Nicolas Tikhomiroff was born in Paris to Russian "émigrés" parents. He spent his school years in a special boarding school for children of a similar background: those with Russian as a first language, followed by French. He joined the army at the age of 17 following the Liberation of Paris, then spent several months in Germany, followed by three years in Indochina.
After finishing his military service, Tikhomiroff found work in the darkroom of a fashion photographer. Using a Rolleiflex, he began to take photographs for many magazines, including Marie France.
In 1956, a decisive encounter with French journalist Michel Chevalier led him to accompany Chevalier as a freelance photographer. This relationship resulted in long trips to the Soviet Union, Africa, and the Middle East.
Tikhomiroff joined Magnum in 1959 and completed numerous photo stories on subjects such as the Algerian War, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He also contributed to an important Magnum project on World Cinema, meeting Orson Welles, Fellini, Visconti and many others. He developed a close friendship with Welles while photographing the filming of The Trial and Falstaff.
Tikhomiroff also undertook advertising and fashion assignments. Although he was never a full member of Magnum Photos, his earlier work is still distributed by the agency.
Tikhomiroff retired from professional activities in 1987. He lived in Provence in the south of France, where he spent much of his time working on personal projects and essays.