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Photojournalism is a demanding art, even more so for female photographers than for their male colleagues: Along with the perils, and discomforts shared by every professional traveler, women all too often face other obstacles unique to their gender. But as this gloriously colorful celebration proves, the women of National Geographic have excelled behind the camera for almost a century, come hell or high water, documenting the world in arresting images that linger long in the viewer's eye.
From Eliza Scidmore, whose 1914 hand-tinted portrait immortalizes a Japanese child framed by chrysanthemums on page 18, to such famous names as Margaret Bourke-White and Dickey Chapelle, to the most gifted eyes of today, Women Photographers at National Geographic is a gallery of some 40 extraordinary visual talents and their finest work. Cathy Newman's informative text chronicles the adventures, achievements, and observations of four generations of remarkable, resourceful women: Annie Griffiths Belt, who passed herself off as a boy to capture a ceremony closed to women in Israel; Bourke-White, a figure of such romance and Tlan that she inspired the television movie Double Exposure; plucky Dorothy Hosmer, whose pictures documented her 1937 bicycle tour of Romania -- and almost went unpublished because a prim male editor found the very idea unladylike.
But the piFce de rTsistance is of course the photography, both in rich color and evocatively nuanced black and white: Landscapes like Edith Watson's view of Cape Breton island early in the century...portraits like Jodi Cobb's Saudi beauty, veiled but for flashing sloe eyes...scenes of lethal beauty like Dickey Chapelle's fiery Vietnamese nightmare, published only after she was killed in the field...and over 140 more, from a majestic quintet of elephants to a long-ago schoolroom of solemn, shaven-headed Russian village boys. Interspersed among the chapters are showcase portfolios of five superb contemporary women photographers, whose personal essays explore their visions and hallmark themes: "Women on Women" by Jodi Cobb, Maria Stenzel's "Art of Adventure," Annie Griffiths Belt on "Intimacy," Karen Kasmauski's gallery of "The Human Condition," and Sisse Brimberg's reflections on how one links the gap "Across Cultures."
As Tipper Gore aptly observes in her Foreword, "This book marks an important milestone for photography in America. I can think of no better way to begin the millennium." Open this splendid volume to any page and you'll find the stunning proof in image after image you'll never forget.