Reynolds, Jan 1956-

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Reynolds, Jan 1956-


Born 1956. Education: Attended college.


Home and office—4856 Mountain Rd., Stowe, VT 05672. E-mail—[email protected]


Photographer, journalist, skier, mountaineer, and writer. Expeditions include first circumnavigation of Mt. Everest, solo crossing of the Himalayas, camel crossing of the Sahara, ballooning over the Himalayas, and cross-country ski tour of Toubkal, North Africa Southern Alps, New Zealand, and many others. Speaker at schools and other assemblies. Exhibitions: Photographs have been exhibited at United Nations, Asian Society, New York, NY, and elsewhere.

Awards, Honors

Member, U.S. World Cup biathlon team; World High Altitude Skiing Record for Women, American Friendship Expedition to China; other high-altitude skiing and

climbing records; Mountain Man Triathlon Champion (Vail, CO); Freedman Foundation grant, for film Cultural Adventure with Jan Reynolds.



(With Ned Gillette) Everest Grand Circle: A Climbing and Skiing Adventure through Nepal and Tibet, Mountaineers (Seattle, WA), 1985.

Sahara: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1991.

Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1991.

Down Under: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Far North: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Amazon Basin: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1993.

Frozen Land: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1993.

Mongolia: Vanishing Cultures, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1994.

Mother and Child: Visions of Parenting from Indigenous Cultures, Inner Traditions International (Rochester, VT), 1997.

Celebrate!: Connections among Cultures, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 2006.

Author and narrator of documentary film Cultural Adventure with Jan Reynolds, 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including National Geographic and Cross Country Skier.


A photographer, mountaineer, skier, and world traveler, Jan Reynolds has dedicated much of her life to exploring and documenting the vestiges of traditional cultures that still remain throughout the globe. A former member of the U.S. World Cup biathlon team, Reynolds holds high-altitude skiing and climbing records, was a member of the first team to circumnavigate Mt. Everest, has manned a hot-air balloon over the Himalayas, and has sought out native people living in the most remote locations on earth. Attesting to Reynolds' dedication, Heather Frederick wrote in Publishers Weekly that, "whether clinging by her fingers to a glacier wall while crossing a Himalayan mountain pass, paddling solo down the Amazon river in a collapsible boat or launching into the Sahara desert on camelback in search of a tiny nomadic tribe, this intrepid woman—world-class athlete, successful freelance writer and photographer and now children's book author—will do whatever it takes to get the material she needs for her stories." In addition to her extreme adventures, Reynolds is also a highly respected writer and photojournalist whose work includes the "Vanishing Cultures" series as well as Celebrate!: Connections among Cultures.

The "Vanishing Cultures" books had an interesting genesis. Although Reynolds began working on the series while recuperating from a back injury, the series has its roots in her experiences during the 1980s when, as a newly minted college graduate, she began participating in athletic challenges throughout the globe. Returning to places such as Nepal and the Sahara several times throughout that decade, Reynolds began to notice that the lives of the native people who welcomed her in each of these regions was slowly being altered. As new roads connected these remote areas, traditional trade routes traversed by yaks or camels were abandoned. Many residents of remote villages were now lured by the promise of jobs into metropolitan areas. With roads have also come those in search of natural resources, such as timber and minerals, with unfortunate environmental and economic impacts. "I realized that the things that I was seeing, my children won't," the photojournalist told Frederick. "They'll be gone. I wanted to capture what was there before it's gone, because it is part of us, part of the entire human family."

The "Vanishing Culture" series includes seven children's books that capture traditional cultures before they disappear. In Sahara: Vanishing Cultures Reynolds profiles the nomadic Tuaregs, who inhabit the world's

largest desert, while a typical day in the life of a large, extended family of herders living in Mongolia—including two young children who dream of owning their own horses and carrying on family traditions—is the focus of Mongolia: Vanishing Cultures. In revealing photographs, Reynolds introduces the aboriginal Tiwi people in Down Under: Vanishing Cultures, and reveals the traditions that have sustained their primitive island culture. The Yanomama, who live in Venezuela's Amazon Territory, is the focus of Amazon Basin: Vanishing Cultures.

Moving to more chilly climes, Far North also features Reynolds' revealing text and photographs. Here she documents the culture of the reindeer herders known as the Samis, who make their home in Finmark, while Frozen Land: Vanishing Cultures profiles the Inuit people who attempt to preserve their traditions in the face of the encroachment of "civilization" into Canada's Northwest Territories. Moving to a higher elevation, Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures profiles customs and day-to-day life of a family living in the Himalaya Mountains.

Although Reynolds initially found a publisher for the "Vanishing Cultures" series, her decision to keep the book's focus on younger readers prompted her to complete the project independently. "I really wanted them to seem like storybooks, so that children would be entertained but learn at the same time," she explained to Frederick. Although financing was a problem, she found a way to continue the project, and with the help of children's author Nancy Willard, the series eventually found a publisher. The "Vanishing Cultures" books, first published in the early 1990s, have been more recently re-released due to their timely multicultural and environmental focus.

In addition to her "Vanishing Cultures" books, Reynolds captures the myriad ways that people mark life passages and moments of profound joy and grief in Celebrate! The book was compiled of Reynolds' experiences living among families throughout the world during her many travels. From the Australian Aborigines and Balinese of South Asia to the North American Inuit, Arctic Sami, Himalayan-dwelling Tibetians and Sherpas, Saharan Tuareg, and Amazonian Yanomami, the text and pictures cover such things as the passage of seasons, birth and death rituals, coming-of-age ceremonies and weddings, and the passage of history. In what School Library Journal contributor Alexa Sandmann described as "colorful, inviting" photographs, the author details the common threads that run through the colorful patchwork of traditional celebrations, her "brief, engaging text" supplemented by maps, a pronunciation guide, and an author's note. Citing Reynolds' "fascinating photographs" as "the strong point" in the volume, a Kirkus Reviews writer added that Celebrate! "will tantalize readers to find out more." In addition to her photo-essays, Reynolds has also produced the documentary film Cultural Adventures with Jan Reynolds, in which she introduces the culture and traditions of the Sherpa who live on the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountains.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Backpacker, March, 1986, Jim Chase, "Not One of the Guys: Jan Reynolds Can Compete with the Best of Them," p. 42.

Booklist, March 15, 1992, Denia Hester, review of Down Under: Vanishing Cultures, p. 1353; April 1, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Far North: Vanishing Cultures, p. 1444; December 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, reviews of Frozen Land: Vanishing Cultures, p. 114, and Amazon Basin: Vanishing Cultures, p. 688; November 15, 2002, Candace Smith, review of Cultural Adventure with Jan Reynolds, p. 614; March 15, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Celebrate!: Connections among Cultures, p. 48.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1991, review of Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures, p. 112; November, 1991, review of Sahara: Vanishing Cultures, p. 73; April, 1992, review of Far North and Down Under, p. 220; November, 1993, reviews of Frozen Land and Amazon Basin, p. 97.

Esquire, June, 1984, Geoffrey Norman, "She Shoots to Conquer: The Breathtaking Adventures of Jan Reynolds," p. 130.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2006, review of Celebrate!, p. 466.

New York Times Book Review, March 15, 1992, Suzanne Fisher Staples, review of Himalaya, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, August 23, 1991, review of Sahara, p. 64; October 25, 1991, Heather Frederick, "Visionary Globetrotter," p. 34.

School Library Journal, October, 1991, Eva Elisabeth von Ancken, review of Sahara and Himalaya, p. 112; May, 1992, Mollie Bynum, review of Far North, and Jeanette Larson, review of Down Under, both p. 126; October, 1993, Ellen Fader, review of Amazon Basin, p. 146; February, 1994, Roz Goodman, review of Frozen Land, p. 114; April, 1994, Dot Minzer, review of Mongolia: Vanishing Cultures, p. 145; August, 2006, Alexa Sandmann, review of Celebrate!, p. 110.

Science Books and Film, October, 1993, review of Amazon Basin, p. 205.

Wilson Library Bulletin, November, 1991, Frances Bradburn, review of Sahara, p. 131.

Women's Sports and Fitness, March, 1986, Judy Mills, "Living on the Edge," p. 25.


Jan Reynolds Home Page, (May 8, 2007).


Cultural Adventures with Jan Reynolds (film), Jan Reynolds Productions, 2003.

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Reynolds, Jan 1956-

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