WASHINGTON (Sept. 16, 2010)—The title says it all: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHS (National Geographic Books; ISBN: 978-1-4262-0645-0; Oct. 19, 2010; $35; hardcover). This spectacular book is a feast for the eyes as award-winning photographer Annie Griffiths guides readers on a colorful adventure through National Geographic’s famed Image Collection, one of the richest photo archives in the world.
The criterion for selection was visual delight. “We wanted a set of images that would transport the reader to a beautiful place, be that space physical, emotional, or spiritual,” writes Maura Mulvihill, vice president, National Geographic Image Collection in her foreword to the book. “Encouraged by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Beauty is its own excuse for being,’ we decided the book should take us to a world of beautiful dreams, memories, and meditation.”
“What is it that delights the human eye and allows us to proclaim that a photograph is beautiful?” asks Griffiths. Among the three most important elements are light, composition and moment. “In the right hands, light in a photograph can make the image soar. The same is true with composition. What the photographer chooses to keep in or out the frame is all we will ever see — and that combination is vital. And the moment that the shutter is pressed, when an instant is frozen in time, endows the whole image with meaning. When light, composition, and moment are in concert, there is visual magic.”
The other important aesthetic concepts that create beauty in a photograph are palette — the selection of colors that create a visual context; time — the freezing, blurring or choreography of movement within the frame; and wonder — the response of the viewer to a photograph that reveals something never seen before or something presented in a fresh, new way. Each chapter focuses on one of these six critical aspects or elements of an image and presents page after page of tantalizing pictures — “photographs” Griffiths remarks, “that lift us out of a jaded world and make us gasp.”
Beyond the introduction and a quick essay about each concept, the book’s text is sparse. The photographs speak for themselves, enhanced by brief, lyrical thoughts from scholars and poets. The chapter on “light,” for example, begins with the lyrical wisdom of songwriter Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
And then the images flow — of light entering via windows, clouds and spotlights, from above and behind, casting radiance on ballerinas, cowboys, horses and lions, into groves of autumn trees and onto snowy mountains — revealing beauty beyond expectation in everything it touches.
The book showcases the work of more than 100 renowned photographers — including Sam Abell, Thomas Abercrombie, Jodi Cobb, David Doubilet, David Alan Harvey, Annie Griffiths, Chris Johns, Paul Nicklen, Jim Richardson, James Stanfield, Maynard Owen Williams and Michael Yamashita — as it celebrates beauty in scores of different guises, from the exotic to the familiar.
“Photographs have given us visual proof that the world is grander than we imagined, that there is beauty, often overlooked, in nearly everything,” writes Griffiths.
Many of the stunning images in the book are available as frameable prints. To order, visit www.PrintsNGS.com and click on the gallery titled “Simply Beautiful.”
National Geographic Museum is currently hosting an exhibition of 50 images from the book at National Geographic headquarters. “Simply Beautiful: Photographs from National Geographic” will run through Feb. 6, 2011, and is part of FotoWeek DC, a celebration of photography in the nation’s capital from Nov. 6-13, 2010.
National Geographic continues its exhibition partnership with Steven Kasher Gallery in New York with a “Simply Beautiful” exhibition, opening Oct. 14, 2010. It will include large-scale color photographs by more than 25 National Geographic photographers. Signed, deluxe, limited-edition collectors’ prints will be available.
About the Author
Annie Griffiths earned a degree in photojournalism from the University of Minnesota. Since then she has photographed dozens of magazine projects for National Geographic. Her work also has appeared in Life, Geo, Smithsonian, Merian, Paris Match, Stern and many other publications. She devotes a portion of each year to producing fundraising images for aid organizations.