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National Geographic Magazine January 2021

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

United States
National Geographic Society
$6.63(Incl. tax)
$25.20(Incl. tax)
12 Issues

in this issue

1 min

Fifty-seven years to the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, another march for civil rights and social justice drew thousands of people to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Organizers dubbed it the Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks, a reference to George Floyd’s May 25 killing. To capture this scene, Stephen Wilkes photographed from a single fixed camera position on an elevated crane, making images at intervals throughout a 16-hour period. He then edited the best moments and blended them seamlessly into one image.…

2 min
a year we won’t forget

MANY SUPERLATIVES can be applied to 2020, most of them negative. “Worst year ever,” I’ve heard people say—a subjective judgment we each would make differently. But it was unquestionably a harrowing year, marked by COVID-19’s tragic death toll, the hurtful racial strife, and the divisive political environment. In this special issue, “The Year in Pictures,” we’ve documented 2020 through the work of some of the world’s most gifted photographers. In our 133 years, National Geographic has never singled out one year for a retrospective like this. But if ever a year demanded that, 2020 does. In some respects, making this issue was not hard. We added more than 1.7 million images to the National Geographic archive last year—likely fewer than usual because the pandemic complicated travel assignments, but still a wealth of…

1 min
on the cover

In 1890 this statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee was placed on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The first Confederate monument there, it was the last one standing in late 2020 as its fate was argued in court. Kris Graves’s photos show the statue covered in graffiti and lit with projections (from left: Frederick Douglass, George Floyd, Harriet Tubman). It’s a powerful symbol of the racial reckoning under way. We consider our cover image one of 2020’s best photos—and we made a change to it that I want to acknowledge. Through our standard image toning processes, we deemphasized 10 instances of the f-word that were visible in the photograph. It’s an extremely rare step for us to take, but it honors our policy not to print that word in stories or…

3 min
‘our job is to be part of this struggle in a very positive way.’

National Geographic photographer since 2016 MY SONS ARE 15 AND 12. We don’t do it every day, but frequently we sit down and talk about events. We talked about George Floyd, because I was in Houston to photograph the funeral after George died May 25 with a policeman’s knee on his neck. I started out by saying to them that when I was allowed to go into the church and photograph George, I did not photograph him for 12 minutes. Like, people were behind me going, Dude, let’s go. You know, the line of people waiting. But for me it was important to tell George’s body thanks. Thanks for his life. Thanks for the opportunities that we’re all going to get because of his death. Thanks for what is going to shift the…

1 min
embracing a history with photographs

Ruddy Roye’s first assignment for National Geographic was to photograph people who donated artifacts to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in Washington, D.C., in 2016. “For me it was a huge deal,” Roye says, “because I was photographing people who have lived with Nat Turner’s Bible, they have lived with their ancestor’s free paper, they have lived with the clothes and belongings of James Baldwin. And finally, these items were going to be put in a space where they could be shared.” Roye recalls the assignment as “really tough” because many artifacts came with painful stories, and the items’ faithful guardians were now aged and infirm. “I felt honored and humbled by them,” Roye says. “Meeting Elaine Thompson, a person who had preserved her ancestor’s free…

2 min
‘it was such a revelation, seeing this pandemic play out on global and granular scales.’

National Geographic photographer since 2017 OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS I’ve been working on “Living Lullabies,” my project on how caregivers create safer spaces for their children through nighttime song and story. My reporting partner, Rupert Compston, and I went to the Turkish-Syrian border; for refugee and migrant families there, lullabies were a piece of home that they could take with them, almost as portable sanctuaries. We went to Liberia, where we spoke with young mothers who’d had their babies as teenagers, and saw how they were singing hope in their lullabies. Then we visited Mongolia, one of the coldest places in the world. To heat their homes, nomadic families would burn coal, which of course pollutes the air. We met a mother who sang lullabies with healing words when her children…