Randy Olsonis a photographer in the documentary tradition. He often works with his wife, Melissa Farlow and their work has taken them to over 50 countries in the past 30 years. Even though they are published in LIFE, GEO, Smithsonian and other magazines, they have primarily worked on projects for the National Geographic Society. They normally work individually, but have co-produced National Geographic magazine stories on northern California, American National Parks, and the Alps. They photographed the southern United States for a book by Collins Publishing and have collaborated on over 70 books by various publishers.
Randy’s 30+ National Geographic projects have taken him to almost every continent. The National Geographic Society published a book of his work in 2011 in the Masters of Photography series. Olson was the Magazine Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition, and was also awarded POYi’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year—one of only two photographers to win in both media in the largest photojournalism contest operating continuously since World War II. Randy is also the recipient of the Siena International Photo Awards (SIPA) Photographer of the Year and the HIPA Photography Appreciation Award.
In 2011, Randy foundedThe Photo Society(thephotosociety.org). The purpose of the organization is to provide exposure to members as the economics of print dwindles. The National Geographic photographers elected Randy to represent them on the Photographer’s Advisory Board (PAB) - a group that represents the photographers in contract negotiations with National Geographic. During his tenure, the PAB successfully rebuffed National Geographic's attempt to take the photographer's copyright away from them. And The Photo Society was born as a result of the need for photographers to stand together for their own survival.
While working as a newspaper photographer at The Pittsburgh Press, Olson received an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship in 1995 to support a seven-year project documenting a family with AIDS, and a first place Robert F. Kennedy Award for his story on problems with Section 8 housing in 1991. He was also awarded the Nikon Sabbatical grant and a grant from the National Archives to save the Pictures of the Year collection.
As the economics of print dwindles they support their documentary work by doing advertising campaigns and corporate work so they can continue to support socially responsible documentary projects. They live in Pennsylvania and Oregon.