National Geographic magazine has published thousands of the world’s most striking photographs over the years, but if you think about it, the ones they published are only the tip of the iceberg. The magazine’s archives contained many thousands of photos that had never seen the light of day. So they decided to make some of them available online. It is a remarkable collection. The oldest date to the late nineteenth century; the newest are quite recent. Most are in color, some in black and white. They were taken all over the world. Here are a few that I liked; they represent pretty much a random sample. Click to enlarge.
This one is like something out of a Werner Herzog movie. Taken in 1950, it shows porters carrying a car across a river on poles, in Nepal. God only knows why:
This beautiful girl was photographed in Sicily in 1909:
This one is undated, but it’s the Golden Horn in Constantinople:
Looking at photos like these, you get the feeling that the past was a better world. There is, of course, some evidence to the contrary, but still… This one was taken in Queens in 1951; these people have evidently pulled over to watch a Pan Am Stratocruiser taxi across an overpass. One thing you notice is that there weren’t as many people in decades gone by:
Three girls drink from a fountain in New York in 1948:
The Grand Canyon in 1956. I’m guessing they wouldn’t let you do this nowadays. Which is another thing that strikes you, looking at these pictures: people used to be bolder.
Hong Kong in 1934. Study this picture for a few moments and you feel like you are in a noir film:
This was taken in South Dakota, at Dinosaur Park in the Black Hills, in 1956. I like it in part because I visited Dinosaur Park in, I believe, the same year, and was photographed next to that brontosaurus. We rode horses, too, but not right there:
Most of the photos of children in this collection depict them doing things that would now be considered dangerous or disreputable. These kids in Scotland, shot in 1919, should be wearing shoes, and that see-saw would never be approved on a modern playground. Plus, they are having too much fun:
For what it’s worth, I would wager a nickel that the boy in the middle was an officer in WWII.
One last sample. This one was taken close to home, in Duluth Minnesota, in 1949. It’s a lovely period piece, but it is hard to imagine that any place in Duluth ever looked like that:
There are lots more where those came from.