LIFE IN COLOR: National Geographic Photographs, curated by Annie Griffiths

LIFE IN COLOR: National Geographic Photographs

With a veritable treasure trove of photography in its vaults from decades of devoted collecting, National Geographic has taken a clever approach in this lush coffee table book. The weighty tome is nearly 500 pages in length, and as its title suggests, the images are grouped by color. Most images fill the page, but some have accompanying quotations. One of the best pairings occurs early in the book, in the blue section. A tiny hibiscus flower floats on the turquoise waters of the Virgin Islands, and Vincent Van Gogh observes ‘there is no blue without yellow and without orange.’ Staring at the aqueous image, one’s mind drifts to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and sees the wisdom in his observation.

Jonathan Adler kicks things off with a crisp foreword, pointing out that colors trigger places and times, in a synesthetic manner. He likens the muddy browns and burnt oranges of the 1970s to the post-Vietnam malaise of the era; ‘think of a beige Pacer with a brown racing stripe.’

A tourist unfurls a gauzy blue veil near San Marco Basin, Venice, Italy. Photo by Jodi Cobb

Hindus throw colored powder at a festival celebrating spring, New Delhi, India. Photo by Kalpana Chatterjee

Each photograph is identified by photographer, place and terse description. I am conflicted about whether I miss not having the date of the photograph included; as if that specificity would make the image less universal.

Invariably the watery images to me are the most evocative, and they appear throughout the book and beyond the blue section.

This is a book to be savored slowly, often and in small doses for maximal enjoyment.


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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