Jim Richardson, a Kansas native, is a freelance photographer who travels the world capturing the beauty and importance of the commonplace that he first noticed as a Kansas youth.
Since 1985, Richardson has worked primarily for the National Geographic Society. As a freelancer on contract, he has worked regularly for more than 20 years for the Society's National Geographic magazine and is a contributing editor for the National Geographic Traveler magazine. For both publications, he has researched and photographed stories that have taken him from the tops of active volcanoes to below the surface of boggy wetlands.
In his coverage, Richardson tries to combine photography's art with journalism's attempt to convey information. He particularly enjoys focusing on the lives of people who shape or are affected by a particular place.
"People and the ebb and flow of their daily activities say a lot about a place," he said. "I try to speak a common visual language about cultures, natural resources and landscapes."
Richardson started experimenting with his father's box camera on his parents' farmstead in north central Kansas. He developed his photography skills while working for Student Publications at Kansas State University in the late 1960s. He worked at the Topeka Capital-Journal from 1970 to 1981.
After a stint in Colorado at The Denver Post as a special assignment photographer roving the West from 1981 to 1984, Richardson began working regularly for National Geographic Society.
His documentary photographs of Kansas people and places were featured by Charles Kuralt on CBS News Sunday Morning; twice received a Special Recognition Award for World Understanding from Nikon; and traveled the world in Richardson's audio-visual show, "Reflections from a Wide Spot in the Road." The show received many international awards.
In 1979, Richardson published his first book, "High School USA," a three-year study of adolescence in Rossville High School. Excerpted in LIFE Magazine, the book is now considered a photo essay classic.
Richardson has six other book titles to his credit. He also has been involved in the Day in the Life series of books that gathers some of the world's best photographers to document a place for 24 hours. He has photographed people in small towns from China and the former Soviet Union to Italy and Ireland.
Richardson has worked with professional and nonprofessional audiences nationwide, including at the International Center for Photography in New York, Center for Concerned Photography in Arizona, and the Missouri Workshop and Flying Short Course sponsored by the University of Missouri at Columbia. He has lectured in the National Geographic Society's "Masters of Photography" series four times and offered intensive travel photography seminars for The Maine Photographic Workshops.
In 2001, the ABC News' program Nightline followed Richardson through work in the field and at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., on one particular National Geographic piece on the Columbia River. The program, "Yellow Journalism: The Making of a National Geographic Story," represented the first time the Society has allowed an outside journalist to document its behind-the scenes editorial process.