One of the highlights of my recent trip to Virginia was a visit to the National Geographic headquarters and museum in Washington DC. I have adored National Geographic since I was a child and used to page through the yellow-bordered issues with ravish and delight, dreaming about faraway places, cultures, people and animals. National Geographic was my lifeline into the magic of the world and continues to be so even today.
As a National Geographic Kids Insider (a brand Ambassador who promotes everything amazing National Geographic has to offer), I wanted to get an intimate look behind the scenes of this 125-year-old multi-dimensional non-profit organization that is one part global publisher, another part leader in exploration, conservation and education, and last part a travel company, all packaged within the yellow National Geographic border.
The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.
I honestly had no idea that National Geographic did so incredibly much until I got to see for myself during my tour of their three-building headquarters in the heart of Washington DC.
By far, the most inspiring part of my tour was a visit to the National Geographic Museum where I saw two exhibits, one celebrating National Geographic’s 125 years called “A New Age of Exploration” and the other called “Women of Vision: National Geographic’s Photographers on Assignment”, an exhibit dedicated to honoring women photojournalists. Both were impressive however the “Women of Vision” exhibit was phenomenal and made a powerful impact on me.
Created to honor 11 award-wining National Geographic Women Photojournalists, the “Women of Vision” exhibit brings some of the best women photography on the planet. Each woman of vision has her own area of expertise and story to tell through her spectacular photography. The photojournalists range from brilliant captures of our natural world to documenting the harsh realities of child marriage, prostitution, conflict and war, and other thought-provoking issues.
“For the last decade, some of our most powerful stories have been produced by a new generation of photojournalists who are women. These women are as different as the places and the subjects they have covered, but they all share the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic.”
-Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions.
The exhibit launched in DC on October 10 and runs through March 9th, then will travel to different cities for the next three years.
Meet National Geographic’s “Women of Vision”: A truly extraordinary group of 11 award-wining photojournalists whose powerful photography and storytelling have shaped the world.
The exhibit is truly powerful and stunning to see. Here are some of my favorite pieces out of the 100+ photographs in the collection. (Note: All photos below are provided by and used with permission from National Geographic. Descriptions of the photojournalists and photos are also provided by National Geographic. To read bios in full, click here).
Photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair
Sinclair’s decade-long project on child marriage has earned global recognition, including three World Press Photo awards and prestigious exhibitions on Capitol Hill, at the United Nations and at the Whitney Biennial in New York. Her images also include scenes from Yemen and from polygamist families in the Fundamentalist Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Photojournalist Amy Toensing
Toensing began her prolific career covering the White House and Congress for The New York Times. She has created portraits of unforgettable people around the world while shooting NGM stories in Papua New Guinea, Puerto Rico, the Jersey Shore and Tonga. For the past three years, she documented Aboriginal Australia for a story that was published in the June 2013 issue of NGM.
Photojournalist Beverly Joubert
Joubert is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, filmmaker, photographer and co-founder of the Big Cats Initiative. Together with her husband, Dereck, she has been documenting the plight of African wildlife for more than 30 years. Her images have appeared in more than 100 magazines worldwide.
Photojournalist Diane Cook
Cook is a leading landscape photographer whose work is in numerous collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego; and the L.A. County Museum in Los Angeles.
Photojournalist Maggie Steber
Steber has worked in more than 62 countries and her images have earned several prestigious honors, NGM has published her essays on Miami, the African slave trade, the Cherokee Nation, sleep, soldiers’ letters, Dubai and a story on the science of memory that featured a touching sidebar on Steber’s mother, Madje, and her struggle with dementia.
Photojournalist Jodi Cobb
Cobb has worked in over 65 countries and produced 30 NGM stories, including the acclaimed “21st-Century Slaves.” Cobb was the only photographer to penetrate the geisha world, to document the hidden lives of the women of Saudi Arabia and among the first to travel across China when it reopened to the West. She has received numerous accolades.
Photojournalist Erika Larsen
Larsen studies cultures with strong ties to nature. She published a 2009 story in NGM on the Sami reindeer herders of Scandinavia, an assignment which grew out of her own documentary work for which she lived and worked within the culture for over four years.
Photojournalist Lynsey Addario
Lynsey Addario is widely admired for her conflict coverage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo. Featured assignment work includes images that document human rights issues, particularly the plight of women and families in conflict zones.
Photojournalist Carolyn Drake
Drake is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Lange Taylor Documentary Prize and a World Press Photo award, and she was a finalist for the Santa Fe Prize. She has spent years documenting the cultures of Central Asia and life in western China’s Uygur region.
Photojournalist Lynn Johnson
Johnson has covered a wide range of assignments for NGM, producing images for 21 stories on subjects including vanishing languages and challenges facing human populations in Africa and Asia.
Photojournalist Kitra Cahana
Cahana explores important social, anthropological and spiritual themes. Born in Miami but raised in Canada and Sweden, Cahana earned her B.A. in philosophy from McGill University and her M.A. in visual and media anthropology from the Freie Universitat in Berlin.
Last thing I found interesting was the part on how many photos the average National Geographic photographer takes compared to the number that are actually included inside a feature article. Each photographer may take anywhere from 30,000-90,000 photographs during an assignment, which are dwindled down by the photo editor to anywhere between 40 and 50 photographs for consideration. This group of photographs are again reduced to only a dozen or so that actually appear in the article. The photos included are the ones that best tell the story or message they are trying to convey. Amazing.
If you go:
Exhibit runs from now until March 9, 2014 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington DC.
1145 17th Street, NW (17th and M)
Washington, DC 20036
Open Daily 10am—6pm
Exhibition included in Museum Admission.
Adults – $11
Members/Military/Seniors (Over 62) – $9
Students/Groups (25+) – $9
Children (Ages 5-12) – $7
Local School & Youth Groups (18 and Under) – Free
Full details on the exhibition, including photo galleries and links to related NGM content, are available at wovexhibition.org.
To learn more about National Geographic and all the amazing things they do, visit their website here.