Friday, November 15, 2013

National Geographic, October 2013: 125th Anniversary Collector's Edition: The Photo Issue

Much has changed since the National Geographic Society began issuing its bulletin 125 years ago. The early issues had no photographs. Now the monthly magazine is celebrated for its arresting photojournalism that shows the world to its readers. With its October 2013 issue, the Society celebrates its photographic heritage but not by reproducing its most famous images. There are books already doing that. Instead, through a series of new reports, it shows why its photojournalism is still important today.

That is not to say that some of the most famous pictures are not in the magazine. A few are in the short features that populate the front section of the magazine issue, and there is a foldout with more. But the emphasis is on the current state of the world, which is not promising. Jeffrey Gettleman and Marcus Bleasdale show how a corrupt government and rebel armies keep people poor and hungry in the mineral rich Congo. Robert Kunzig and James Balog present undeniable evidence of global warming in their article about the melting of glaciers. Tim Sullivan and David Guttenfelder take readers into the gray and oppressive streets of North Korea.

There are also articles to cheer readers. Martin Schoeller and Lise Funderburg reveal the "The Changing Face of America" in an article about people of mixed heritage. Schoeller's portraits of biracial men, women, and children are stunningly beautiful. Also, Tom O'Neill explains how Abelardo Morell has used the old technology of the camera obscura to create unique yet recognizable images of America's national parks.

Not to be skipped are the short pieces that feature bits of National Geographic's photographic history, including a chart that shows how frequently the magazine has included nudity. There have been 539 photos including bare breasts in 125 years, with a high of 20 in the September 1912 issue. I also liked Theron Humphrey's amusing photos of his dog Maddie who stands on small surfaces.

Digital editions are reported to have interviews with NG photographers. NG fans will find much to enjoy in this issue.

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