National Geographic Greatest Portraits
Jan. 20 - March 16, 2008
The William D. Cannon Art Gallery presented "In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits," an exhibition of 51 striking color and black-and-white photographs that highlighted the work of some of National Geographic’s most celebrated photographers. Created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and National Geographic, the exhibition was organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. From fascinating archival images of tribal leaders, fishermen and American workers, to riveting modern pictures of refugees, city dwellers and urban laborers, "In Focus" took visitors around the globe and through the heights and depths of human emotion.
Memorable portraits have a simple, yet profound universal appeal; portraits can reflect the continuity of human experience over time or emphasize the physical and cultural differences that distinguish human beings from one another. National Geographic photographers have taken more pictures of people than of any other subject, indicating "a photographer’s desire to connect with people—to capture something consequential about another person," writes National Geographic magazine associate editor Chris Johns. The portraiture photographic process requires that the subject commit time and energy, which makes for a deeper relationship between photographer and subject. In the process, the image becomes a collaboration between the two and has an intense intimacy into which the viewer is drawn. Such remarkable images reveal deep-rooted connections to the environment, to national identities, to gender roles and to cultural preferences. They reveal the historical context of the moment while shedding light on larger world views that have been modeled and re-cast throughout the centuries. Most importantly, an unforgettable portrait echoes the spirit of the sitter.
The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people for more than 50 years. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history.