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  • June 25, 2014

A New Kind of Explorer: The Photography Fellows

Author
Alexa Keefe

On day two of the National Geographic Explorers Symposium—an annual gathering of scientists, innovators, and change agents from all corners of the world—a surprise announcement was made amid the lineup of inspiring presentations. Joining this cadre of explorers will be a group of A-1 visual storytellers—the newly-named National Geographic Photography Fellows.

Picture of the newly announced photography fellows
2014 Explorers Symposium
From left: chief content officer Chris Johns, Brian Skerry, Lynn Johnson, Cory Richards, David Guttenfelder, and chief science and exploration officer Terry Garcia
Photograph by Becky Hale

David Guttenfelder, Lynn Johnson, Cory Richards, and Brian Skerry—each with an equally strong passion for the different subjects they cover—have been named as the members of this inaugural group. Over the next two years, they will be sharing their visual expertise with diverse areas of the National Geographic Society and with the public, producing stories, sharing their storytelling knowledge with other explorers, and bringing the Society’s mission to illuminate, teach, and inspire the world at large.

“The Photography Fellows program acknowledges that there are photographers out there whose work deeply aligns with our nonprofit research and exploration goals,” says Alex Moen, who oversees the Explorers programs for National Geographic Society. “By embracing these individuals, the Society is positioning them to support our broader mission from a unique and fresh perspective.”

“We’ve chosen people who are not only strong photographers but wonderful leaders—spokespeople for the Society on photographic storytelling,” says director of photography Sarah Leen.

“It’s a start,” Leen continues, embracing the fluidity that accompanies any new endeavor, and one that will be evolving over the course of the coming months. “We have high hopes for this program—it’s the beginning of something that will evolve and be a beautiful opportunity for photography.”

Behind netting hung for shade along the Mekong River bank, a woman prepares lunch in the small restaurant on the island village of Donsom, or Ban Donsom. The Laos government has announced plans to go ahead with the controversial Don Sahong Mekong River hydroelectric dam. Residents on the islands and environmental groups fear the construction of the dam may block fish migration, and threaten the ecology of the river and the well-being of those who live in the 4,000 islands area. Photograph by David Guttenfelder for an upcoming story about dams along the Mekong River
Behind netting hung for shade along the Mekong River bank, a woman prepares lunch in the small restaurant on the island village of Donsom, or Ban Donsom. The Laos government has announced plans to go ahead with the controversial Don Sahong Mekong River hydroelectric dam. Residents on the islands and environmental groups fear the construction of the dam may block fish migration, and threaten the ecology of the river and the well-being of those who live in the 4,000 islands area. Photograph by David Guttenfelder for an upcoming story about dams along the Mekong River

There are explorers, scientists, writers, photographers who go out furthest, and alone, to the very edges of the world. And the National Geographic Society is where they come, when they come in from the cold, to put their heads together to do and share the most amazing things. I’m inspired by every person around me here. It feels like home. —David Guttenfelder

Oceanic whitetip sharks swim in the waters off Cat Island in the Bahamas. Considered the fourth most dangerous species of shark, oceanic whitetips have been seriously overfished and their stocks have been dramatically reduced worldwide. They are a pelagic animal, living in the open ocean.
Oceanic whitetip sharks swim in the waters off Cat Island in the Bahamas. Considered the fourth most dangerous species of shark, oceanic whitetips have been seriously overfished and their stocks have been dramatically reduced worldwide. They are a pelagic animal, living in the open ocean. Photograph by Brian Skerry for an upcoming series on sharks

I will be focused primarily on a series of shark stories, hoping to use the latest science and photo techniques to produce stories that will shine a bright light on these animals. There is a tremendous value to predators in any ecosystem and especially in the ocean. I want to take readers into the world of sharks and create a new ethic, a new appreciation that will result in greater conservation. With the support of NGM and the broader National Geographic Society and its many storytelling platforms, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do something substantial with this effort. —Brian Skerry

Polar bears eat mainly ringed seals and bearded seals, captured on sea ice. On land they scrounge seabirds, eggs, even grass. This animal grazed for days below Rubini Rock—then chewed up the remote camera. Photograph by Cory Richards for an upcoming story on Russia's Franz Joseph Land archipelago
Polar bears eat mainly ringed seals and bearded seals, captured on sea ice. On land they scrounge seabirds, eggs, even grass. This animal grazed for days below Rubini Rock—then chewed up the remote camera. The picture was made on a expedition for Pristine Seas, a National Geographic project to help protect the last wild places in our oceans. Photograph by Cory Richards for an upcoming story on Russia’s Franz Joseph Land archipelago

What I find so exciting is the potential to create a platform that can always be pushing the bar further with Missions, Expeditions, and the Magazine to tell stories on a larger scale and with more impact, and to have access to the different places in the Society where stories need to be told. —Cory Richards

The Mooney family adopted Lena when she was five.  She had spent most of her life in a crib in a Ukrainian orphanage. The majority of her cognitive and physical disabilities were due to neglect.   With intense physical therapy and lots of love, the Mooneys are turning Lena's life around.
The Mooney family adopted Lena when she was five. She had spent most of her life in a crib in a Ukrainian orphanage.
The majority of her cognitive and physical disabilities were due to neglect. With intense physical therapy and lots of love, the Mooneys are turning Lena’s life around. Photograph by Lynn Johnson for an upcoming story on infant brain development

I feel like even after all these years as a photographer I’m starting all over again but with the added responsibility to help build something to pass on to my colleagues. The normal way of working is a bit singular but this added dimension of “belonging” changes the landscape. —Lynn Johnson

There are 3 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Julie Keenberg
    July 2, 2014

    I want to thank you in advance for this new program. You will open my eyes, my mind, and my heart to things I would otherwise never be aware of in a forum that is breath taking and thought provoking. I will be looking forward to sharing your journeys and growing toward a greater understanding of the world we share.

  2. Ron Juliette
    June 25, 2014

    Great idea whose time has come.

  3. Ann Tihansky
    June 25, 2014

    This is VERY exciting to hear! As you very well know-a picture speaks a thousand words. We cannot tell these stories adequately without images!

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