Field Trip Friday: National Geographic Society

Last weekend, Hae-In visited a friend down in Washington, D.C. and happened to be there during FotoWeek DC, running from November 6-13. A celebration of photography, FotoWeek’s events and exhibitions are being held all over the city. Simply Beautiful: Photographs From National Geographic and The President’s Photographers: 50 Years Inside the Oval Office were exhibited by the National Geographic Society.

National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Washington, D.C. is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Promoting environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture, geography, archaeology, natural science and history, the Society publishes its well-known official journal, National Geographic Magazine, and other publications, web and film products in numerous languages and countries around the world.

Outside the National Geographic Society

Started in 1888, the National Geographic Society began as a club for an elite group of explorers and scientists, devoted to “the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge.” Gardiner Greene Hubbard became its first president and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone, among other things), eventually succeeded him in 1897.


National Geographic also maintains Explorers Hall, a free public museum within its headquarters. The gallery space hosts temporary exhibitions, focusing on natural and cultural history, archaeology and photography, as well as scientific breakthroughs. Comprised of two buildings, a rectangular one and a newer L-shaped building, both buildings contain exhibition space. The courtyard separating the two buildings features a fountain with a large marble boulder and several bronze sculptures of various insects.

Simply Beautiful Photographs

Based on the new National Geographic book, Simply Beautiful Photographs, edited by award-winning photographer Annie Griffiths, the work featured in the Simply Beautiful: Photographs From National Geographic exhibition are selected from the Image Collection’s vast archive of over 11 million images. The exhibition highlights elements of photography, including light, palette and composition.

Close up photo

Griffiths chose images from the Society’s core mission areas: exploration, wildlife, culture, science, and nature and the exhibit leads the viewer in her investigation of what creates beauty in a photograph.

Presidential photographs displayed

The President’s Photographers: 50 Years Inside the Oval Office is another exhibit, also part of FotoWeek DC, showcasing 40 images of past Presidents taken by nine White House photographers over the years. Since the 1960’s, photographs have played an increasingly important role in how we understand the Presidency and life at the White House and beyond. John F. Kennedy was the first president to have an official photographer and since then, almost every president has had one.
Pete Souza is currently chief official White House photographer for Obama and many of his photos are featured in the exhibit. They range from a pick up basketball game between Obama and his special assistant and personal aide, Reggie Love, to trips on Air Force One. The photographers capture moments of the Presidency that are publicly significant but also private, behind-the-scenes moments that reveal turmoil, exasperation and comedy.
National Geographic’s small, specifically-focused exhibitions made the space easy to navigate and all exhibitions are self-guided. Tickets are required for Geckos: Tails to Toepads (September 24, 2010-January 5, 2011) but all other exhibitions are free of charge.

National Geographic Museum
1145 17th St NW
(between N Desales St & N Sumner Row)
Washington, DC 20036


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