5 iconic National Geographic covers as its print era winds down

National Geographic has become another addition to the list of traditional media outlets which have elected to take the digital route, as we celebrate their generational outing

National Geographic logo (Photo: National Geographic)
National Geographic logo (Photo: National Geographic)
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NH Entertainment Bureau

As National Geographic magazine rolls out its final editions and withdraws its legacy from newsstands by 2024, the death knell only rings louder for their future. Although, as professed earlier the writing has always been on the wall, regarding Nat Geo’s shift to the digital space, leaving behind its magazine to a subscription-based model.

The last remaining 16 staff writers at Nat Geo magazine were finally shown the exit, with the editors saying that whatever writing is to be done for the magazine will be freelanced and/or done by them. Thus, as the formerly non-profit moves towards a more budget-friendly alternative, let's look at a couple of the magazine’s covers that defined photojournalism for generations.

5 iconic National Geographic covers as its print era winds down
National Geographic

The Afghan Girl (June 1985)

During the Soviet-Afghan War, photojournalist Steve McCurry had come across Sharbat Gula, an Afghan refugee, at a camp in Peshawar in 1984.

This capture of Gula had become the defining face of the Afghan crisis, a screaming depiction of life in an Afghanistan about to turn into the Taliban's hands.

5 iconic National Geographic covers as its print era winds down
National Geographic

Apollo 11 Moon Landing (December 1969)

"That's a small step for man (but) a giant leap for mankind," said Neil Armstrong as he stepped foot on the moon's surface. Planting the flag of the United States, the world held witness to a defining event that would revolutionise space exploration and research for generations.

Thus, it is only fair that it receives due credit on the front cover of Nat Geo magazine. This picture has not just been immortalised on the cover but also, a plethora of popular media, viz-a-viz, Zack Snyder's magnum opus Watchmen.

5 iconic National Geographic covers as its print era winds down
National Geographic

Conversations with a Gorilla (October 1978)

The gorilla featured on the magazine's cover is Koko, regarded as the first 'talking' gorilla. Credited by the Gorilla Foundation for having helped psychologists understand the deep extents of emotional capabilities of gorillas, Koko was an exceptional find.

A friend to many Hollywood celebrities, specifically Robin Williams, this cover features Koko when she was only seven years of age, and a focus of Francine Patterson’s career as a developmental psychologist

5 iconic National Geographic covers as its print era winds down
National Geographic

The Tallest Trees: Redwoods (October 2009)


Regarded unanimously as one of the greatest designs which has ever graced the cover of the magazine, the redwood juts out of the cover as it does in real world California. The focus was to highlight the magnanimity of the trees and their importance to the ecosystem, and it did an amazing job.

The cover photo by Michael Nichols formed part of a stitched portrait made up of eighty-four individual photos that were taken as cameras rode a rope rigged by canopy ecologist Jim C. Spickler.

5 iconic National Geographic covers as its print era winds down
National Geographic

Chasing the Unknown (July 2023)

The latest and most probably final issue where staff writers had a role to play in the making of the magazine and its content. It is iconic, not due to what it kind of impact it has left in its wake but as a curtain call to denote everything that Nat Geo magazine has stood for.

For a lack of a better word, as a reporter and a journalist, one can only say, "Farewell, friend, you will be missed."

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