Some of National Geographic’s most coveted photographs will be up for grabs for the first time ever tomorrow at Christie’s. Here’s a look inside.
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Gentleman explorers, take note: More than 200 of the most important photos from the National Geographic Society’s archives—from the 1800s to the present—will be auctioned off on December 6 atChristie’s New York, in a sale called “The National Geographic Collection: The Art of Exploration.” We asked photographers Joel Sartore and Jodi Cobb to share the stories behind their favorite pieces in the sale.
Joel Sartore:A Drill Monkey Is Threatened, 2008
I found this “Drill,” as most people call them, near a bush-meat market in Equatorial Guinea, where they sell illegal meats. I was there as part of a team to document vanishing primates on the island, where they are being hunted terribly. I saw the caged animal when I passed by the market in the morning and came back later, knowing that it wouldn’t be going anywhere but that it was obviously in danger of being killed. I brought a piece of black velvet with me and held it up behind his head and, as I snapped the shot, he happened to make this wonderful gesture. Luckily its owners didn’t come screaming after me. About seven years ago I began the Photo Ark, a mission to photograph endangered species to preserve them before they are extinct; it has since become my life’s work. Wherever I go now, I take my backdrops and my lights with me to take their portraits. I now have photos of about 2,500 different species. I want to try to show the world what we’ll be missing if we don’t pay attention.
Jodi Cobb: Huli Tribesman, Papua New Guinea, 1998
I went to 10 different countries on six continents to find cultural ideas of beauty and what men and women do to their bodies to achieve it. I went to see the men of Papua New Guinea, who in their culture are the flamboyant sex and dress up in makeup and costumes to lure the women. This particular tribe, with the yellow painted faces, is the Huli Wigmen tribe, who were given their name because of the elaborate wigs they wear, made from their own hair woven with bird feathers. I took this photo of the tribesmen early in the morning, as they got ready for their annual “Sing-Sing” event, a sort of competition between all the different tribes where they dress up in costumes and makeup and wow one another with dancing and drum circles. It was the most amazing spectacle.
Christie’s: 1230 6th Avenue, 212.636.2000. Proceeds of the auction will go to preserving the National Geographic archives and supporting emerging photographers and artists.