William Thompson will look you in the eye and say: "Everything you need to know about using a camera can be learned in a couple of days - F/8 and BE THERE.” He continues, “Fundamentally making images today is the same as it was for Matthew Brady and anyone can do it. The tools haven’t really changed because the primary tool of photography is one’s eyes and one’s intuition, not equipment.” This may be true. But it's hard to believe when you study his work as it seems to transcend all of these words.
Shooting on assignment for National Geographic for over 10 years, Thompson looked for the unblinking truth of his subjects' lives -that gleam of light in the heart of darkness. And he brought it back alive. For example, on one two year assignment he followed the elephants of the world on their tragic path toward extinction--almost becoming extinct himself from cerebral malaria. Thompson has photographed Mt. Everest (the first and only complete aerial imagery); he walked for months across Bhutan exploring its people and geography; he defined the life of Kathmandu; he has lived on the small islands of Alaska documenting this powerful unrelenting wilderness. He has visually explored diverse environments from the jungles of Costa Rica to vast highlands of Mongolia to the interior of the Congo. Thompson invested many months in China trying to unearth visual meaning within one fifth of the world’s population. It is clear that Thompson seems to have more than just ‘making images’ in mind when he points out that travel is inconsequential in and of itself. Finding meaning in that travel is the key - that is having a purpose. It is his point of view that his work must enlighten, create ideas, define passions, allow discovery and hopefully edify.
Thompson brings back a perspective of today’s quite extraordinary, complex and often virulent world. We find in his imagery that fundamental humanness which we all struggle to understand. Perhaps his visual sensitivity is the natural synthesis of a PhD in Anthropology and minor in Painting. He, however says no, it grows from a passion for adventure supported by a commitment to unadulterated visual curiosity. In his view his photographic journey is just one aspect of the struggle to understand that big “existential sandpile of life”. In any event, for the viewer of his imagery Thompson’s work speaks for itself rich, undulating, alive, perceptive and clear.
Today, William Thompson lives with his 18 year old computer "Philosopher King’" son in a log home on the waters of Puget Sound creating brilliant imagery as a commercial filmmaker and photographer for an long list of clients which include, among others, Boeing, American Express, Kodak, Nissan, Wells Fargo, United Airlines, Coca Cola, Mexican Airlines, Quantas, Wrangler, Disney, Marlboro, Intel, Starbucks, etc., etc. He also happens to devote, in his words, “far too much time” to flyfishing....
|West End of the Great
Wall of China in winter
chasing elephants below Mt. Kilimanjaro
|Central African Republic: My Pygmie pals|
|Taking notes on the Motaba River, the Congo|
the hard part
the hard part