The turn of phrase resonated in the dark room where a crowd of visitors watched photographer Lynsey Addario discuss her passion for photography on screens surrounded by mosaics of National Geographic's most iconic images.
The Annenberg Space for Photography is wrapping up its six month exhibit: The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years, and my wife and I went to check it out.
Addario was among four American journalists captured and brutalized while on assignment in Libya in 2011. In the film, projected in the center of the exhibit, she talks about the "What the fuck am I doing here" moments of being a photographer, weighing her love and responsibility toward a family and her passion to capture stories on the front lines of danger.
Trying to make sense of the hundreds of glossy photos of nature, people, awesome events, and mundane life, one realized that resolve to sacrifice, discover and capture is what makes National Geographic's photographers so special and their work so moving.
The exhibit, which is meant to showcase National Geographic's matchless catalog of 125 years in visual history, unfortunately, was a disservice to the work. Crammed in the small, nearly night-black space were narrow hallways of images, wallpapered in a seamless mosaic, blending contemporary portraits with 19th century exploration with 2012 scenes from North Korea. Select images were portrayed on televisions with short revolving slideshows. At two seating areas, one could swipe through a gallery on a giant iPad. Additionally, the Annenberg Space for Photography could not fit the flux visitors hoping to make one of the exhibit's last weekends, though our predictable procrastination is to blame for that.
In all, what we thought would be a guaranteed home run was a bit of a disappointment (albeit a free one). While the material is unmatched and the exhibits accompanying film introduces us to a number of amazing artists using photography to fight for animals, tell stories of cultures and show the world in new ways, it would be better seen online. Most highlighted photos were displayed in digital format anyhow and a viewers ability to arrange the photos by date would add much more context to National Geographic's history than the jumble that is curated in person.
The good news is most images are published online. Here's a short clip of a few.