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The Power of Photography: 125 years of National Geographic

The Power of Photography: 125 years of National Geographic

I tend to shy away from grand proclamations about an exhibit because I want you to draw your own conclusions, but saying that the upcoming exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography is extraordinary is no hyperbole.

So, how do you edit and present at a fairly intimate space when you have literally 125 years of material?  The answer, I believe, is that you embrace digital technology.  I mean, deeply hug and love it. The final edit of 501 photographs that spans the life of the magazine is a timeline that connects the viewer to each visual moment that does deeply hug and love the use of modern technology.  The choice to present the work in a digital format does a nice job at linking history to the future.  Picture frames are nice, but this is by far better.

As always, there is a feature documentary that showcases the stories from the visual storytellers, who include Lynsey Addario, Marcus Bleasdale, David Guttenfelder, Abelardo Morell, Joel Sartore and Martin Schoeller. Additionally, there is a behind-the-scenes film that shares a glimpse of the making of the exhibit.  Seems pretty smart to include that film since we are in an age when oversharing and transparency are becoming the standard.  Particularly, take note of Morell’s work. The printed versions are beautiful, but the film catapults his work to a more exquisite, creative and jaw-dropping place.

As I circled the space multiple times, I found a new experience with each lap.  There is a lot to absorb in this show, so one might want to visit multiple times to fully and sincerely soak it in. Reflecting on the show, the words “photography can change the world” on the 125th anniversary cover of National Geographic magazine resonates clearly, considering our current rate of visual consumption. These photographs do in fact have a lasting impact and have changed the way we see our ubiquitously visual world.

Lastly, to enrich the experience, if you can reserve a seat to the free Iris Nights lectures, I highly recommend it.  The visual storytellers powerfully personalize the exhibit.

The show runs from Oct. 26 to April 27.

Photo: Miners eat lunch from a communal bowl in the town of Pluto in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Marcus Bleasdale / National Geographic

Twitter: @kmyp

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