A New Kind of Explorer: The Photography Fellows

On day two of the National Geographic Explorers Symposium—an annual gathering of scientists, innovators, and change agents from all corners of the world—a surprise announcement was made amid the lineup of inspiring presentations. Joining this cadre of explorers will be a group of A-1 visual storytellers—the newly-named National Geographic Photography Fellows.

David Guttenfelder, Lynn Johnson, Cory Richards, and Brian Skerry—each with an equally strong passion for the different subjects they cover—have been named as the members of this inaugural group. Over the next two years, they will be sharing their visual expertise with diverse areas of the National Geographic Society and with the public, producing stories, sharing their storytelling knowledge with other explorers, and bringing the Society’s mission to illuminate, teach, and inspire the world at large.

“The Photography Fellows program acknowledges that there are photographers out there whose work deeply aligns with our nonprofit research and exploration goals,” says Alex Moen, who oversees the Explorers programs for National Geographic Society. “By embracing these individuals, the Society is positioning them to support our broader mission from a unique and fresh perspective.”

“We’ve chosen people who are not only strong photographers but wonderful leaders—spokespeople for the Society on photographic storytelling,” says director of photography Sarah Leen.

“It’s a start,” Leen continues, embracing the fluidity that accompanies any new endeavor, and one that will be evolving over the course of the coming months. “We have high hopes for this program—it’s the beginning of something that will evolve and be a beautiful opportunity for photography.”

There are explorers, scientists, writers, photographers who go out furthest, and alone, to the very edges of the world. And the National Geographic Society is where they come, when they come in from the cold, to put their heads together to do and share the most amazing things. I’m inspired by every person around me here. It feels like home. —David Guttenfelder

I will be focused primarily on a series of shark stories, hoping to use the latest science and photo techniques to produce stories that will shine a bright light on these animals. There is a tremendous value to predators in any ecosystem and especially in the ocean. I want to take readers into the world of sharks and create a new ethic, a new appreciation that will result in greater conservation. With the support of NGM and the broader National Geographic Society and its many storytelling platforms, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do something substantial with this effort. —Brian Skerry

What I find so exciting is the potential to create a platform that can always be pushing the bar further with Missions, Expeditions, and the Magazine to tell stories on a larger scale and with more impact, and to have access to the different places in the Society where stories need to be told. —Cory Richards

I feel like even after all these years as a photographer I’m starting all over again but with the added responsibility to help build something to pass on to my colleagues. The normal way of working is a bit singular but this added dimension of “belonging” changes the landscape. —Lynn Johnson

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