Photograph by Thomas Pecschak, National Geographic
Photograph by Thomas Pecschak, National Geographic

What are the best unpublished photos of 2019?

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By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences

The photo didn’t work with the mix. One editor didn’t like it, or liked another image better. There wasn’t a “package” to go with it.

For whatever reason, these striking photographs never saw the light of day at National Geographic. Until now.

So, here are sea turtles, swirling in the sea in the Bahamas (above). And worshipers celebrating Easter in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (below). See the whole package here.

And remember, when you ask how could photo editors NOT publish these images, that’s a question we’re asking ourselves. This may even be an annual feature.

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Today in a minute

Chernobyl was her beat: How best to show what the 1986 nuclear disaster at a Soviet nuclear plant wrought? Brazilian artist Alice Micheli had to figure it out. She used film plates used for chest X-rays and a special pinhole camera to document the area’s radioactive contamination. Some of her photos, on display at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas in New York, show glowing, ghostly lines, Atlas Obscura reports. In others, the darker spots had the highest degree of radiation. “Chernobyl as it is exists in our planet today concerns all of us,” Micheli says.

Women Photograph: Here are the best 100 photographs of the year by women photographers, selected by a group of more than 950 independent women documentary photographers in 100-plus countries.

Figuring it out: Wildlife photography would not have developed the way it had without George Shiras. He was a lawyer and served a term in Congress, but his passion was wildlife. He was the first to use camera traps and flash photography of animals, and many of his experimental works appeared in National Geographic. He dedicated himself to conservation and wildlife protection, says James H. McCommons, author of a new biography, Camera Hunter: George Shiras III and the Birth of Wildlife Photography.

Where the muse never leaves: The visual art from prison is the subject of this exhibition of 140 drawings by 50 artists, some who first began seriously only after being incarcerated. “To put pencil or pen to paper in such circumstances is to reassert your humanity," writes critic Jillian Steinhauer, “to remind yourself and others that you exist."

Your Instagram photo of the day

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A separate piece of Canada: Gwen Bourque untangles her horse's mane while riding in an Alberta settlement constitutionally protected for the Métis, descendants of European settlers and indigenous people who have a culture distinct from both groups. The Buffalo Lake settlement is one of eight in Alberta created to give land to the landless Métis.

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Photo tip of the week

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On Monday, Debra Adams Simmons writes on the latest in history. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Victoria Jaggard on science, George Stone on travel, and Rachael Bale on animal and wildlife news.

One last glimpse

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Hello, reef-dwelling fishies! This image was among the first color underwater photographs published by National Geographic in 1927. It used a cumbersome and dangerous process, says senior photo archivist Sara Manco. “In the days before flash bulb photography, magnesium powder created a literal explosion to light the subject. While a pinch was used in normal circumstances, one pound was used to light 15 feet below the water’s surface,” Manco says. If ignited at the wrong time, it could be deadly. That may be why Nat Geo waited several decades for technology to evolve—and a photo-friendly explorer named Jacques Cousteau appeared—to revisit color underwater photography.

Related: Milestones in underwater photography

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you Thanks for reading!