By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
I’m pressed to think of a better definition of a story’s heart as “an obligation to illuminate the things that unite us.” It’s Ami Vitale’s phrase, the photographer who covered the last moments of Sudan, the last male white rhino of his kind. For me, the phrase sticks, reminding me of why Ami and other journalists go to such great lengths to witness and share with us the world’s joy, pain, and wonder.
In a week where National Geographic is celebrating women—including women photographers—Ami is here with more insights:
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What I learned from Sudan the rhino
I began my career covering conflicts. Starting at 26, I found myself in places such as Kosovo, Angola, Gaza, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. My reason for going, I told myself, was to document the brutality. I thought the most powerful stories were those driven by violence and destruction. While the importance of shining a light on human conflict shouldn’t be minimized, focusing only on that turned my world into a horror show.
But slowly, as I covered conflict after conflict, it became clear to me that journalists also have an obligation to illuminate the things that unite us as human beings. If we choose to look for what divides us, we will find it. If we choose to look for what brings us together, we will find that too.
Those years in war zones led me to an epiphany: Stories about people and the human condition are also about nature. If you dig deep enough behind virtually every human conflict, you will find an erosion of the bond between humans and the natural world around them.
These truths became personal guideposts when I met Sudan, a northern white rhinoceros and, eventually, the last male of his kind. ... Read Ami’s full story here.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Hills, alive. Finding a scene reminiscent of The Sound of Music in an open field in Chechnya. Related: Here’s a photo of the Caucasus Mountains from the 19th century, part of our popular Photo of the Day feature.
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Photo tip of the week
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One last glimpse
Framing women’s lives: With a critical eye, Sarah Leen selected images of women from the vast archive of National Geographic’s 131-year history for a new book.
"One of the themes in the book is Love." Leen writes. "This image by Maggie Steber, photographed in 1997 of two cousins from the Cree Tribe in Quebec, broadens the idea of love to the friendship women and girls often share. It’s a tender moment, the two girls are cooling off in the water, their faces close together in a suspended moment of peace. I can feel the comfort they find in one another. All is accepted and known. I remember how close I was to my girlfriends at that age. This image is about that memory and a time of innocence all women share."