Life In The Wild At The Briscoe In San Antonio – Cowboys & Indians Magazine

Live life in the wild through an exhibition of the stunning work of renowned nature photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen.

Maybe you’ve seen what might be Thomas D. Mangelsen’s most famous photograph: Catch of the Day, which captures the exact moment that a spawning salmon, trying to leap over a waterfall along Alaska’s Brooks River, soars right into the waiting jaws of a massive brown bear. The image is not only one of the most widely circulated wildlife photographs in history but also a monumental achievement in photography because it occurred before the advent of digital cameras and involves no digital manipulation.

Catch of the Day, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 1988.

You can see that amazing shot anew among 40 classic images — some of which measure 10 feet across — by the world-renowned nature photographer in the exhibition A Life in the Wild, on view September 30 – January 29, 2023 at The Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio.

Personally selected by Mangelsen as his legacy photographs, the retrospective’s images also include Polar Dance, of polar bears appearing to dance, and Mountain Outlaw, of a grizzly bear charging through the snow.

A Change of Seasons, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 1998.

Naturally not all photographs in the exhibition are of bears. The show features a veritable zoo of subjects captured in their native Western habitats, including American bison, Arctic fox, bald eagle, black bear, bobcat, bohemian and cedar waxwings, brown bear, coyote, great gray owl, grizzly bear, ground squirrel, kestrel, moose, mountain lion, and Sandhill crane. Fantastic landscapes include Alaska’s Denali range and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as fields of poppies and lupine and forests of redwood and aspen.

Dreamcatcher, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 2000.

The Gentle Giant – Silverback, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 2003.

Eyes of the Grizzly, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 2011.

Windswept, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 2008.


For 40 years, Mangelsen has traveled from North America to Africa, and beyond, in pursuit of intimate photographic moments in nature and produced a singular body of work. One of the most prolific nature photographers of our time, he has been described as a spiritual descendant of pioneering American nature photographers Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Edward Weston. Bill Allen, the now-retired editor in chief of National Geographic, considers Mangelsen one of the most important nature photographers of his generation.

Mangelsen is as much a conservationist as he is an artist. He keeps company with fellow wildlife lovers such as Jane Goodall, who he often partners with to help raise awareness and funds for the protection of the wild animals he captures in his lens.

Born of the North Wind, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 1993.

He was named the 2011 Conservation Photographer of the Year by Nature’s Best Photography, placing his work in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He was named one of the 40 Most Influential Nature Photographers by Outdoor Photography, and one of the 100 Most Important People in Photography by American Photo magazine. The North American Nature Photography Association has named him Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year, while the British Broadcasting Corporation gave him its coveted prestigious award Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

At a time when digital technology has conditioned users to have shorter attention spans, A Life in the Wild stands as a testament to the rewards that can come to those, like him, who get close to nature and patiently wait.


Left: Polar Dance, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 1989. Right: Light in the Forest, Thomas D. Mangelsen, 1989.

A Life in the Wild is included with museum general admission. For more information, visit The Briscoe Western Art Museum, 210 W Market St, San Antonio, 210.299.4499.

Inspired by photography? Enter the C&I Visions of the West annual photography contest here.

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