14 Dec 18: International photo exhibition open at Waikato Museum

A selection of the most significant images to appear in National Geographic magazine are now on display at Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato.

50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic, an international exhibition from Washington DC, USA, opened today, a week ahead of its original schedule.

The exhibition explores hidden worlds, secret stories and amazing places on the planet through the most compelling imagery published in the 120-year history of the magazine.
From Steve McCurry’s unforgettable Afghan Girl, to Nick Nichols’s iconic photograph of famed primate expert Jane Goodall and a chimpanzee, to 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 McCurry 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’ photo of Jane Goodall shows 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. Another poignant image is Sub-Saharan Mali by Joanna B. Pinneo, depicting blowing sand from a dry lake bed clinging to a mother and her children on a sunbaked afternoon in Mali.

Waikato Museum Director Cherie Meecham says the exhibition evokes a wide range of emotions.

“From photos of war, disasters, and nature’s beauty to shots of people displaying courage and dignity in extremely challenging circumstances as well as the everyday, the images are not only individually moving but the selection also shows the diversity of life on Earth and the human condition,” she says.

“Our team worked hard to get the install completed early so Hamiltonians have an extra week to enjoy these spectacular photos."

The exhibition was brought to New Zealand by Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt and has been attracting bumper crowds to museums throughout the country. Waikato Museum is the final venue in New Zealand to show the exhibition.

50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic is open until 31 March 2019 and entry is free.