Photo Essays

Women of Vision: The Female Photographers of National Geographic

Women of Vision
Photograph by Amy Toensing of Ocean Grove visitors swimming in the Atlantic surf (2001) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)

Since Jodi Cobb joined National Geographic in 1977 as the magazine’s first female staff photographer, more and more women photographers have contributed images to the publication in essays on human rights, conflict zones, the minds of teenagers, epidemics, life in the remote corners of the world, and, since this is National Geographic after all, stunning landscapes and vibrant wildlife.

Yet they’re still in the minority in terms of representation at the magazine, as women photojournalists tend to be at most publications (in her impressive career, Cobb was usually the first of her kind at most publications where she worked). According to the New York Times, she’s still one of only four women who have held a staff photographer position at National Geographic. Still, through freelancers and those few staff holdings, there’s been some breathtaking visual work. Yesterday, Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment opened at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, celebrating the contributions of female photographers to the 125-year-old geography- and world culture–focused magazine.

Women of Vision group shot
“Women of Vision” group shot

The nearly 100 images by 11 photographers include Diane Cook‘s gorgeous landscapes, Amy Toensing‘s photographs from three years immersed in Aboriginal Australia, Kitra Cahana‘s photographs of teenagers from spending 10 weeks posing as a student at an Austin, Texas, high school, and photographs by Beverley Joubert (who has the awesome title of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence) from her three decades documenting African wildlife with her husband, Dereck. The work represented is incredibly diverse in terms of subjects, but there are those stories — like Jodi Cobb‘s inside look at the world of geishas and her photographs of women in Saudi Arabia, the first images to really examine their private lives — that offer a perspective inextricably tied to their gender.

Below are some selections from Women of Vision.

Women of Vision
Stephanie Sinclair’s photograph of Yemeni Nujood Ali, who in 2008 got a divorce at the age of ten, a blow against forced marriage (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Photograph by Amy Toensing showing dresses on a clothesline in Utuado, a lush mountainous region in central Puerto Rico (2003) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Diane Cook’s photograph of a double rainbow over the cliffs of Kalalau on Na Pali (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Beverley Joubert “Lessons of the Hunt” (2007), showing a leopard camouflaged in the forest (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Erika Larsen’s photograph of a Sami in Sweden mourning the loss of two reindeer that starved after locking horns in a fight for dominance (2011) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Photograph by Carolyn Drake from “The Other Tibet,” showing Uygurs in Hotan in a nightclub (2009) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Diane Cook’s photograph of the green roof on Chicago’s City Hall (2009) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
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Erika Larsen’s photograph of a teepee-style structure in a Sami village in Sweden where reindeer meat is smoked (2011) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
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Jodi Cobb’s photograph of prostitutes in Mumbai (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Kitra Cahana’s photograph of a man leaping through a flaming pyre in a trance (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Lynsey Addario’s photograph of moviegoers at a 3D film in Baghdad (2011) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Photograph by Carolyn Drake of Krygyz fortune-telling cards in “Shaminism” (2012) (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Jodi Cobb’s photograph of a woman in Florence, Italy (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Kitra Cahana’s photograph of a teenager who just got her tongue pierced under peer pressure (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Lynsey Addario’s photographs of women training for police force jobs at a firing range near Kabul (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Lynn Johnson’s photograph of a comatose bird flu patient in Hanoi (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Maggie Steber’s photograph of her mother suffering memory loss at a Florida facility (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)
Women of Vision
Stephanie Sinclair’s photograph of a lieutenant in the elite female counterterrorism unit patrolling the women’s barracks in Yemen (courtesy National Geographic: Women of Vision)

Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment is at the National Geographic Museum (1145 17th St NW) in Washington, DC, through March 9, 2014.

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