Daily Picture Show

'National Geographic' Celebrates 125 Years Of Photography

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    Tibet, China. A Nashi man stands in front of robes made from leopard skin. 1931
    Dr. Joseph F. Rock/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    "Henry ran cattle for 50 years on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument desert country. He was 72. The government wanted his cattle off the land. As we moved about the house, Henry paused, lost in his thoughts, behind him a 48-star flag." Arizona, 1970
    William Albert Allard/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    Brazzaville Zoo, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Jou Jou, captive chimpanzee reaches out its hand to Dr. Jane Goodall. 1990
    Michael Nichols/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    Under the black clouds of burning oil fields during the Gulf War, camels forage desperately for shrubs and water in southern Kuwait. 1991
    Steve McCurry/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    "I expected this leopard seal to flee with her catch, a live penguin chick, but she dropped it on my camera," says Paul Nicklen. Antarctica, 2006
    Paul Nicklen/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    Destined to melt, an 800-pound chunk of ice glowed in the moonlight. It washed up in a lagoon created by a receding glacier, part of a worldwide shrinkage of glacial ice. Jokulsarton, Iceland, 2009
    James Balog/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    Stalactites and a sunbeam spotlight a swimmer in the Xkeken cenote, a natural well in the Yucatán thought by the Mayans to lead to the underworld. Dzitnup, Mexico, 2010
    John Stanmeyer/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    Seeking to capture the throng in Churchgate Station, Randy Olson coached a local assistant through the laborious process needed to get this shot, because the perfect vantage point was closed to foreigners. "After four hours we had this picture — and a small victory over Indian bureaucracy." Mumbai, 2011
    Randy Olson/Courtesy of National Geographic
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    A lion climbs a tree to sleep, in Uganda's Queen Elizabeth Park. 2011
    Joel Sartore/Courtesy of National Geographic

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This month, National Geographic magazine celebrates its 125th anniversary in a special issue devoted to the power of photography. "The Photo Issue" features images spanning the organization's storied career.

Here, The Picture Show features a selection of images from the anniversary issue, as well as a few highlights from the magazine's photographic history.

Steve McCurry's iconic photograph of a young Afghan girl in a Pakistani refugee camp appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine's June 1985 issue and became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history. i i

Steve McCurry's iconic photograph of a young Afghan girl in a Pakistani refugee camp appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine's June 1985 issue and became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history. Steve McCurry/Courtesy of National Geographic hide caption

itoggle caption Steve McCurry/Courtesy of National Geographic
Steve McCurry's iconic photograph of a young Afghan girl in a Pakistani refugee camp appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine's June 1985 issue and became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history.

Steve McCurry's iconic photograph of a young Afghan girl in a Pakistani refugee camp appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine's June 1985 issue and became the most famous cover image in the magazine's history.

Steve McCurry/Courtesy of National Geographic
  • 1888: The National Geographic Society is founded in January, and the first issue of National Geographic magazine is published in October.
  • 1889: The first photograph in National Geographic magazine, depicting a relief map of North America, appears in the third issue.
  • 1890: The first photograph of a natural scene — generally considered the first real photograph in the magazine — is a glimpse of Herald Island, taken from the deck of a ship and appearing in the July issue.
  • 1908: More than half of the magazine's pages are photographs.
  • 1914: The first autochrome, or natural-color photograph, to appear in the magazine is published in the July issue. It depicts a flower garden in Ghent, Belgium. In the same issue, the Society publishes its first photograph by a female photographer, Eliza Scidmore.
  • 1937: National Geographic pioneers the use of 35 mm Kodachrome film, and methods to engrave and print from it. It will be many years before the rest of the publishing industry follows.
  • 1959: The first photograph featured on the magazine cover is of the 49-star American flag, honoring Alaska's entry into the United States, in the July issue.
  • 1969: James P. Blair undertakes an assignment to cover pollution. His images, published in the December 1970 issue, mark a major shift away from pretty pictures and toward unsettling, photojournalistically strong images.
  • 2003: The first "all-digital" assignment for National Geographic magazine, "What's Next in the Air," shot by contributing photographer Joe McNally, is published in the December issue.
  • 2013: Michael "Nick" Nichols uses a robotic, remote-controlled camera as well as a microcopter to capture unique close-up images of lions in the Serengeti for the August issue.

To complement the release of the issue, National Geographic has also unveiled a new photo blog called Proof.

Correction Oct. 1, 2013

A previous version of this post incorrectly said that the first photograph appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1943. The first photograph appeared on the cover in 1959.

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