Historic Firsts in National Geographic’s 125th Anniversary

When you say “National Geographic”, do you have a series of images that go through your mind? I certainly do. The Afghan girl with the green eyes, an image of a family inside a small Russian apartment, a Nepali woman with dark hair and a colorful hair decorations, and other snapshots of family life.

It was interesting, then, to view some of the ‘National Geographic 1sts’, including black and white photography of Tibet, the Incas, wildlife, and the North Pole. Being that I often associate National Geographic with photography, I forget that it’s actually an organization that’s “one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation.” (National Geographic)

Below are some of my favorite black and white ‘National Geographic 1sts’ that they promoted, including their content. What are your favorite National Geographic photography?

Dalai Lama's Palace

This photo of the Dalai Lama’s palace was part of the first stand-alone photographic series in the Geographic. The 11-image tour of Lhasa, Tibet, was published in 1905.
PHOTOGRAPH BY TSYBIKOFF, BURIAT, AND NORZUNOFF, KALMUCK

First Wildlife Photo of National Geographic

In July 1906 National Geographic published wildlife photographs for the first time. George Shiras’ images of deer, birds, and other animals were the start of a long tradition at the magazine.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE SHIRAS

North Pole Expedition National Geographic

Robert Peary’s 1909 Arctic expedition likely came within ten miles of the North Pole—closer than any explorers before them.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT E. PEARY

Robert E Peary North Pole Expedition

National Geographic funded Robert E. Peary’s 1909 attempt to reach the North Pole. Although he claimed that his team made it, questions remain about whether they actually reached the correct geographic location.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT E. PEARY

Ancient Inca National Geographic

From 1912 to 1915 National Geographic supported Hiram Bingham’s expeditions to excavate Machu Picchu. His photos were among the first ever published of the ancient Inca city.
PHOTOGRAPH BY HIRAM BINGHAM

To read and view more of National Geographic firsts, and other milestones over their 125 years of service to the world on whole, on their website.