Life and Times

For as long as he can remember, William Thompson has had an unquenchable thirst for adventure. At 20 he bought a bike, quit the University, and biked through Mexico. After the University he decided to become a fine arts painter and enrolled in an MFA program. This, without reason, morphed into obtaining a PhD with a focus on cultural anthropology. But at that point rock climbing and mountaineering were his real passions. Every free moment was spent in the mountains of the west. His interest in mountaineering ultimately led to owning a mountain climbing guide service in Grand Teton National Park.

Then magic happened. William discovered a fascinating and direct channel to his brain—the camera lens—his ultimate “paintbrush.”

Thompson’s first photo assignment was for National Geographic and, continuously, for the ensuing twelve years he made images from exciting corners of the earth. With an anthropological frame of reference, he saw things in terms of the essential truth of his subjects’ lives — that gleam of light in the heart of darkness. 

For Thompson it was 12 years of extraordinary visual exploration; living for three years in the Himalaya working on three major NGS stories was a highpoint. He created the first and only complete aerial coverage of Mt. Everest for the 100 year anniversary issue of the magazine entitled Exploring The Earth. Other major stories included the Kathmandu Valley and Heart of the Himalaya.

Thompson photographed Bhutan traveling by yak train through the Bhutanese Himalaya. Thompson traveled the depths of Africa (occasionally living and traveling with pygmies) and Asia for two years photographing the elephant on its tragic path toward extinction—almost becoming extinct himself after contracting cerebral malaria while in the darkness of the Central African Republic.

Two decades ago Thompson moved into commercial image creating film and stills for premier global corporations. His iconic images are well recognized in marketing campaigns for clients including Wells Fargo, Leo Burnett, Starbucks, Marlboro, Boeing, United Airlines, Intel, Holland America, etc.

Thompson has turned his skills and experience towards film “that matters.” He states that his goal now “is that my imagery will enlighten, spawn ideas, define passions, allow discovery, and above all, make a ‘difference that makes a difference’. In light of this directive, Thompson is bringing to life the vanishing American icon—The Cowboy—a subject that has been in front of his lens for decades. Additionally, given that the elephant is in a tragic dilemma, Thompson is working on a film project to examine man's relationship to this amazing mega beast and hopefully have an impact on ending the slaughter of this 12,000 lb canary.

Other recent creative endeavors include two books: a compilation of his Mount Everest images, Mount Everest—an Aerial Image Odyssey  and one on Kathmandu—The Way It Was.

William Thompson lives in a 90-year old log home near the waters of Puget Sound along with his best pal, Emmett, his 15 year old chocolate lab. William still finds adventure in climbing. Following a recent gallery show and workshop in Wyoming, he and his son climbed the Grand Teton.