WASHINGTON (Sept. 16, 2014)—Since 1888, National Geographic has introduced millions of readers to remarkable stories, scenes and discoveries from around the world. The magazine’s cover images have been an iconic element of that storytelling since September 1959, when a picture of a U.S. Navy fighter jet became the first cover photograph to appear. Since then, the cover images — captured by gifted and innovative photographers — have brought readers to every continent, to the ocean depths and into space as part of the magazine’s acclaimed storytelling.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories (National Geographic Books; on sale Oct. 21, 2014; hardcover; $50), by Mark Collins Jenkins, is an illustrated history of National Geographic’s memorable, beloved and groundbreaking covers and cover stories. The book brings together hundreds of images that have transformed our understanding of the planet — and beyond — and combines these visuals with backstories (many previously unrevealed) and insights. Organized by decade, these visual touchstones chart our evolving understanding of the world, the unfolding of international political events, the amazing discoveries that have rewritten history and the enduring and sometimes endangered beauty of our planet.
The book gives readers a look behind the scenes as well as behind the lens. When primatologist Jane Goodall first graced the cover in 1965, she said she found posing for pictures to be annoying — it interfered with her work — but she allowed her husband to take the now-famous images of her chimpanzee behavioral research anyway. Thirty years later, Goodall and photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols timidly entered the cage of a chimp named Grégoire, who had been held in solitary confinement in Congo’s Brazzaville Zoo since 1944. Goodall soothed the chimp and, as he reached out to her for the first time, Nichols captured their incredible moment of connection, which became the cover of the December 1995 issue of National Geographic.
Other backstories include remarkable discoveries, such as the wreckage of the Titanic, which had lain on the sea floor for more than 70 years. Underwater archaeologist Dr. Robert Ballard’s team located it in 1985, and it appeared on the cover of the December 1985 issue.
The book also shares up-close moments with wild creatures, including photographer Paul Nicklen’s encounter with a rare white Kermode, or “spirit bear,” from British Columbia’s rain forests, on the cover of the August 2001 issue. And moments of beauty and humanity remain poignant, such as Steve McCurry’s striking image of a green-eyed Afghan girl in a refugee camp, a now-iconic image that became the cover of the June 1985 issue. The book also reveals intriguing, lesser-known facts, including that Walt Disney relied on his personal collection of National Geographic magazines to inspire costume design for Disney characters.
The foreword of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS is written by National Geographic Chief Content Officer and longtime photographer Chris Johns, who began photographing for the magazine in 1985 and served as its editor in chief from January 2005 to April 2014. “The cover of National Geographic is an invitation,” he writes. “Come look, it says. See what wonder the world contains. Experience it. Embrace it. The cover … is the gateway to our magazine and to a wider world.”
Johns photographed eight cover stories for the magazine. He eloquently describes the experience of capturing an image that took him 10 years to make: a striking photograph of four Bushmen crossing a salt pan in Namibia, which became the March 2006 cover. “The heat was searing; sweat poured down my face. The light bounced up from the pan; heat rose from the ground in shimmering waves; the atmosphere elongated the legs of the Bushmen as they walked. Men, landscape, light — all aligned in one magic frame. Then, the image was gone, like a mirage itself. Except that I had captured it on film.”
Johns and the creative director of National Geographic magazine, Bill Marr, will serve as spokesmen for the book and are available for interviews upon request.
About Our Spokesmen
About CHRIS JOHNS
As chief content officer of the National Geographic Society, Chris Johns oversees the print and digital expression of National Geographic’s editorial content across its media platforms. He served as editor in chief of National Geographic magazine from January 2005 to April 2014, the ninth editor of the magazine since its founding in 1888. His extensive redesign of the magazine and focus on excellence in photojournalism and reporting revitalized the publication into a timely, relevant read for people looking for deeper insight into environmental and energy issues, world cultures, science and the natural world. His editorial efforts were recognized with 21 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors. Before becoming editor in chief, Johns was a field photographer for over 20 years. He photographed more than 20 articles for National Geographic magazine and produced books on the Hawaiian Islands, Africa’s Rift Valley and wildlife issues in southern Africa.
About BILL MARR
Bill Marr is creative director of National Geographic magazine, responsible for the design and art in the publication and leading the push into the digital world with National Geographic’s award-winning iPad app. Marr’s 36-year career reflects a dedication to photography and its presentation in newspapers, books and magazines. He has worked at several newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer as the art director of its Sunday magazine, and he has freelanced publication design for more than 10 years in book packaging, corporate projects and annual reports. He was named Picture Editor of the Year three times (in 1979 at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri, and twice at The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine). His work at the Tribune was also honored by the Society for Newspaper Design with a gold medal. He joined the staff of National Geographic magazine in 2005.
About National Geographic Books
National Geographic Books & Home Entertainment creates and distributes books, videos and other print and digital media that inform, engage and entertain diverse audiences about our world. Annually, the group publishes more than 125 new books for adults, families and kids and
releases 250+ new DVDs and digital downloads of the Society’s films and TV shows, and these
National Geographic titles are available in more than 35 local-language editions. While special photographic and film collections, travel books, nature shows, birding guides and atlases are a core focus of the Society’s products, books and videos on subjects as diverse as animals, the human mind, history, world cultures and the cosmos are also produced. For more information, visit facebook.com/NatGeoBooks and nationalgeographic.com/books.