National Geographic marks 125th anniversary: Launches special issue to celebrate power of photography

Saturday, 5 October 2013 - 11:09pm IST Updated: Friday, 11 October 2013 - 4:51pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA Web Team
For 125 years, National Geographic has been on a mission to bring the world at the doorsteps of its readers through path-breaking work in photography and journalism. Their discoveries have not only given us an insight into history, but have also educated and inspired us for the better. On the occasion of its 125th anniversary this month, the iconic National Geographic magazine dedicates a special issue to the "Power of Photography".

The special edition, known as The Photo Issue, not only celebrates the magazine's illustrious past; but also gives a glimpse of the magazine's future.

The Collector's Edition is a visual testament to the National Geographic Society's exciting journey over 125 years. It chronicles the magazine's historic journey right from a pioneering ascent of the Everest to advancements in photography.

The amazing photos that have made it to the special issue are some of the best in the magazine's 125-year history. 

However, the one that has made it to the cover of the anniversary issue is the iconic photo of a young Afghan girl in a Pakistani refugee camp. 

The choice is apt as the photo holds the distinction of being the most famous till date cover ever since it was featured in the magazine's June 1985 issue.

On the occasion of the magazine's 125th anniversary celebrations, executive vice-president, group editorial director and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Magazine, Chris Johns, talks to about the past, present and future of the magazine... 

Q: How did you come to work for National Geographic?

My father was a geography teacher, and National Geographic was always in our home.  I loved it.  As I grew up in a small town in southwest Oregon, the magazine opened up the world to me. 

In college, I became obsessed with photography, and working at National Geographic became my goal. I knew it would give me the time and resources to do the in-depth photography I wanted to do. I shot my first story for the magazine in 1979.

Q: How has the journey been so far?

Incredibly rewarding. I learn new things every day and get to work with exceptionally talented people.

Q: How did you decide on the theme for the 125th anniversary issue of the magazine?

Photography is part of the DNA of National Geographic. We wanted to honour not only our history with photography, but also its power to inspire people and make them care.

Q: What is the theme all about?

Our ultimate goal with the issue is to create a celebration of photography through the lens of National Geographic. The October issue features the work of six photojournalists who are using photography to affect change, document life, and push the boundaries of the medium.

It also includes smaller "moments" with dozens of other photographers, showcases work from our extensive archives and explores the future of photography on social media and the web.

Q: What went into bringing out the anniversary issue?

An entire team here focused on the issue for more than a year.  We engaged our photographers worldwide on how we could best express our passion and belief in the power of photography and enlisted them to help us shape the issue.

Q: Having been a field photographer yourself, what insights do you bring to the post of editor in chief?

As a field photographer, you have to be effective, efficient, and operate at a high level of performance every day. There are no excuses for not getting the job done — either you bring back great pictures or you fail. 

That experience taught me to thrive on pressure, adapt quickly to changing circumstances, and recognise that there is always room to improve and grow. That mindset is key to our success.

Q: What do you feel is the purpose of the magazine?

The magazine tells meaningful stories in unforgettable ways, to inspire people to care about the planet and each other.

Q: Which are some of your favourite photos of all times?

The ones I will see tomorrow. Seriously, I don’t have favourites.  I am always interested in seeing what is next.

Q: Has the magazine changed in any way over the years? What are the changes if any?

We’ve worked to make the magazine look and feel contemporary, relevant and accessible.  We believe strongly in giving voice to people, landscapes, and species in order to help all of us better understand our world and how we can preserve it for our children and future generations.

Q: What is your vision for the magazine's future?

Our goal is to be the leader in visual factual entertainment. The future is brighter than ever, because the tools that allow us to do our work — user devices, cameras, digital technology — are all evolving to give us more flexibility as storytellers.

The world is such a rich place, and we are constantly finding new ways to create and share its stories.  We are no longer limited to still photographs and text.  We can easily capture audio and video in the field and combine the elements to create immersive experiences on the web, on a tablet or phone, and off the pages of the magazine itself.  It’s an exciting time.

About the editor: Chris Johns  has been the editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine since January 2005, serving as the ninth editor of the magazine since 1888. He was named executive vice-president and group editorial director of the National Geographic Society in June 2013. 

Here are some of the photos that have been featured in the October issue:

1990, Brazzaville Zoo, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo: Jou Jou, captive chimpanzee reaches out it’s hand to Dr. Jane Goodall. — Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic


1996, South Africa: A lion pushes through a dust storm in Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, South Africa. The weather had worsened to the point that it didn’t notice the photographer’s approach. “I shot three rolls of him and just one picture turned out—serendipity,” says Chris Johns. — Photo by Chris Johns/National Geographic

2004, Canada: Its image mirrored in icy water, a polar bear travels submerged—a tactic often used to surprise prey. Scientists fear global warming could drive bears to extinction sometime this century. —Photo by Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

2011, Gulf of California, Mexico: Snared and doomed by a gill net, a thresher shark is among an estimated 40 million sharks killed each year just for their fins. Drawing attention to this unsustainable practice has led some countries to ban the trade of shark fins, considered a delicacy in Asia.BJP gives all credit to itself and Pranab Mukherjee for rejecting ordinance on convicted lawmakers. —Photo by Brian Skerry/National Geographic


2011, Mumbai, India: Seeking to capture the throng in Churchgate Station, Randy Olson coached a local assistant through the laborious process needed to get this shot, because the perfect vantage point was closed to foreigners. “After four hours we had this picture—and a small victory over Indian bureaucracy.” —Photo by Randy Olson/National Geographic

2010, Dzitnup, Mexico: A single frame can transport us to one of our planet’s far-flung and beautiful places. In this one, stalactites and a sunbeam spotlight a swimmer in the Xkeken cenote, a natural well in the Yucatán thought by the Maya to lead to the underworld. —Photo by John Stanmeyer/National Geographic










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