58 Stunning and Fascinating National Geographic Portraits ...


Since 1888, the National Geographic portraits have brought the world glorious pictures of all people, all colors, all countries and all cultures. In the early years, it was hugely entertaining as the average person didn't travel much and the periodical brought to life wonderfully exotic and far off places and their peoples. In later times, National Geographic portraits have also been a chronicle, capturing not only everyday life but some people as some of the great world events unfold around them.

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Afghan Displacement

Afghan Displacement Via The Most Iconic Photographs From ...

Of all the National Geographic portraits - of which there are thousands - this must surely be the most famous. The arresting photograph of a beautiful Afghan girl in a Pakistan refugee camp was taken by Steve McCurry and graced the NG front cover in 1985.



This iconic photograph captures the reality of Afghan displacement during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. The girl in the photo, Sharbat Gula, was only 12 years old at the time and had just fled her village with her family. Her piercing green eyes and striking features have made her a symbol of the struggles and resilience of Afghan refugees. The photograph has been recognized as one of the most iconic and powerful images in National Geographic's history. It has also shed light on the ongoing refugee crisis and the impact of conflict on innocent civilians. McCurry later reunited with Gula in 2002 to take her photograph again, showing the lasting impact of this powerful image.


Holi Festival

Holi Festival Via Holi festival - Traveler Photo ...

This portrait of an old man in India was taken by Antonio Gibotta and was entered in the 2013 Travel Photo of the Year contest.


The vibrant colors splashed across the canvas of his face capture the essence of Holi, a traditional Indian festival which heralds the arrival of spring. It is a celebration defined by the joyful throwing of colored powder, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The subject's eyes are alive with the mirth of the occasion, lending a timeless quality to Gibotta's snapshot, which resonates with the festival's spirit of forgiveness, friendship, and fresh beginnings. It is moments like these that encapsulate the cultural richness and shared human experience that National Geographic so compellingly portrays.


"Royal Blue" in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

"Royal Blue" in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India Via Royal Blue - National Geographic ...

In 2011, Khaled Kabash brought us a wonderful study of contrast in color.


The Mysterious Maya

The Mysterious Maya Via A+V

Some of the best travel photographs of people arise from the traveler's curiosity and fascination with a particular culture and not just because it's an interesting photo opportunity. This photo was from a series run in 1977 with the words by George E. Stuart and Gene S. Stuart and photographs by David Alan Harvey and Otis Imboden.


The Maya civilization has been enveloped in an aura of enigma, and photography serves as a bridge to understanding their complex history and rich cultural tapestry. Capturing more than just faces, these images delve into the soul of the Maya, offering viewers a poignant glimpse into their traditions and ways of life. The photographers' deep respect and authentic interest in the ancient culture allowed them to create intimate portraits that transcend time, providing us with timeless connections to a civilization renowned for its sophisticated writing system, astronomical knowledge, and monumental architecture.


Afghanistan Woman

Afghanistan Woman Via geologo

Another of the most recognizable National Geographic portraits from 1985.


This portrait of an Afghanistan woman was taken in 1985 by a geologist for National Geographic. It is a beautiful representation of the traditional culture of the Afghan people and is a reminder of the resilience of the Afghan people in the face of adversity.

The woman in the portrait is wearing a traditional burqa, which is a garment that covers the entire body and face of a woman. This is a common practice in the Islamic religion and is used to protect the modesty of women. The woman in the portrait is also wearing traditional jewelry, which is a sign of her social status and wealth.

The portrait also captures the harsh landscape of Afghanistan. In the background, you can see the barren mountains and desert of the country. This is a reminder of the struggles that the Afghan people have had to endure over the years, and the portrait serves as a reminder of the strength and resilience of the Afghan people.

The portrait has become very popular and has been featured in many publications, including National Geographic. It has also been used as a symbol of the resilience of the Afghan people and a reminder of their culture and traditions. This portrait is a reminder of the beauty and strength of the Afghan people, and of the resilience of their culture and traditions.



Motherhood Via -Online Browsing-: Odyssey: The Art ...

Everyday life makes an endlessly fascinating subject.


Motherhood is a universal experience that has been captured and celebrated by National Geographic photographers for decades. From the joys and challenges of pregnancy to the tender moments of bonding with a newborn, these portraits showcase the beauty and complexity of motherhood. The images also highlight the diversity of motherhood around the world, from traditional family structures to modern parenting styles. National Geographic's commitment to showcasing the lives of women and their roles in society is evident in these stunning portraits, which serve as a reminder of the strength and resilience of mothers everywhere. These photographs not only capture the intimate moments of motherhood, but also shed light on the cultural, social, and economic factors that shape the experience of being a mother.


Wedding Day

Wedding Day Via tribally infused

Wow. This is from a series of National Geographic portraits on African wedding rituals. This young lady belongs to the Maasai tribe of Africa and if you look closely you can see the single tear in Nosianai's eye as she leaves her family home in the Loita Hills of southern Kenya. Photograph by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher


The emotion etched on Nosianai's face tells a story deeper than any words could convey, a narrative of culture, tradition, and personal turning points. Beckwith and Fisher have captured a moment that is a rite of passage in Maasai life, a solemn farewell to childhood and a tentative greeting to married life. Her ornate beadwork and attire showcase the community's craftsmanship and dedication to ceremonial dress. In this image, intimacy and grandeur collide, bringing forth a powerful snapshot of the threads that weave the human experience across continents.


A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time Via National Geographic's Photography Contest 2010

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This special shot was taken by Nikki Krecicki in 2010.


El Salvador

El Salvador Via En dilletante - indodla: El ...

In 1944, two-thirds of the world was fighting in World War Two. The coffee harvest still had to be gathered though.


Man 1974

Man 1974 Via Hair and Ardorment

Some portrait shots are so evocative of the decade they were taken.


Hong Kong, 1931

Hong Kong, 1931 Via The 18 Most Dazzling Photos ...

Even when photographs were black and white, NG scenes were so evocative.


Gypsy, Rucar, Romania

Gypsy, Rucar, Romania Via Gypsy Girl Poses in Traditional ...

Wilhelm Tobien brought us this lovely offering. I think it's important to remember that before TV documentaries and travel programs, magazines like National Geographic opened our eyes to other parts of the world and different cultures.


Mystic Ubud, Bali

Mystic Ubud, Bali Via MILAGROS MUNDO

The placement of a human presence in a scenic shot provides scale and also gives some surreal scenes a sense of reality. (Photo by Justin Guariglia.)


Suri Smile

Suri Smile Via National Geographic Traveler Magazine: 2013 ...

The Suri people live in the Omo Valley in South West Ethiopia and are known for their face and body painting. (Picture by Stephanie Hunt.)


Blue Face

Blue Face Via National Geographic Photo Contest 2012 ...

Mark Swan shot this startling portrait at a Hare Krishna Festival in London.


Sami Boy 1977

Sami Boy 1977 Via Lapland, Lappi

The Sami people live, herd and hunt in the upper reaches of Scandinavia. Their animal is the reindeer.


Herero Woman

Herero Woman Via En dilletante - National Geographic : ...

I love the National Geographic portraits of African peoples. They always have something to say. This proud lady from Namibia was shot by Jim Brandenburg in 1982.


Veiled India

Veiled India Via -Online Browsing-: Odyssey: The Art ...

I don't think it makes it any less striking that we can't see her face.


The mystery of her concealed visage adds to the intrigue, compelling us to focus on the details we can observe—the intricate patterns on her garment, the subtle grace in her posture, and the hidden stories etched in her silhouette. Each element beckons us to ponder the cultural richness and deep-seated traditions that shape her identity. Such images are a powerful reminder of the diverse tapestry of human life, stretching far beyond the visual cues we often rely on to understand one another.


Optical Illusion

Optical Illusion Via beautiful places

Wondering why the kids aren't dressed for snow? It's because it's not snow. It's sand. This is White Sands in New Mexico.


That's a Wrap

That's a Wrap Via EL HIEROGLYPH

The cover photo from November 1975. The sunnies are fab-u-lous with that traditional costume.


Nap Time

Nap Time Via انقلاب

A Native American Baby is oblivious to the goings on at the Pow-wow in White Swan, Washington, 1994.


Cradled within a traditional carrier, the infant rests peacefully amid a celebration of heritage and community. Pow-wows, often vibrant with the heartbeat of drums and the swirl of colorful regalia, serve as a bridge connecting generations. Yet in this moment, the baby's serene slumber serves as a poignant reminder that amidst the dynamic expression of culture, life's simplest routines—like a midday nap—transcend the bustle, offering a universal touchstone of innocence and calm.


Balinese Dancer

Balinese Dancer Via Japonesices | Franklin Price Knott

Franklin Price Knott was a trailblazing National Geographic photographer. He started an epic journey around Asia when he was 73 years old in 1927, covering 40,000 miles, taking stunning pictures as he went. Prints of his National Geographic portraits are much sought after even today.


Sinai Desert, Israel

Sinai Desert, Israel Via nationalgeographicstock.com

A Bedouin mother shields her child with her abaya.


The Tall Guy

The Tall Guy Via Human Giants

This Mongolian man was 7 foot 5 inches tall. He was photographed in 1922 in Ulaanbaatar by Roy Chapman Andrews.


Orangutan Indonesia, 1980

Orangutan Indonesia, 1980 Via Vintage National Geographic

An animal will always upstage any human in a photograph.


Native American 197i

Native American 197i Via cradle to grave : onyxearth: ...

A portrait of ethnic beauty.


A Woman's Work is Never Done

A Woman's Work is Never Done Via cooking light Photo by Bas ...

In the kitchen making rice crackers in Inle Lake, Myanmar (aka Burma) in 2008.


Joy Unbounded

Joy Unbounded Via National Geographic: Simply Beautiful - ...

In case you don't recognize it - that's the glass pyramid at the Louvre.


Berber Beauty

Berber Beauty Via mail.nysoclib.org

The Berbers are a North African nomadic tribe. This gorgeous happy girl with the captivating smile was photographed in Morocco in 1968. Note the face tattoo - this practice is becoming increasingly rarer.


Berber Wedding Finery

Berber Wedding Finery Via National Geographic Creative | Stock ...

Look at all that stunning jewelry and she's not even the bride,
just a friend of the bride. Shot by Thomas J. Abercrombie 1971.


Dancers during Red China’s 10th Birthday Celebration

Dancers during Red China’s 10th Birthday Celebration Via PATTERNBLOG

Brian Brake captured this image for the world to see in 1960.


The Happy Weaver

The Happy Weaver Via Spin, Dye, Weave

This was one of a series entitled "Weaving around the World," run in 1977. She's so happy in her work. There's no way that smile was faked for the camera.


Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan Via blous.me

I don't know if this was deliberate or not, but I find the juxtaposition of the ancient tradition of the geisha girls in the background and the hip young couple in the foreground truly fascinating. Shot in 1960.


Kyoto is the former capital of Japan and is known for its rich cultural history, stunning architecture, and iconic temples. It is home to the famous geisha tradition, which dates back to the 8th century. The photo featured in the article was taken by the National Geographic photographer in 1960 and shows a young couple juxtaposed against the backdrop of geisha girls in traditional dress. The photo is a reminder of the city's long and vibrant history, as well as the evolution of modern Japan. Kyoto is a popular tourist destination and is a must-see for anyone visiting the country.


Mother and Child, Tibet, 1978

Mother and Child, Tibet, 1978 Via All sizes | Untitled | ...

"The woolen cap on a younger child guards against cold winds, while the amulets and needles that decorate it ward off evil spirits."


This beautiful portrait of a mother and child in Tibet, taken in 1978, is a stunning example of the culture and traditions of the region. The mother is wearing traditional Tibetan dress and jewelry, and the child is wearing a woolen cap to protect against the cold winds. The cap is also decorated with amulets and needles to ward off evil spirits.

Tibet, located in the Himalayas, is known for its unique culture, religion, and language. The majority of its population is Buddhist, and Tibetan Buddhism is an important part of the culture. Tibetan people also practice a form of animism, believing in the presence of spirits in the environment. This belief is reflected in the amulets and needles that decorate the child’s cap.

Tibet is a remote region, and the people living there have faced political and economic challenges over the years. Despite this, the culture remains strong and vibrant, and the traditional clothing and jewelry worn by the mother in this photograph is a testament to that.


Adriatic Sea, 1970

Adriatic Sea, 1970 Via National Geographic Found

James P. Blair captures a picture of hard working fisherman loading their hefty catch of sardines.


Captured with deft skill by James P. Blair, this evocative photo vividly illustrates the toil of Adriatic fishermen in a bygone era. With their nets brimming, they transfer the shimmering sardines into crates, an image seeped in the timeless tradition of the sea's bounty. It's a moment frozen in time, speaking volumes of the fishermen's daily dance with the waves—to sustain their communities and maintain a livelihood that has, for centuries, been the backbone of coastal life. National Geographic Found offers a window into this world, often unseen and unsung, yet integral to the fabric of human history.


Extreme Photo of the Week

Extreme Photo of the Week Via adventure.nationalgeographic.com

I love National Geographic portraits where man is in a contest with Mother Nature.


Laundry Day at the Taj Mahal

Laundry Day at the Taj Mahal Via COULEURS

But then, I also love the National Geographic people shots where a mundane, everyday task is happening near to the World's greatest sights.


There's something truly captivating about witnessing the symbiosis of the grandiose with the quotidian. Seeing locals engaging in simple routines against a backdrop of iconic landmarks offers a precious glimpse into the interconnectedness of culture, history, and daily life. It reminds us that these monumental sites are not just tourist destinations but are woven into the fabric of the lives of the people who live amongst them. This perspective imbues these landmarks with a deeper sense of belonging and purpose, far beyond their aesthetic and historical appeal.



Tears Via Heroes Gallery | Entries For ...

A perfect tribute to the agony of displaced people.



Monsoon Via Porque Puedo, Puedes

Steve McCurry was enchanted by these boys and their woven straw umbrellas in India in 1984


Nigeria 1979

Nigeria 1979 Via DYNAMIC AFRICA — endilletante: National ...

Bryan Barbey presented this in his series of photographs illustrating "Nigeria struggles with the boom times."



Cigar! Via Old Woman Photo by Vladislav ...

You can get away with anything when you're an old woman!
Photo by Vladislav Samorukov.


“Burning the Hoof”

“Burning the Hoof” Via filmisgod.tumblr.com

Another of the fabulous National Geographic portraits of men at work. A blacksmith shot by William Reed in Scotland, 1921.


Saint Petersburg, Florida, 1973

Saint Petersburg, Florida, 1973 Via National Geographic Found

Women have always known the benefits of a spa! Another great National Geographic people photo from Jonathan P. Blair.


The Dan Tribe

The Dan Tribe Via kicker of elves. | Dan ...

The people of the Ivory Coast captured in 1982 by Michael and Aubine Kirtley.


Young Lovers

Young Lovers Via nosmalldreams-allie.blogspot.com

The essence of Paris in 1972.


This captivating image by National Geographic portrays a timeless tale of romance in the City of Love. Paris whispers tales of passion at every cobblestoned corner, and this photograph encapsulates a moment when the world seemed to pause for these two souls. Caught in a snapshot, their embrace is both a reflection of the era’s joie de vivre and a testament to the universal language of love—a language that Paris has spoken fluently for centuries. Their story, though untold, is felt through their tender closeness and the city's historic backdrop.


Sun Cream

Sun Cream Via Mozambique Guide -- National Geographic

People in Mozambique grind bark into a cream to protect their skin from the beating African sun. Photo by James E. Stansfield.


Highdays and Holidays

Highdays and Holidays Via Intersecting Phenomena

Is there anything more innocent than children at play? Peter Benchley caught them in Nantucket in 1970.



Dumpling Via En dilletante - National Geographic, ...

Brian Brake was in Beijing (Peking back then) in 1960 to make this shot.


Himba Woman, 2013

Himba Woman, 2013 Via Himba Woman - National Geographic ...

I can't help but notice how flawless her skin is. A true African beauty. The Himba tribe lives in Namibia.


Chippewa Girl

Chippewa Girl Via World People

Roland W Reed took this poignant photograph in 1907.


Capturing the soulful essence of a young Native American, Roland W. Reed's photograph is a testament to the rich cultural tapestry that weaves through history. His dedication to portraying the indigenous peoples of North America with respect and authenticity breathes life into every frame. The Chippewa girl stands as a symbol of a fading world, her gaze both haunting and filled with an untold story that challenges the viewer to remember and honor the past. Reed's work provides an invaluable visual chronicle of the lives and traditions that are an integral part of the nation's heritage.


Hand on Heart

Hand on Heart Via nationalgeographic.com

Stunning portrait. He's a Black Buffalo Leader of the Teton Sioux from South Dakota.


Captured with striking clarity, this image resonates with the profound dignity and cultural richness of the Teton Sioux people. As a Black Buffalo Leader, his gaze embodies the wisdom and strength that has been passed down through generations. His attire, adorned with intricate beadwork and ceremonial pieces, reflects the traditions that the Sioux hold dear. National Geographic consistently showcases powerful visuals that tell deeper stories, and this portrait is no exception—it's a window into the soul of a community and its enduring legacy.



Together Via Community Post: The Best Of ...

National Geographic portraits don't always have to contain a face to be breathtakingly awesome.


Inuit Boy, Alaska

Inuit Boy, Alaska Via En dilletante - rosenadinehelena: National ...

At the time of the photo - 1959 - Anaktuvuk Pass belonged to the Inuits, the last of Alaska’s nomads. He's playing with a caribou-hide face, a toy counterpart of tribal spirit masks.


Chinese Fisherman and Waterbird

Chinese Fisherman and Waterbird Via ombabagiahhum.tumblr.com

In a craft that's been successful for centuries, the old man uses the bird to catch fish from the river Li in Guangxi, China.


This ancient tradition, known as cormorant fishing, is a testament to the enduring harmony between humans and nature. The old man, poised in his wooden boat, skillfully employs the cormorant's natural instinct to dive and retrieve. What unfolds is a dance between the fisherman's guiding hand and the bird's agile pursuit, a craft passed down through generations. In this tranquil slice of the Li River, one can't help but marvel at a practice untouched by the passage of time, a living relic of cultural heritage that continues to captivate and inspire.



Goatherd Via 3 kids - National Geographic ...

In 2013, Eric Lew was on a guided trek in Peru's Sacred Valley (Lares Valley) when he met this boy and his goats.


A Sadu Pilgrim from Varanasi, India

A Sadu Pilgrim from Varanasi, India Via 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo ...

Craig Stevenson captured this awesome image.


Omani Woman

Omani Woman Via Chemin faisant

I totally love that the caption to this photograph reads, "This is the colorful painted falcon shaped burqa that some traditional women wear, but is rarely seen on younger females," when in fact the picture is black and white so we have no idea how colorful the face mask is.


The photograph captures the essence of tradition clashing with modernity. It is emblematic of a cultural heritage that is cherished by some and abandoned by others. Despite the grayscale of the image, one can only imagine the vivid hues that adorn the burqa, a testament to intricate craftsmanship and Omani aesthetics. Such images invite us to ponder the stories and identities behind the attire, offering glimpses into a world where the past is preserved even as new generations tread their own paths. Chemin faisant indeed, we walk the path between the nostalgic echoes of tradition and the silent strides of change.



Gossip Via pakizah.tumblr.com

El Salvador, December 1944 - A bright spot in a world blighted by war. Women can always find the time to stop for a gossip.

However and in whatever way media develops, National Geographic portraits remain a hugely important and significant chronicle of humankind on Earth. Did you grow up with NG photos and do you still subscribe now?

Feedback Junction

Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge


What a great selection!


What gorgeous women...

beautiful article ... so many amazing photos at one place

#12 this is not a gypsy. this is a romanian girl weraing traditional romanian costume. this is not gypsy

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