Photograph by Jasper Doest
Photograph by Jasper Doest
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Can you fall in love with a photo?

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By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences

“Photos are a way into your heart” sounds like a Hallmark card. I hate to cop to such a cheesy Valentine’s Day assessment, but it’s kinda sorta true.

I asked a few editors what images captured their heart through beauty, soul or even whimsy. Photo editor Jeff Heimsath responded with Bob the Flamingo, the winged star of this month’s National Geographic magazine.

“Bob the Flamingo’s pink feathers match so perfectly to the electric colors of the staircase that the first time I saw this photo (above), I thought I was looking at a drawing,” Heimsath says of the Jasper Doest image. “I love how the bird simultaneously fits in and stands out in this photo. It’s not every day that you see a flamingo standing on a staircase, but Bob is a special flamingo."

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John Stanmeyer’s photograph of migrants on a beach in Djibouti (above), searching at night for a cellphone signal to contact their families, has endured with Josh Raab, who directs our Instagram accounts. (Stanmeyer’s photo was chosen one of Nat Geo’s photos of the decade, too.) “I love images that teach us something new about a topic we thought we understood,” Raab says. “This image, taken at a time when the world needed to see nuanced images of the refugee crises, does just that."

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Photo editor Eslah Attar adores this unconventional portrait of a woman in Oklahoma by Maddie McGarvey. "It’s an expression of strength and femininity in older women, who are often overlooked," says Attar.

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Rachael Bale, our ANIMALS executive editor, says she should put Chris Johns’ 1996 image (above) of a determined lion in South Africa on her wall or desk. “When I look at this photo, I feel like I can understand how the lion is feeling,” Bale says. “That kind of struggle—both literally and figuratively walking against the wind—is universal."

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Kathy Moran, our deputy director of photography, picked this 1995 image by Nick Nichols, who got this shot while running to escape a charging elephant in the Central African Republic. “I love how photographs can encapsulate significant moments in our lives,” Moran says. “This image of a charging elephant reminds me of the first time that I worked with Nick and then-designer David Griffin. Nick and I went on to produce 15 stories for National Geographic. David and I went on to get married. One story, two wonderful relationships, and one image that has never lost its power to amaze me.“

Readers, what photo has touched your heart? Let us know.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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A sunset jump: A parkour artist takes a flying leap onto Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema beach. “He lands on his feet, tucks, rolls, and receives applause from bystanders,” says photographer David Alan Harvey. “Ipanema is one of the most photographed beaches in the world for good reason—an always exciting and eclectic stage for human drama.”

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Today in a minute

From crumbs to an award: Sam Rowley got strange looks as he took pictures late nights for a week from the floor of a London Underground stop. One photo, of two mice squabbling over crumbs on the platform, was picked from more than 48,000 images for the wildlife photography award from London's Natural History Museum. The public voted for the prize, which was announced Wednesday. Museum director Michael Dixon said the image of the mice "provides a fascinating glimpse into how wildlife functions in a human-dominated environment," CNN reports.

In the beginning: In two powerful black-and-white photos, Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950 shows a Harlem teen gang member in hiding and a cleaning woman before an American flag, mop in one hand, broom in the other. “Although they document specific people and moments in history, his images capture human themes and issues that still resonate with us today,” Allison Kemmerer, a curator at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts, tells the Andover Townsman. The show runs through April 26.

Another Dorothea Lange: When artist Sam Contis discovered a trove of Lange images in 2017, she was surprised by the playfulness of a photographer known for her somber coverage of Depression-era migrant workers and the wartime persecution of Japanese Americans. “I was struck by her interest in gesture, her obsession with hands, the fragments of bodies, the ways she conveys intimacy in her photographs, Contis tells The Independent. Contis has used her research for a just-opened Lange exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The big takeaway

Love of Lincoln: Why would a person decide to pose as Lincoln—or to paint their mobile home to look like his log cabin (above)? Photographer Greta Pratt spent years tracking down people who posed as the Great Emancipator for school visits, parades, and other gatherings. “When I don my Lincoln costume," said Lewis Clymer, "people who would scarcely notice me suddenly become very interested in what I have to say."

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Come back Monday for Debra Adams Simmons 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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Penguins, penguins everywhere: The Robert Falcon Scott Antarctic expedition of 1910-1913 successfully reached the South Pole, but those who accompanied Scott to the pole later perished. Photographer Herbert G. Ponting chronicled much of the expedition, but in his 40s, he was considered too old for the strenuous—and doomed—final drive to the pole. Ponting’s textured photographs, says our senior photo archivist, Sara Manco, “became a tribute to the work of the men on the expedition.” He also shot short video sequences.

See: Herbert Ponting’s photographs of the doomed Scott expedition to Antarctica

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 at david.beard@natgeo.com . Thanks for reading!