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125 Years of ‘National Geographic’ in 10 Incredible Photos

Despite the never-ending supply of candid images, manipulated pictures and amateur cellphone shots, the art of photography still thrives in the digital age.

National Geographic, an institution for first-rate photography, celebrates its 125th anniversary in October. In honor of the milestone, the publication’s latest issue is devoted to the “Power of Photography.”

“Today photography has become a global cacophony of freeze-frames. Millions of pictures are uploaded every minute. Correspondingly, everyone is a subject, and knows it—any day now we will be adding the unguarded moment to the endangered species list,” writes Robert Draper in the magazine.

The issue is filled with iconic photos snapped throughout the past 125 years. We’ve highlighted 10 spectacular images, but you can view the full spread in the latest issue.

  • First-nighttime-wildlife-photos


    Photography pioneer George Shiras III made the first nighttime wildlife photos. Here, he demonstrates his revolving camera tray, mounted jacklight and handheld flashgun.

  • Machu-pichu


    An elevated view of about half of Machu Picchu, the lost mountaintop city of the Inca in the Peruvian Andes. National Geographic supported Bingham’s excavations at the site from 1912 to 1915.

  • Nashi


    A Nashi man stands in front of robes made from Leopard skin.

  • Henry-cattle


    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. Here, he pauses in thought, standing behind a 48-star flag.

  • Kuwait


    Under the black clouds of burning oil fields during the Gulf War, camels forage desperately for shrubs and water in southern Kuwait. Front-line photographs of regions ravaged by human strife can also illuminate war’s environmental cost.

  • Polar-bear


    Its image mirrored in icy water, a polar bear travels submerged—a tactic often used to surprise prey. Scientists fear global warming could drive bears to extinction sometime this century.

  • Scotland


    On Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula, basalt pinnacles loom over the Sound of Raasay. Rising from the debris of an ancient landslide, they bear witness to the geologic upheavals that shaped these lands.

  • Dead-sea


    Floating on dreams and whispers, girls from a West Bank village cool off in the salt-laden waters of the Dead Sea. With its main tributary, the Jordan, at less than a tenth of its former volume, the inland sea has dropped some 70 feet since 1978.

  • Water-broke


    Noor Nisa, about 18, was pregnant, and her water had just broken. Her husband was determined to get her to the hospital, but his car broke down, and he went to find another vehicle. The photographer ended up taking Noor Nisa, her mother and her husband to the hospital, where she gave birth to a baby girl.

  • Bureacracy


    Seeking to capture the throng in Churchgate Station, 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.”


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