50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic

This exhibition is no longer on display at the Museum.

See the amazing places on our planet documented in unforgettable images published over 120 years of National Geographic.

Sub Saharan Mali, Joanna B. Pinneo 1997

Sub Saharan Mali, Joanna B. Pinneo 1997

From Steve McCurry’s unforgettable Afghan Girl, to Nick Nichols’s iconic photograph of Jane Goodall and a chimpanzee, and Thomas Abercrombie’s never-before-seen view of Mecca, the exhibition takes you deep into 50 of the most remembered and celebrated photographs in the world.

In addition to seeing the photographs as they appeared in the magazine, visitors to the exhibition will learn the stories behind the photos and more about the photographers themselves. For some images, visitors will be able to see the “near frames” taken by the photographer: the sequence of images made in the field before and after the perfect shot.

Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry is known as the Mona Lisa of the developing world and is one of the hero images in the exhibition. This photograph of girl with haunting eyes and a tattered garment tells of her plight as she fled her native Afghanistan for a refugee camp in Pakistan. When National Geographic Photographer Steve Mc Curry wandered into the Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan in December 1984, he captured one of the most famous portraits the world had ever seen.  Afghan Girl captivated viewers, reflecting the power of photography to open eyes – and hearts and minds – with a single image.

Nick Nichols’ Jane Goodall shows ‘the touch’ – an exquisite moment when a chimpanzee she had never seen before reached out his hand to her. Jou Jou, a full-grown chimpanzee had been caged alone for years in the Brazzaville Zoo and was desperate for contact with other living beings. That has also become one of the most recognisable images in photography. Another moving image is Sub-Saharan Mali by Joanna B. Pinneo, depicting blowing sand from a dry lake bed clinging to a mother and her children asleep on a sun-baked afternoon in Mali.

The exhibition is based on the popular iPad app released by National Geographic in 2011. The app will be available on devices in the gallery for visitors to experience. 

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific and educational organizations and one of the world’s leading organizers of large-scale, traveling exhibitions. National Geographic magazine started publication in 1888 as the official journal of the society, a non-for-profit set up to fund science and exploration across the planet. It reaches an audience of about 60 million readers worldwide each month.

List image: Afghan Girl, Steve McCurry, 1984, all rights reserved
Above: Sub-Saharan Mali, by Joanna B. Pinneo, 1997, all rights reserved


This exhibition is no longer on display at the Museum.
15 December 2017 – 25 February 2018
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