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 Assignmentopened 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.
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.
In this extensive interview from a year before the pioneering feminist art historian passed away, she shares her thoughts on women in the art world, particularly during the Abstract Expressionist movement.