The right scene and the right moment make an instant of time immortal thanks to the camera. It is a tool for memories and a tool for teaching. Thase Daniel, an El Dorado resident, became famous for capturing thousands of images of plants and animals around the world that were ultimately printed for the most respected publications in the country, becoming one of the most noted wildlife photographers of her time. Daniel turned a modest hobby into a career that took her around the world, and her pictures ultimately reached millions of readers.
Thase Christine Ferguson was born in December 1907 in Pine Bluff. Church was an important part of her early years where she learned about music and learned to play the pipe organ. After graduating high school, she enrolled at Ouachita Baptist College in Arkadelphia. She graduated in 1929 with a degree in music.
She married John Daniel, a Mississippi native, in 1930. The two settled in Norphlet where her husband enjoyed a successful career as a Chevrolet dealer. The couple had one daughter and later moved to nearby El Dorado. The family traveled often, and it was these early family vacations that began nurturing her other artistic talents. However, she was frustrated with some of her early attempts to take good photographs, especially of wildlife.
Daniel began studying different wildlife photographers and their techniques, trying to learn to take better pictures, a process that took years of dedicated effort. She began practicing by taking pictures of birds near her home in El Dorado. As she improved, she accompanied her husband on his outdoors trips across Union County, camera in hand. The deep woods of South Arkansas offered picturesque scenes and an amazing array of wildlife that could produce the most awe-inspiring shots to the skilled photographer. The towering forests and the river bottoms alike contained countless species of plants and animals – perfect subjects for any lover of the outdoors.
As she traveled in the 1940s and early 1950s, she began entering photography contests, gaining respect for her images and technique. In a few years, it became more than just a hobby. After years of practice, dedication, and hard work, it became an impressive talent that attracted the attention of some of the leading publications of the time. Starting in the mid-1950s, her pictures appeared in a string of magazines, including National Geographic, Time, Life, Reader’s Digest, and Field and Stream. Daniel received praise for her pictures and found herself with an exciting new career. An extended tour of Africa in the early 1960s resulted in some highly noted images. She ultimately traveled across the globe to all seven continents as a photographer.
For photographers, it takes special skill to capture the perfect image at the perfect moment. Even as a recognized expert, Daniel sometimes took hundreds of pictures just to capture even a handful that satisfied her.
By the mid-1960s, she was among the most well-respected nature photographers working as attitudes about women in professional fields began changing. Her pictures appeared in two National Geographic books Song and Garden Birds of North America and Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America. The editor of the respected Audubon Magazine in 1966 stated that she was “one of few women photographers maintaining a consistently high rating in a field long dominated by men.”
Even children’s nature magazine Ranger Rick, published by the National Wildlife Federation, regularly featured her photos. In the process, she introduced a new generation to the beauty and wonder of nature. Her images continued to be published throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.
No matter how far around the world that her travels took her, she always came home to El Dorado. She often took time out of her busy schedule to speak to local organizations or donated pictures for local exhibitions.
She did not let her advancing years slow down her thirst for adventure. In the early 1980s, she still traveled extensively across the country in search of the perfect shot. In 1984, now nearing 80 and still with a passion for the outdoors, Daniel published her own photo collection in Wings on the Southwind: Birds and Creatures of the Southern Wetlands.
She died in El Dorado in September 1990 at the age of 82. The library at Ouachita Baptist University now boasts the Thase Daniel Collection, an archive that includes her articles, notes, correspondence, and thousands of photographs from 1954 to 1982. Years after her passing, Daniel Park was dedicated in her memory in Fayetteville, with flowers and fauna designed especially for the perfect picture.