From penguins in Antarctica to a close-up on communism behind the Iron Curtain, TOM GRIMM ’62 MA ’65 has taken on the world, one photograph at a time. Armed with his trusty fleet of cameras, he has captured compelling images and shared them through lectures and publications, including National Geographic.
As a student at Whittier Grade School just down the street from Bradley, Grimm became a shutterbug. His interest grew as he worked on the newspaper and yearbook at Peoria High. At Bradley, he was vice president of the Student Senate and photo editor for the Scout and the Anaga yearbook. He worked part-time developing film at a photo studio. Grimm credits Dr. Paul Snider, professor emeritus of communication, with preparing him for a successful career as a journalist and photographer.
“After I graduated, I decided I wanted to see the world before I wrote about it. I took a hitchhiking trip around the world. I wrote a piece for one of National Geographic’s school publications about the Ainu, the Aborigines of Japan, and another on elephants working in the teak industry in Burma. Mostly, I roamed around the world, traveling to 36 countries in a year and a half. When I came back, I started giving illustrated lectures about what I’d seen,” says Grimm, the son of the late biology professor and Bradley dean, Dr. Wilbur Grimm.
Grimm returned to the Hilltop to earn a master’s degree in speech, then alternated between traveling overseas and sharing his experiences on a high school lecture circuit. His travels took him to Europe, the Orient, and the South Pacific. In 1968, he was hired by Chapman College for its World Campus Afloat program. “A ship would sail around the world with students. They hired me to be the advance agent to make sure all arrangements were made when the ship came into ports. We were going through South America, Africa, Europe, and other countries around the world. That got me going. People knew I was a travel writer and photographer.”
A tour company hired Grimm in 1970 as a writer and photographer to cover the first commercial trip around the world via the North and South Poles. The highlight, Grimm says, was meeting his wife Michele, a flight attendant. “We hit it off and were married three months later.” Michele, who has a degree in art, quickly learned photography under Grimm’s tutelage, and the couple led photographers on a three-month tour of Europe shortly after they were married.
With pen and lens, the Grimms have traveled on assignment throughout the U.S. and to 130 countries. One unforgettable trip was in 1975 when they backpacked the Black Forest for National Geographic. Their photos or monthly columns have also appeared in the L.A. Times, Travel-Holiday, Woman’s Day, Travel & Leisure, the New York Times, and many other publications.
Their book, The Basic Book of Photography, now in its fifth edition, has sold more than 400,000 copies. They’ve also written books about darkroom basics and 35mm photography, as well as travel books and children’s books. Their latest title, The Basic Book of Digital Photography (at right), was released in October.
The Grimms have made their home in the Florida Keys; Bend, Oregon; San Clemente, Calif.; and recently the couple returned to Florida. Twice, they sold their possessions and traveled the country in a motor home.
“We are intrigued with the people we meet around the world. We enjoy going to remote places on expedition trips. Carrying cameras and tripods gives you entry into places you normally wouldn’t get to go.”