UAE: Xposure 2023 offers fascinating peek into National Geographic’s journey to top of visual storytelling – News
An engaging session at the festival takes attendees through the legacy of the institution, beginning with the publication of its first photograph in 1890
Published: Sun 12 Feb 2023, 15:44
Did you know that when National Geographic Magazine published its first ever breathtaking wildlife photos, members of the board resigned in outrage? They believed that the trusted magazine was losing its touch and “turning into a picture book”.
In an engaging session at the 7th annual edition of the International Photography Festival ‘Xposure’, Whitney Johnson, National Geographic’s Vice President of Visuals, took attendees on a journey through time through the institution’s legacy and the story of which a ”Photo of the Year”, starting with the publication of his first photo in 1890, about how National Geographic’s readers became viewers.
“National Geographic’s commitment to innovation and new methods of storytelling is a defining characteristic. We’ve broken barriers, right from our early use of flash photography and groundbreaking underwater color photography, to our latest 360-degree video of the International Space Station. The heart of National Geographic has always been about pushing the boundaries and exploring new frontiers, and our photographs continue to capture moments and distill into single, unforgettable scenes.”
A storyteller at heart, Johnson shared her passion for telling stories that matter, citing her earliest memories of documentaries and how they transported her to faraway places. She also encouraged embracing technological advances, not just for better performance, but with the goal of helping us “understand the unknown more clearly and make an impact.”
Johnson emphasized the importance of having something to say and how photography, when done right, can produce intense, passionate content that can evoke emotions. She also touched on the meaning of “who is behind the camera” and the need for an artistic eye. She emphasized the importance of distinguishing between perspective and bias and how the global pandemic has strengthened the use of local photography with more diverse voices now being published with National Geographic.
“Creativity thrives on diversity, and that’s not said enough. Today, the Internet and digital photography have changed images and image-making, and publishing photos is no longer the end game, but just the beginning,” she said.
Johnson also shared how National Geographic is expanding its horizons into space with its NASA collaboration. “Artemis II is the first flight under the Artemis program to carry astronauts on a trip around the Moon and back to Earth aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft.”
She also shed light on other forms of visual storytelling embraced by the National Geographic. “We are constantly exploring new frontiers, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, to transport our audience to new places. Our projects have taken people on a visual feast from the summit of Mount Everest to the depths of Machu Picchu. We also delved into the metaverse, exploring and capturing the edge of digitally constructed universes.”
Johnson then delved into the evolution of visual technology and how it was developed and assembled over time. She emphasized the crucial role of images in transporting people to unfamiliar places and how technology has changed the way we produce and interact with images. “Technologies will continue to evolve, but the values of storytelling will remain. The audience of the future will benefit from our ambitions and commitment to innovation, but it is important to balance this with maintaining our core values.”
Johnson also shared deep insights into the art of visual storytelling, leaving the Xposure Festival audience with a newfound appreciation for the power of visuals and the impact they can have on our understanding of the world around them.