‘As founding member Alexander Graham Bell ambitiously yet aptly defined it, National Geographic’s mission has been from the very first to explore “the world and all that’s in it”. With that goal in mind, the Society’s first editor and president began collecting pictures more than 100 years ago.’ So says the blurb on the inside cover of the “National Geographic Image Collection” (2012), and from 11 million images, the very finest have been arranged into four major themes of ‘perennial interest to our readers’: Exploration, Wildlife, People and culture, and Science and climate change.
From a keen amateur photographer’s point of view, I find the clarity of the photographs amazing, especially all those pre-1950s and in particular those taken pre-1900, such as the shot depicting scientific sampling in the Arctic Ocean by Fridtjof Nansen in 1894. Although you can tell the photo is from the olden days, it is still a stunning shot, with great contrasts between the ice and the water, and the men at their work. This photo is a great example of capturing explorers at work – in addition to highlighting the lengths photographers go to, to preserve history.
There are amazing early nature photographs, such as N. A. Cobb’s ‘Face of a Fly’ taken in 1910. Stunning close-up detail when you consider Adobe Photoshop did not exist back then! Flicking through the book you will see a wide range of photographs, encapsulating modern history around the globe. On deeper reading of the introduction to each section, you will find out more about our lives, and the captions for each photograph give cause to pause and wonder at our world.
This book has inspired me to try to take better shots without resorting to post-production manipulation, and to investigate our catalogue for a book on ancient cameras. Et Voila! We have “Camera – a history of photography from daguerreotype to digital” by Todd Gustavson. And plenty others in the 770-778 section.