National Geographic has been in publication for over 130 years and published some of the most iconic photographs in magazine print, in history.
National Geographic has given their readership a sneak peek into the world around us with a close eye on the multitude of cultures and people that live on Planet Earth. And this October, they published Women: The National Geographic Image Collection, providing the world with how the world looks through the eyes of women.
Historically, National Geographic’s photography has come under fire as their photos were often gendered, sexualised and racialised, showcasing some genders and races in a more favourable light than others. However, National Geographic’s new book is here to change all that. Women: The National Geographic Image Collection is not only a collection of photographs of women from around the world but all the stories and photographs were devised by women.
This distinctive collection of women’s artistic work, about women and for women offers a truly female perspective into the world and feminine culture. Lynsey Addario, a photojournalist for National Geographic comments how men and women don't “see” the world differently rather than what men and women can access is vastly different. She herself has strived to photograph strong and powerful women. Her photograph of US Marine corporal Gabrielle Green, carrying a male colleague over her shoulders is a prime example.
The image of Green climbing up a slope with a male marine on her back demonstrates the sheer power of the female body and how her gender does not impede her from completing her marine duties. Green’s tattoo on her thigh reads The fire inside me burns brighter than the fire around me, to which Addario comments how it is “imperative” marines can carry an injured comrade and this photo proves a female marine can have just as much determination and strength as her male counterparts.
Whilst highlighting women in positions of power, the book also portrays the gender inequalities and differences that still exist today. In one story detailing the safety of India’s public spaces, a woman in a pink sari walks down the street down the well light portion of the street whilst looking at her phone. Whilst on the darker, dimly light stretches of the street, several men are situated around her. Highlighting how women in India are still wary to walk in the same spaces that are accessible to men.
Even behind the camera lens, there have been purposeful steps into involving women in the vision of National Geographic. Susan Goldberg editor-in-chief for National Geographic, explains how since 2013 the director of photography has been headed by a woman and now three-quarters of the magazine’s visual staff are women.
Women: The National Geographic Image Collection, orders the different photography and stories of those women in chronological order, portraying how the difference in how women are photographed then and now. Goldberg comments on how the publication's photography has changed from the 1900s where women were “pictured as beautiful objects”, whilst 1940s women were photographed as entirely 'domestic'.
Through the 20th Century and now the 21st Century women in National Geographic are depicted as having agency and emotion. They are depicted as determined, strong and powerful in their environments and spheres. Recognising and celebrating the women behind and in front of the camera in Women: The National Geographic Image Collection is a significant and bold statement for National Geographic. Not only does it demonstrate how the magazine is shifting its dynamic in terms of the stories it tells but also how we as readers look at how women interact in a variety of cultures.
Comment below what you think has been the biggest achievement for women throughout history? Remember to share this on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to celebrate the achievements of the women around you and across the globe.
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