For a photographer, there is scant validation in the world that tops landing a picture in National Geographic magazine and knowing that millions of readers across the globe will be able to gaze into a world they might never have otherwise seen.
“It fills me with a kind of yearning—and I dont want to say sadness—that there are all these places and scenes that I’m never going to see in person, but I feel so privledged to be able to look through their eyes at all of these really surreal scenes and beautiful places,” says Elizabeth Krist, a senior photo editor at the magazine, who curated Limitless: Iconic Photographs from National Geographic Editor's Choice, an all-star array of fine art prints being auctioned off online at Christies from May 12 to 27.
Krist spent a month and a half digging through nearly a thousand photos—a drop in the bucket of the more than 11 million stored in National Geographic’s underground archive. “I didn’t want to stop," she says. It was especially fun for Krist, who has worked at National Geographic for 20 years, to be free of the constraints that come with chosing photographs to illustrate a narrative in a printed product. “What was such a luxury was you could just look for pure imagery—just have really visceral, graphic, sensuous, beauty," she says. “And sometimes the beauty doesn’t have to be pretty beauty, it can be emotional also."
Photos like this, of a curious juvenile harp seal peering into his camera captured by photographer Brian Skerry, reminded Krist of the imprint National Geographic has left on visual arts. “It really impresses me all over again when I see the whole range of what we cover and the kind of work held in the collection,” she says.