Annie Griffiths

A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs by Annie Griffiths Belt by Todd Henson

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A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel  by Annie Griffiths Belt

A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel by Annie Griffiths Belt

Annie Griffiths Belt spent much of her life as a National Geographic photographer, traveling the world, telling stories about the peoples and places she visited. In A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel she tells her story. She tells of growing up in the Midwestern US in the 1950s and how early on she had no thoughts of being a photographer; she didn’t even own a camera until her junior year in college. She thought she’d be a novelist.

But the job that might have begun training Annie for her eventual career with National Geographic was that of a waitress in a small town. She felt that job taught her more than any classroom ever had. She learned how to relate to people, how to communicate and get along, the gift of gab and putting people at ease; great skills for a future journalist.

When she did finally buy a camera in college Annie was hooked. All she wanted to do was shoot assignments for the university paper. After college she worked for another paper, one where she was largely on her own to find and tell stories, with little oversight or direction. This was perfect training for National Geographic.

One day while working at the paper Annie answered the phone and found herself speaking to Bob Gilka, the Director of Photography at National Geographic. He was looking for hail damage photographs and knew her area had just experienced a large hail storm. And so began her relationship with National Geographic. Within a year she was working her own assignments for them.

It was also at National Geographic she would meet her future husband, Don Belt. He was a writer for the magazine, and they would eventually go on assignments together as much as possible. When they had kids they decided to take them along, as well. This proved a fantastic education, allowing the kids to see the world, learn about the cultures, people, and places firsthand.

National Geographic sent her all over the world. She visited many of the countries in the Middle East, learning about the different cultures and making friends with many people. This was an interesting time. There is so much tension between so many of the cultures in that part of the world, yet she was able to befriend people everywhere she went. She eventually travelled to other parts of the world: New Zealand, Australia, England, Morocco, Japan. She visited South America, Europe, Africa, every continent but Antarctica.

Each section of the book tells a part of her story and showcases photographs from that period of her life. Scattered throughout are also short pieces about specific stories, describing her experiences and displaying photographs from that story. Many of them are very personal or emotional, as is often the case with National Geographic stories, taking you into the lives of the people.

The book is full of photographs from all over the world. Most are her photographs shot while working various assignments. Some are of her family while with her on these assignments. If you’ve read National Geographic then you will be familiar with this type of photography. These are story-telling photographs. Ones that draw us into the lives of others.

This is a book that not only tells the story of Annie Griffiths Belt, but also tells the story of the cultures of the world. It demonstrates it is possible for people of different cultures to get along, to even learn from one another if we stay open to it. The book seems especially relevant today, with so much hatred and violence in the world, so much misunderstanding, so many people judging an entire race or culture because of the actions of the few. This book is evidence it doesn’t have to be that way. It is possible to learn to respect and appreciate those who are different than ourselves.

As a photographer I have learned that women really do hold up half the sky; that language isn’t always necessary, but touch usually is; that all people are not alike, but they do mostly have the same hopes and fears; that judging others does great harm but listening to them enriches; that it is impossible to hate a group of people once you get to know one of them as an individual.
— Annie Griffiths Belt

I hope you will seek out a copy of this book and read through it. Maybe you’ll get something out of it, as I did.


National Geographic Stunning Photographs by Annie Griffiths - Review by Todd Henson

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Cover of the book,   National Geographic Stunning Photographs  , by Annie Griffiths

Cover of the book, National Geographic Stunning Photographs, by Annie Griffiths

National Geographic’s Stunning Photographs is an appropriately titled book. In its 400 pages you’ll find a large collection of stunning photographs created by National Geographic photographers.

A stunning image is one that makes the viewer halt, look again, and connect on an emotional level.
— Annie Griffiths

In Stunning Photographs the emphasis is on the photography, but each section of the book is preceded by an introduction written by Annie Griffiths, who is also a National Geographic photographer. I dislike how the introductions are laid out, with paragraphs blending into one another, but I think they are worth reading.

The book is separated into themed sections, with the introduction and all the photographs in that section matching the theme in some way. And as with the National Geographic magazine there is a very wide range to the photographs, both in subject and style. One thing they all have in common is that they are excellent photographs.

Mystery

Pages 54-55 of   Stunning Photographs  , in the section titled:  Mystery .

Pages 54-55 of Stunning Photographs, in the section titled: Mystery.

Other photographs are imbued with atmosphere or mystery that haunts us long after we first see them.
— Annie Griffiths

These are photos we ask questions about. What are we looking at? Who is that person and what are they doing? Is that a snake in the sand? Or thousands of fireflies illuminating a forest, as in the photo above by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu created near Okayama, Japan?

Harmony

Pages 100-101 of   Stunning Photographs  , in the section titled:  Harmony

Pages 100-101 of Stunning Photographs, in the section titled: Harmony

There is a balance beyond symmetry that silently elevates the subject of the photograph.
— Annie Griffiths

Harmony implies a sense of balance, perhaps of color, or symmetry, or placement of subject within the frame. You look at the photo and it just feels right. Many of these are very peaceful or contemplative images. The photo above, created by David Clapp, is of a still pond and autumn color in Grasmere, England.

Wit

Pages 176-177 of   Stunning Photographs  , in the section titled:  Wit

Pages 176-177 of Stunning Photographs, in the section titled: Wit

There are witty images that surprise and delight, as the familiar is translated into something fresh and remarkable.
— Annie Griffiths

Many of these images will bring a smile to your face. Sometimes the scene, itself, is humorous. Other times it’s an interesting juxtoposition of elements. But wit can also by informative, as in the example above of a half-shorn sheep in Victoria, Australia. The image was created by Cary Wolinsky who wanted to show how much wool a sheep grows in a season.

Discovery

Pages 234-235 of   Stunning Photographs  , in the section titled:  Discovery

Pages 234-235 of Stunning Photographs, in the section titled: Discovery

Discovery is one part curiosity, one part genius, and two parts tenacity.
— Annie Griffiths

This is what National Geographic has always done so well. Taking us someplace new. Showing us a scene we’ve never seen before. Portraying a creature or person in a way that wakes us up to the fact there is still so much to see in the world. The image above, created by Christian Klepp, is an ice cave in Iceland that looks almost otherworldly.

Energy

Pages 292-293 of   Stunning Photographs  , in the section titled:  Energy

Pages 292-293 of Stunning Photographs, in the section titled: Energy

These are the OMG images that quicken the pulse with the physics of fantastic.
— Annie Griffiths

Here we get to experience what it might look like to be underfoot dozens of galloping horses. We see storms, fire, wind, crashing waves. We see movement and action. Mitch Dobrowner created the image above, of a tornado in Regan, North Dakota.

Intimacy

Pages 394-395 of   Stunning Photographs  , in the section titled:  Intimacy

Pages 394-395 of Stunning Photographs, in the section titled: Intimacy

Some photographs are so intimate that they take our breath away or move us to tears.
— Annie Griffiths

Many of these images are peaceful, tranquil, like the image above of polar bears in Wapusk National Park, Canada, created by Jenny E. Ross. We can find something touching in the image, something human, even if there are no people in the frame.

From a technical perspective, the book is just over 10 inches square and over 1 inch thick. Some of the photographs fully span 2 pages, while the rest span most of the 2 pages but leave enough room for a quote from a photographer and information on the photographs, such as the photographer, location, and a brief description.

National Geographic Stunning Photographs is the type of book I love to own as an endless source of inspiration. Seek out a copy. Perhaps you will also find inspiration in its pages.