Carnegie Museum opens exhibit by female photographers for National Geographic
They bring the world into focus.
Female photographers for National Geographic risk their lives to get the shot, to tell the story of pain, suffering, turmoil and sometimes joy and happiness through exceptional visual images, some of which will be on display starting Sept. 24 at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Oakland.
These photojournalists put a face on a cause, such as Lynn Johnson's agonizing shot of a young man nearing the end of his life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from monkey pox, his entire body covered in bumps, an IV providing just the slightest bit of comfort.
“The willingness of this exhibit to include photos that are difficult to look at … the struggle is an intimate part of it for me,” says Johnson of the Mexican War Streets on the North Side. “This kid is dying.”
That's the kind of reality Johnson and her colleagues experience on assignments for the magazine. She is one of 11 photographers who are part of “Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment,” which features nearly 100 photographs, including moving depictions of far-flung cultures, compelling illustrations of conceptual topics such as memory and teenage brain chemistry, and poignant images of social issues such as child marriage and 21st-century slavery.
In addition to the photographs, visitors will have an opportunity to learn how National Geographic magazine picture editors work closely with the photographers to select images and tell a story. Video vignettes will present first-person accounts that reveal the photographers' individual styles, passions and approaches to their craft.
“For the last decade, some of our most powerful stories have been produced by a new generation of photojournalists who are women,” says Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic exhibitions. “These women are as different as the places and the subjects they have covered, but they all share the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic. The exhibition reaffirms the society's position as a respected leader in the field of photography.”
Having all of these women together is pretty interesting, says Erika Larsen of Boynton Beach, Fla., who studies cultures with strong ties to nature.“You will get a perspective on the world and see different points of view. We are taking you to all different places in the world in one space.”
Amy Toensing of the Hudson Valley, N.Y., says she strives to put a human face on her assignments, such as one where she captured two young sisters experiencing life in a drought in Australia. For another image, she swam in the ocean at the Jersey shore with senior citizens Joyce and Beverly, for the assignment ZIP Code USA.
“We hope to have an impact by telling people's stories,” Toensing says. “This picture reminds me ... that you need to jump in with every assignment.”
Landscape photographer Diane Cook of New York tries to give a sense of place and reveal elements of landscapes people may never have seen or noticed. Her inspiration is the movie “The Secret Garden.”
“I hope this exhibit is inspirational,” Cook says. “These women came into a male-dominated world to be leaders in this field.”
Pittsburgh is the perfect city for this exhibit, according to Johnson.
“We are a world-class city, and this confirms it,” Johnson says. “These women are inspiring. I remember coming to this museum as a child to see the dinosaurs. Now you can see the dinosaurs, as well as these photographs. It's an exhibit about understanding our world. This job we have is marvelous. It allows us to be dedicated to the story, to live in the story.”
But it's not always safe.
“The photographers whose work you've seen in this exhibition go into some very desperate and sometimes dangerous conditions,” says Elizabeth Cheng Krist, exhibit curator and former senior photo editor for National Geographic.
“But they haven't lost their joy in life or enthusiasm for the next assignment. They're able to connect with people and to come back as people you really want to know, trust and have on your team. There's a humanity that they're constantly bringing into their work and into National Geographic. We all really benefit from that. It's my hope that this exhibit will inspire young women to dream of careers as photographers for National Geographic.”
The exhibit is a celebration of the power of photography to freeze a moment in time and make people want to look at it, says photographer Jodi Cobb of Washington, D.C.
She describes her work as telling the story of social issues that pertain to women. She says she is most proud of her piece on the trafficking of human beings around the world. She visited 11 countries to find subjects.
“It was the hardest story I have done,” she says. “It took a year to do it and a year to recover from it because it took a huge emotional toll on me. It changed my life. Most subjects didn't want to be photographed. I am glad I lived to talk about it.”
Behind the lens
Here are the 11 photo journalists who will be featured in “Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment,” which opens Sept. 24 at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Oakland
• Lynsey Addario is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a MacArthur fellow who is widely admired for her conflict coverage in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo.
• Kitra Cahana's work explores important social, anthropological and spiritual themes. She has won first-prize awards from World Press Photo and the ICP Infinity Award, and a TED Fellowship.
• Jodi Cobb has worked in more than 65 countries and produced 30 National Geographic stories, including “21st Century Slaves,” which was among the most popular stories in the magazine's history. She was the first photographer to document the hidden lives of the women of Saudi Arabia and among the first to travel across China when it reopened to the West. She was also the first woman to be named White House Photographer of the Year.
• Diane Cook is a leading landscape photographer whose work is in numerous collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego and the L.A. County Museum in Los Angeles. She's collaborated with husband Len Jenshel covering New York's elevated park the High Line, Mount St. Helens, Green Roofs, the Na'Pali Coast of Hawaii, the U.S.-Mexico border and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
• Carolyn Drake is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, a Fulbright fellowship, the Lange Taylor Documentary Prize, a World Press Photo award and was a finalist for the Santa Fe Prize. She has spent years documenting the cultures of Central Asia and life in western China's Uygur region.
• Lynn Johnson is a Knight Fellow and passionate advocate for visual arts education. She has covered a wide range of assignments, producing images for 21 stories on subjects including vanishing languages and challenges facing human populations in Africa and Asia. She has received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for coverage of the disadvantaged.
• Beverly Joubert is a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, filmmaker, photographer and co-founder of the Big Cat initiative. She and her husband have documented the plight of African wildlife for more than 30 years and have produced more than 25 television documentaries and a feature film.
• Erika Larsen studies cultures with strong ties to nature. She published a 2009 story in National Geographic on the Sami reindeer herders of Scandinavia. She is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship.
• Stephanie Sinclair's decadelong project on child marriage has earned global recognition, including three World Press Photo awards and prestigious exhibitions on Capitol Hill, at the United Nations and at the Whitney Biennial in New York.
• Maggie Steber has worked in more than 62 countries and her images have earned several honors, including the Leica Medal of Excellence and World Press Photo awards.
• Amy Toensing began her career covering the White House and Congress for the New York Times. She has created portraits of people around the world while shooting stories in Papua, New Guinea, Puerto Rico, the Jersey Shore and Tonga.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7889 or email@example.com.