, social, political and cultural perspectives, March 27 through June 13, 2010

2010 — Digital to Daguerreotype: Photographs of People. Carnegie Museum of Art, June 8, 2009 through January 31, 2010

2010 — Nuru Project, Leveraging photography for social change in the developing world. Dignity exhibit was initially launched in New York and continued to San Francisco, Chicago, DC, Toronto, London, Dubai, and Karachi. In addition, there is a Dignity photo book.

2009 —Paradise: National Geographic Photographs Smith Farm Center for Healing and the Arts November 7, 2008 through January 2nd, 2009 Where… or what… is heaven on earth? Nine National Geographic contemporary masters answer the question in a new gallery show.

2003 —Norderlicht Photofestival, Global > Detail, Globalization exhibit, curated by Wim Melis

1997 —In a Personal Light: National Geographic Photographers, Museum, National Geographic Society, 17th and M Streets, Washington DC