58 Stunning and Fascinating National Geographic Portraits ...

By Neecey

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.

1 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.

2 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.

3 "Royal Blue" in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Via Royal Blue - National Geographic ...

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

4 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.

5 Afghanistan Woman

Via geologo

Another of the most recognizable National Geographic portraits from 1985.

6 Motherhood

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

Everyday life makes an endlessly fascinating subject.

7 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

8 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.

9 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.

10 Man 1974

Via Hair and Ardorment

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

11 Hong Kong, 1931

Via The 18 Most Dazzling Photos ...

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

12 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.

13 Mystic Ubud, Bali


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.)

14 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.)

15 Blue Face

Via National Geographic Photo Contest 2012 ...

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

16 Sami Boy 1977

Via Lapland, Lappi

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

17 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.

18 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.

19 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.

20 That's a Wrap


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

21 Nap Time

Via انقلاب

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

22 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.

23 Sinai Desert, Israel

Via nationalgeographicstock.com

A Bedouin mother shields her child with her abaya.

24 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.

25 Orangutan Indonesia, 1980

Via Vintage National Geographic

An animal will always upstage any human in a photograph.

26 Native American 197i

Via cradle to grave : onyxearth: ...

A portrait of ethnic beauty.

27 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.

28 Joy Unbounded

Via National Geographic: Simply Beautiful - ...

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

29 Berber Beauty

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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.

30 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.

31 Dancers during Red China’s 10th Birthday Celebration


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

32 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.

33 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.

34 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."

35 Adriatic Sea, 1970

Via National Geographic Found

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

36 Extreme Photo of the Week

Via adventure.nationalgeographic.com

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

37 Laundry Day at the Taj Mahal


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

38 Tears

Via Heroes Gallery | Entries For ...

A perfect tribute to the agony of displaced people.

39 Monsoon

Via Porque Puedo, Puedes

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

40 Nigeria 1979

Via DYNAMIC AFRICA — endilletante: National ...

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

41 Cigar!

Via Old Woman Photo by Vladislav ...

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

42 “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.

43 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.

44 The Dan Tribe

Via kicker of elves. | Dan ...

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

45 Young Lovers

Via nosmalldreams-allie.blogspot.com

The essence of Paris in 1972.

46 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.

47 Highdays and Holidays

Via Intersecting Phenomena

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

48 Dumpling

Via En dilletante - National Geographic, ...

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

49 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.

50 Chippewa Girl

Via World People

Roland W Reed took this poignant photograph in 1907.

51 Hand on Heart

Via nationalgeographic.com

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

52 Together

Via Community Post: The Best Of ...

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

53 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.

54 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.

55 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.

56 A Sadu Pilgrim from Varanasi, India

Via 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo ...

Craig Stevenson captured this awesome image.

57 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.

58 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?

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