Indeed, if it were not for National Geographic, many may not know of all those far away places with strange sounding names.
"The rest of the world knows everything about America and Americans, and we know so little about the rest of the world," says National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb, a 25-year veteran of the magazine. "I think we should care about the rest of the world, and that's what this book is about. It's about the rest of the world."
The book Cobb is talking about is "Through the Lens: National Geographic's Greatest Photographs," which features more than 200 of the editors' picks as the greatest photographs from its archives.
One of Cobb's images was selected for the "Through the Lens" cover.
"I was the first photographer who was allowed inside this very secret and very private world of geisha," she explains.
The original geisha project took Cobb three years to complete.
Finding the story — under the sea, over the earth or among the people and animals that inhabit the earth — has been the stated mission of National Geographic since its inception.
The story of the bushmen in southern Africa was photographed by Chris Johns. So was the story of Makishi dancers in western Zambia.
"What intrigues me are the cultures that are still very close to the land," Johns says. "And what intrigues me is what I can learn from those cultures."
Even more intriguing to National Geographic readers, perhaps, is what the photographers have to endure to bring home those stunning images.
"There's always that sense of the hunt, the hope you'll get it, that there's light at the end of the tunnel," Johns explains. "And when you're in that mind set, the pain, all the problems you had getting the pictures doesn't really matter."
There are 10.5 million images in the National Geographic archive. While most of the book consists of photographs from the last 10 years, a selection of vintage pictures is included, too.
Leah Bendavid-Val, the magazine's editor, says one of her favorite photographs is a 1933 print that was taken aboard a German plane, Lufthansa, not so long before World War II started.
"I believe it was important to include vintage photographs [in the book]," she says. "First of all, memory is important. How can we understand our world today if we don't know about what happened before? And, photography allows us to have a certain kind of memory. Memory that's hard to write about or express in any other way."
"Through the Lens" weighs 7 pounds. It contains 250 photographs spanning almost 100 years and showcases 84 National Geographic photographers. It is being published simultaneously in 20 languages.
Bendavid-Val says, "This is a time in world events, in world affairs when we fell in crisis. And this book is a look at ourselves, a look, at the world from the perspective of National Geographic."
For many, there is no other perspective for looking at the world.
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