Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Geographica: November 2009!
Don't get me wrong: November's issue of National Geographic has the usual incredible roster of articles, from a haunting (almost literally) look at all the animals the ancient Egyptians mummified to greet them on the other side of eternity, to a lively (and, alas, all too accurate) piece on India's water-woes.
But sometimes, an issue's visuals just overwhelm the text, and this is one of those times. There's the joyous shot of a human swimming with a curious, even playful young sperm whale off the coast of Dominica
And there's the blood-curdling picture of a hummingbird freshly murdered by a big ol' praying mantis (note the super-long hummingbird tongue hanging out)
There's the shot heard round the world, this hilarious vacation shot of Melissa and Jackson Brandts that was rudely commandeered by a curious squirrel (the squirrel-bomb quickly 'went viral' on the Internet, and rightly so: it's one of those pictures that just makes you laugh out loud)
And then there's what has to be the single most disturbing photo I've ever seen in National Geographic (that wasn't an actual in-the-moment shot of an animal being murdered, that is - fortunately, the magazine doesn't run many of those anymore): a chimpanzee in a Bangalore zoo who's lost all his hair and sits forlornly in the crook of a tree branch looking pathetically human - not human-like, but entirely human. Try to tell me your first visual impression of this isn't 'man covered in mud'
Throughout its long history, National Geographic has been doing this: not just presenting us with colorful and detailed expert reporting from every nook of the world, not just assembling the latest scientific thought on every subject confronting society, but also this - showing it all to us, with the finest photography in the world. The fact that these shots were all taken by Geographic readers goes a long way toward proving two things: that cameras are now everywhere, and that perhaps to a larger extent than we think, we owe our eyesight when viewing nature to this great magazine.
The issue's eminently worth reading (and has lots and lots of further great photos, of course), but be prepared to close it thinking about the photos, not the text, this time around.