Richard Olsenius began his photographic career in 1966, capturing images of everyday American life. While still an intern with the Minneapolis Star, he received his first major exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts entitled "High School." The haunting black and white images from inner-city schools provided a stark contrast to the innocent memories most people have of their school years. His work has gone on to appear in other museums across the nation.

He was hired as a staff photographer on the Minneapolis Tribune newspaper in 1970, winning over 100 state and national awards for his general assignment photography and special features for the Tribune’s prestigious Sunday Picture Magazine. His work grew to encompass the rural landscapes of the West and Midwest, a theme he would return to in film, book and calendar. His stories took him across the nation, and to Europe and Asia, where he won the World Press Photo Award for his story on Cambodian Refugees.

In 1981, Olsenius left the newspaper to pursue film and book production. In 1981 his 30-minute film, "Autumn Passage," won a Bronze Medal at the New York International Film Festival. He went on to publish several books on the Midwest, including the Minnesota and Wisconsin Travel Companions, regional best-sellers, and the "Midwest" art calendar. The Travel Companions are still in print.

 By 1986, he was concentrating much of his time producing stories for National Geographic Magazine. His assignments allowed him to further explore the American landscapes he had grown to love, as well as taking him along the Alcan Highway, Wyoming, Puget Sound, the coast of Labrador and the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. Here he had the opportunity of traveling deep into the Arctic wilderness with Inuit hunters and research scientists. In addition, he sailed on the first American yacht to ever transit the Northwest Passage and the first yacht ever to sail the Passage west to east.

In between Geographic assignments, Olsenius won an honorable mention in cinematography from the 1989 National Educational Film Festival for his hour-long video, "America’s Inland Coast," shown over PBS stations nationwide. The original music he composed for that film became the basis for his first multimedia product, Distant Shores, a four-color book of photography from the Great Lakes packaged with his original instrumental music.

With music a strong avocation from early years and an increasing influence in his work, Olsenius went on to compose music from his Arctic experiences. With the advent of CD-ROM technology, he was finally able to link his many loves - photography, filmmaking and music compositions in 1996, into a unique multimedia experience of book, music and CD-ROM called Arctic Odyssey which won several national awards.

From 1995 to 1999 Olsenius worked as an Illustrations Editor at National Geographic Magazine and became the Magazine's producer for the launch of it's website. There he developed interactive pages, shot video and continued to compose music for their various CD-Rom releases.

In 1999 Olsenius resigned from National Geographic and joined forces with Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame. The project revolved around Keillor’s search for the real Lake Wobegon, which according to its creator, is located in central Minnesota. Here, Olsenius returned to his roots with his 4 X 5 camera to put a real face on Keillor’s mythology. The story appeared in National Geographic Magazine in December 2000, one of a handful of articles in recent years to be published in black and white. A book, "In Search of Lake Wobegon," was published with Keillor in the fall of 2001 by Viking Studio Press, a division of Penguin Putnam. A photographic exhibit was produced on the Wobegon project by the Minnesota Historical Society and a showing took place at the Edward Carter Gallery in New York City in late 2001.


In 2003 Olsenius published his book, "Dog Stories" with National Geographic and began work on his latest book, "Field Guide to Digital Black and White Photography," also published by National Geographic in the fall of 2005. This was followed by his National Geographic Guide to Digital Video and also contributed a number of chapters in the newly published National Geographic Field Guide to Photography.

Olsenius was an Art Director for the Korea 50th and WWII Memorial shows produced by the U.S. Government in 2004 in Washington, D.C at the MCI Center. He was responsible for much of the video and visual elements on the wide screen presentations.


In the Spring of 2006, Olsenius produced a video for a Venezuelan Biomedical Institute on the people who live in the shadow of volcanoes in Nicaragua and Guatemala.

From 2007 to Present, he has been on assignments to Peru and Newfoundland for National Geographic Traveler, and Cool Earth, of England.  He has also released in 2010, videos on Newfoundland, Dog Stories, the Great Lakes and Arctic Odyssey along with his popular Inside Passage video from two trips he took up Alaska’s Inside Passage on a friend’s boat.

In the spring of 2011, The United States Postal Service issued an International Airmail stamp with one of Olsenius’ photographs.


Currently Olsenius is working on a music video, Chesapeake Winter, due to be released fall of 2011.

Olsenius is married and lives near the Chesapeake Bay, where he and his wife continue publishing books, music and films that celebrate a sense of place, people and landscape.



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