As the curator of the Found Tumblr, I often find myself lost in the pages of history when searching through the National Geographic archives. You might not know this, but National Geographic was one of the first publications to have photographs on its pages. Our first photograph was an engraving of a topographic map in 1889, just one year after our founding in 1888. The archive contains photos unlike many others taken during the 1800s and early 1900s. When staged family portraits and celebrity pinups were the norm, National Geographic staked its claim as a forbearer of modern photojournalism, capturing daily life one frame at a time.
I’m often attracted to images that have what I call “good energy”—bright colors, a surprising scene, and a hint of excitement. Here I share a few of my favorites from Abu Dhabi, South Dakota, France, Romania, and more.When you see Mount Rushmore, it’s hard to imagine what it might have looked like while it was being built. Well, now you know what TJ looked like when he was getting his eyelashes put on. This photograph is awe-inducing, which is the best ingredient for any photograph.
Little did they know in 1988 that cat cafés would become popular today. I wouldn’t mind having a table companion like “Caramel” every once in a while. This photograph captures the magical mood of Paris’s cafe culture on a quiet evening.I appreciate photographs that do a great job of capturing a large landscape. Usually this is done by including a smaller object or person to reveal the scale. In this photograph, the red sail boat pierces through a brown landscape and is the perfect reminder that, yes, that rock wall is massive.This photograph isn’t particularly complex, but these swollen-eyed goldfish seem to be infused with fun and capture a small everyday moment.There are many photographs in our archives that are reminiscent of paintings, but this one in particular reminds me of a painting of a diner by Edward Hopper. The fast food signage contrasts with the clientele and glowing 70s lampshades inside. This whirlpool sure looks like a lot of fun. The Greek statues, blue-green tile, and funny goggles make this photograph feel like it’s a scene from a Wes Anderson film.This photograph has an air of mystery to it. What are the people staring at? Why is the sky lit up? It harkens back to a different era—one where atomic bomb tests near the leisure town of Las Vegas were commonplace.Did you know that sphinxes could get a facelift? Neither did I. The cast of characters standing around as the face gets lifted out feels right out of an Indiana Jones film. I feel transported into this historic moment.This photograph brings together many elements into one stunning landscape. The castle in the background and dramatic sky make it feel out of a fairy tale, but then you look closer and see the gritty machinery, which gives off a dystopian vibe.
Janna Dotschkal curates the National Geographic Found Tumblr. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.