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National Geographic celebrates 125th anniversary

Jan 21, 2013 at 20:01 GMT

The National Geographic Society is celebrating its 125th anniversary this month. These days, the society's magazine has a reputation for promoting great photography, but when it was first published in October 1888, National Geographic was a scientific journal containing no photographs at all. From a small readership in the early days to some 8 million subscribers around the globe each month, the magazine has come a long way. 

This photograph of a young Afghan girl in a Pakistan refugee camp, taken by Steve McCurry appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine’s June 1985 issue. It has since become one of the most iconic cover images in the magazine's history. The December 1969 issue of National Geographic featured this famous image, taken by Neil Armstrong, of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walking across the surface of the moon.

As technology developed, and the expectations of its growing readership evolved, so did The National Geographic's approach to photography. The early decades of the 20th Century saw the first use of of black-and-white and color-tinted photographs, and the 1920s and 1930s brought with them increased use of color photography. In the 1960s the magazine launched its first all-color issue and a cover photograph replaced the oak and laurel leaves, acorns and hemispheres that adorned the cover for six decades. 

And here's another first - color photographs taken underwater. Using 'cameras encased in waterproof housing and pounds of highly explosive magnesium flash powder for underwater illumination', William Longley and National Geographic photographer Charles Martin made the first underwater color photographs in 1926.
Color photography developed a lot during the 20th Century. This picture by Barry Bishop shows the first American team to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1963.