Tom Murphy was raised on a 7500 acre cattle ranch in western South Dakota. This experience taught him more than he wanted to know about cattle and convinced him that he didn’t want to chase cows for the rest of his life, but it also provided him with invaluable lessons in animal behavior and a deep love for clean, wide open land.
Tom graduated with honors from Montana State University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Anthropology. He spent many years combining photography with archeological field work, locating, recording, and testing historic and prehistoric sites on the northwest plains.
Tom’s interest in photography began in 1972. In 1978 he established a professional career in photography when he moved to Livingston, Montana and built a studio there. His photographic passion and specialty is Yellowstone National Park. Since 1975 he has traveled extensively within its 3400 square miles, hiking thousands of miles and skiing on hundreds of extended overnight trips in the backcountry. He has skied across the park twice, once on a 14 day solo trip. Two things motivate him to travel carrying a heavy backpack, a desire to see Yellowstone’s wilderness backcountry, and to photograph the behaviors of free roaming wildlife and the colors, shapes, and textures of the land.
Through Wilderness Photography Expeditions, which he established in 1986, Tom built an internationally respected photography seminar series teaching natural history photography primarily in Yellowstone Park. Bonnie took care of the logistics and most importantly of all, cooked the outstanding meals during our 20 years of Yellowstone workshops. Tom was the first person licensed to lead photography tours in Yellowstone Park. One of the reasons he started his business was to give something back to wildlife and wild lands and to encourage and aid in their preservation. He donates the use of his photography to environmental groups, to support their efforts.
He lends his backcountry skills to the Park County Search and Rescue team, which he helped to organize in 1982.
His photographs have been used, both editorially and commercially, in numerous regional, national, and international publications. Clients include: Life, Architectural Digest, National Geographic, Audubon and Time. Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Esquire and others have sent him on assignments. He was Cameron Diaz’s guide in Yellowstone for an MTV project and he photographed for Meredith Brokaw’s cookbook, Big Sky Cooking.
His first book, Silence and Solitude, Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness, won a 2002 Montana Book Award. Tom’s video, Silence and Solitude, produced by Montana PBS, earned an Emmy nomination for his photography and videography. His set of books, called The Seasons of Yellowstone, include: The Light of Spring , The Comfort of Autumn, The Abundance of Summer, and The Spirit of Winter. Each book illustrates one of the four seasons of Yellowstone, and are published by Crystal Creek Press.
PBS Nature’s show “Christmas in Yellowstone”, first aired nationally on Nov 19 and Dec 24, 2006, and features Tom’s winter photography and some of his backcountry skiing stories. It is aired internationally each December on PBS.
Tom is frequently called upon to give slide shows to groups as diverse as the Kodak Camera Club, in Rochester, NY, the New York Audubon Society, the Montana State Ophthalmologists, and the South Carolina State Veterinary Association.
Here is a web link for an audio interview on “Hidden Yellowstone”: It contains thirty-five minutes from an interview with Tom on National Geographic’s web site. This interview was done after he and Tim Cahill completed a three week assignment for them in the Yellowstone backcountry.
See http://www.nationalgeographic.com for interview.
Top Portrait by Gary Kachadurian
Bottom Portrait by Jennifer Bellon