Thase Christine Ferguson Daniel (1907–1990)

Thase Christine Ferguson Daniel of El Dorado (Union County) was an internationally known nature and wildlife photographer. During a career that spanned the 1950s to the 1980s, her work appeared in major publications and magazines, including Field and Stream, Ranger Rick, and Reader’s Digest.

Thase Ferguson was born on December 5, 1907, the daughter of C. Curran Ferguson and Daisy Moore Ferguson of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She graduated from Ouachita Baptist College, now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU), with a BA in music in 1929. While at Ouachita, Ferguson met fellow student John T. Daniel of Arkadelphia (Clark County). They were married on June 29, 1930.

The Daniels lived in El Dorado, where John owned and operated an automobile dealership. They had a daughter, Daphna Ann, in 1937. Frequent vacations took the family across the nation, and Thase Daniel became interested in photographing the countryside. When her initial images failed to meet her expectations, Daniel began studying the work of well-known wildlife photographers. With no formal training in photography, she practiced often by taking pictures of birds near her home. As Daniel’s fascination with photography grew, she applied the same principles of study and discipline to it as she had brought to the practice of the piano. “Whatever I do,” she once said, “a pipe organ concert or what, I want to do it well.” Though she began this undertaking relatively late in life, Daniel’s patience and determination paid off.

Called “the globe-trotting nature photographer” by the Arkansas Gazette (July 27, 1980), Daniel traveled the world recording scenery and all kinds of creatures on film. Her adventures included riding an elephant across a river in India, making a two-week expedition by dogsled across the Greenland icecap, and suffering a broken ankle when attacked by a 600-pound bull sea lion in the Galapagos Islands.

Daniel’s photographs appeared in major magazines and publications, including Ranger Rick, Reader’s Digest, Field and Stream, Sports Afield, International Wildlife, and National Geographic and Audubon Society books. Daniel’s best-known photograph is of a man trout-fishing in a Colorado stream. Kodak used the image on posters it placed in practically every camera store in America in the 1950s. Her book, Wings on the Southwind: Birds and Creatures of the Southern Wetlands, featured images of southern flora and fauna, and was published by Oxmoor House in 1984. She ultimately came to be recognized as one of the world’s leading nature and wildlife photographers.

The Riley-Hickingbotham Library at OBU houses Daniel’s slides and field notes; these 58,000 slides and related materials comprise the best of almost a quarter million images captured during her career; she threw away those she believed were not of publication quality.

Daniel died in El Dorado on September 10, 1990.

For additional information:
Daniel, Thase. Wings on the Southwind: Birds and Creatures of the Southern Wetlands. Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House, 1984.

Guilfoyle, Ann, and Susan Rayfield. Wildlife Photography: The Art and Technique of Ten Masters. New York: Amphoto, 1982.

Melson, Mark. “This Daniel Likes It in the Lions’ Den.” Shreveport Times. September 6, 1976, p. 14F.

Thase Daniel Collection. Riley-Hickingbotham Library Special Collections. Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Wendy Richter
Arkansas History Commission

This entry, originally published in Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives, appears in the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas in an altered form. Arkansas Biography is available from the University of Arkansas Press.


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