MEET TOM TILL
"I have won life's lottery with my work. I am constantly inspired and filled with great joy as I experience and photograph the infinite beauty of the landscapes of the Earth."
Tom Till is one of America’s foremost landscape photographers. In his nearly forty-year career he has authored more than 30 books, published hundreds of thousands of images and had prints displayed in every corner of America and the globe. Outdoor Photographer Magazine has called him one of the “Lords of Landscape Photography,” and described him as “legendary.”
Till’s work has been used in many environmental campaigns in Utah, the Southwest, and nationally, including the successful fights to keep nuclear waste out of Canyonlands National Park, the designation of Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, and the removal of a hazardous uranium tailings pond outside of his home of Moab.
An ardent traveler, Till has photographed in all fifty U.S. states and in 114 countries across the globe. An exhibit of his images of UNESCO World Heritage Sites sponsored by UNESCO and the United States State Department traveled the globe for many years. Till has said, “I have won life’s lottery with my work. I am constantly inspired and filled with great joy as I experience and photograph the infinite beauty of the landscapes of the Earth.” One of his most recent books, Photographing the World was the winner of a 2013 Ben Franklin Award. Till has also been honored with a Fellow award from the North American Nature Photography Association, and inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll hall of fame. In 2013 Till was honored with the Utah Governor’s Mansion Art Award. Till lives in Moab, Utah.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM TOM’S CAREER
1976 Tom meets the great nature photographer, Glen Van Nimwegen, in a USU Moab photography class. Later, Van Nimwegen shows Tom some of his 4×5 transparencies (4”x5” slide film) and Tom is instantly hooked. He thinks at the time, “This is what I want to do with my life, and nothing will stop me.”
- 1977 – Tom starts to use a 4×5 camera and founds Tom Till Photography.
- 1978 – Tom begins to travel around the Colorado Plateau searching for images, and is the only serious outdoor photographer living in Moab. This would be the case until the 1990’s.
- 1979 – Besides backpacking and hiking, Till runs numerous private river trips to obtain images of wild country
- 1980 – Tom’s first published image of the Chocolate Drops in Canyonlands National Park appears in the Utah Travel Council Calendar—images then appeared in every subsequent calendar until 2015.
- 1981 – Images begin to appear regularly in Arizona Highways and in every copy of the Edward Abbey Western Wilderness Calendar. Also, Till holds first ever photo workshops in Arches, Canyonlands and surrounding areas. These continue for years with CNHA as sponsor.
- 1982 – Images begin to appear regularly in the Denver Post Sunday magazine, Empire. Till is hired for his first books on Grand Canyon National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
- 1983 – Tom travels outside the West to shoot in the Midwest, California, the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachians and East Coast.
- 1984 – A profile on Tom appears in the last issue of Desert Magazine. While wide-ranging travels continue nationwide, clients and image files grow, Till is one of the first photographers to shoot in the Antelope Slot Canyons of Arizona, and discovers the sun rays in the canyons when shooting in a windstorm. The image is published in Arizona Highways—the first of its kind.
- 1985 – Till contributes images to help stop the consideration of a site near Canyonlands National Park as a nuclear waste dump, and begins work on first of many books published by Westcliffe Publishers: Colorado From Above. With friend Ken Sleight, Till speaks to an overflow crowd at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the event is repeated later in a large theatre. On a private Grand Canyon river trip Till captures one of his best-known images of the time, a double rainbow over the Inner Grand Canyon.
- 1986 – Till conceives and then collaborates with Terry Tempest Williams, Karla Vanderzanden, and Bruce Hucko on “The Canyon’s Edge” a multimedia production which runs for many years in the Eddie McStiffs Plaza area in Moab. Tom leaves teaching and spends up to 300 days a year in the field. Till is the first person to take a 4×5 camera into the Subway in Zion National Park, and one of the first to shoot The Wave. He also finds and shoots the first color images of False Kiva Ruin. Never dreaming that anyone could find its location, a poster is published with the photo and the words Canyonlands National Park are added without his knowledge. The image becomes legendary and much to Till’s chagrin people are able to find it.
- 1987 – Till begins work on his fourth book, Outcroppings, a collaboration with the famous writer John McPhee, and is hired to do his first Utah book, Utah: Magnificent Wilderness with foreword by the great Wallace Stegner. A large portfolio of Till’s work appears in Arizona Highways with text by Wallace’s son, Page. Another 300 day-in-the field year.
- 1988 – Tom, recently married and with children on the way, begins to think his dream is coming true. Book projects, burgeoning stock sales, and constant traveling are the norm. Till also becomes a husband and father. Some other highlights are the summer workshops with the entire field of Westcliffe photographers in Colorado, and the first use of llamas to carry gear into wilderness.
- 1989 – The Till family takes its maiden trip to shoot overseas in New Zealand. This would be the beginning of shooting in all fifty states and almost 120 overseas countries. Check out latest ventures for taking photos of 301 landscapes.For the next 20 years, Till is at work on over 30 books with numerous publishers.
- 1990 – Till travels to Australia for the first time. By 2007 he had visited the continent 14 times.
- 1991 – Till makes his first trip to Ireland. His images would be published in a calendar picked up by the Book of the Month Club, selling hundreds of thousands of copies.
- 1992 – Till’s image of a New Jersey scene is featured on the Johnny Carson show in a bit about funny calendars. Johnny showed the Wild and Scenic New Jersey Calendar with Tom’s image as the cover. The crowd went wild.
- 1993 – The Till family spends the entire summer in the camper shooting 30 states.
- 1994 – Till travels to Alaska for the first time to shoot for the book Visions of the North.
- 1995 – Till creates the calendar “Magic Places” and spends part of each year shooting archeological treasures worldwide including the Pyramids, Easter Island, Stonehenge, and Machu Picchu.
- 1996 – One of many articles about or written by Till appear in Outdoor Photographer Magazine.
- 1997 – Work begins on remodeling a downtown store for the Tom Till Gallery. Tom testifies before Congress along with Theodore Roosevelt III in favor of the designation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
- 1998 – In March, the Tom Till Gallery opens with about 30 large images printed on Ilfochrome by master printer Richard Jackson. For years, these amazing prints would be the main product sold by the Gallery, and it is an immediate success.
- 1999 – With Till’s family almost grown he begins flying to locations worldwide to shoot stock images. His bestselling image of all time is remarkably, an image of the New York City skyline which sold over 50,000 times worldwide. After 9-11 it never sells again. This year Till begins his long relationship with the U.S. State Department by opening a show of his work in the country of Oman. While in Oman, Till learns that the first of the four U.S. postage stamps using his images is published. Taken from a transparency (slide) the image is printed backwards. During his film career Till had over 500 images printed backwards by publishers, but this one caused the most ruckus. Till explains to stamp geeks (he was one as an adolescent) that he was not given a proof or informed of the stamp being published, but he still gets criticized by some.
- 2000 – The Tom Till Gallery is rapidly becoming a fixture in downtown Moab, Utah. Though still working on books for other publishers, Till creates Fable Valley Publishers to publish his own books. To the present time, Fable Valley has sold almost 100,000 books. At the same time his book Utah: Then and Now, a rephotography book of Utah landscapes is a best seller and draws large crowds at signings and lectures. A mint copy of the book goes for hundreds of dollars on Amazon now. Till partners in a Park City Gallery that lasts for most of the decade.
- 2001 – Till realizes a dream when the main publisher of his hero David Muench, Graphic Arts Center, publishes his book on Ghost Towns, a favorite subject.
- 2002 – Till is robbed for the first and only time in his travels in Nice, France. The thieves get away with only his passport. Years later the passport holder is returned to him and he still uses it.
2003 – A record number of Till books appear this year including four Utah tomes, two New Mexico books, and the coffee table monstrosity Seasons in the Rockies. Also, around this time, Till was asked to do aerial photographs of the Moab uranium tailings area to show the danger of the tailing to the general public, but especially Congress. Till was told later that his images were integral in obtaining funding for the project, which is still cleaning up the mess and pumping billions into the Moab economy. Till considers these images to be some of the most important he has ever shot. You can see one on the UMTRA website.
- 2004 – For the third time, Till pulls off the nature calendar trifecta with images in Sierra Club, Audubon, and Self-Realization calendars.
- 2005 – Stock sales through a company selling images on literally everything, reach huge levels. They helped push Tom’s career stock photo sales over the 350,000 image mark, where the counting stopped, Who knew this era was almost over.
- 2006 – With both children out of the house Till travels to a half dozen or more overseas countries every year. Till is probably the only person to ever carry 4×5 camera (shoots 4×5 inch film) to over 90 countries. The large images were huge stock sellers, and with two kids in college, they needed to be. Till was named a Fellow of the North American Nature Photography Association, and inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Also this year, Till wrote his first book, Success with Landscape Photography. Though somewhat dated now, the book is still popular and can be found for sale at the gallery.
- 2007 – This year was the beginning of the end of the stock photography business, and Till had to adapt. Like many other photographers he returned to doing workshops and speaking at photo festivals.
- 2008 – Introducing metal prints at the Tom Till Gallery saved that business, and these amazing prints continue to be favorites to the present day. Till visits Geneva where an exhibit of his UNESCO World Heritage Sites begins a world tour. He also visits the tour in Asia and elsewhere in Europe.
- 2009 – Till switched to 35mm digital and immediately fell in love with the medium.
- 2010 – Visiting his last continent, Till was finishing work on his book Photographing the World, still in print, and giving hints on photographing Scapes in 201 countries worldwide. The television show Lost, which was Till’s favorite of all time, ended its six year run.
- 2011 – Teaming up with local photographer Jon Fuller, and his company Moab Photo Tours, Till does workshops again in the Southwest and Costa Rica.
- 2012 – Till gets to meet his favorite musician of all time, Brian Wilson, during the Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour in Las Vegas. He would have the pleasure several more times over the coming years,
- 2013 – For the first time, the great David Muench gave a day long speech in Salt Lake City and in the state of where many of his iconic books were shot. Till was honored to introduce Muench and called him “An American Treasure.” Till got to meet his three great heroes: Muench, Eliot Porter, and Philip Hyde over the years. He feels meeting your idols is a huge blessing and a highlight of his career. Till receives the Utah Governor’s art award.
- 2015 – Till begins serious aerial drone photography.
- 2016 – Dan Norris and Tom establish Tom Till Tours with instant success.
- 2017 – A highlight of this year besides his marriage, was the Great American Eclipse, which he did not photograph. Till also celebrates 40 years of Tom Till Photography, and the 20th season of the Tom Till Gallery.
- 2018 – In March, the Tom Till Gallery celebrates 20 years on Moab Main Street