What is Picturing Animals in National Geographic?
Picturing Animals in National Geographic is a National Science Foundation-funded research project exploring photographic representations of non-human animals in National Geographic between 1888 and the present. The project’s purpose is to better understand societies’ historical and contemporary attitudes toward animals and the interrelationship between these attitudes and animal photographs. As one of the oldest, most read, and most widely circulated popular science magazines, National Geographic is an ideal source through which to explore these photographs, attitudes, and the interrelationship between them. The Picturing Animals website consists of a sample of 117 animal photographs and metadata drawn from approximately one issue per year 1896 to 2012 for which National Geographic holds copyright. The Picturing Animals full archive consists of 2,236 records of metadata on all photographs published in a random sample of one issue per year over the 20th century and is archived with public access at the Michigan State University Library.
Specifically, the project addresses the following research questions:
What is the relationship between animal photography and the attitudes toward animals of its creators, its viewers, and the societies in which they live?
How do the relationships between animal photography and individuals’ attitudes toward animals apply to other forms of representation, types of attitude, and scales?
By addressing these questions, the project will contribute to the following social understandings:
Animal photography reflects the attitudes toward animals of its creators and the societies in which they live and affects the attitudes of its viewers and the societies in which they live.
The interrelationship between animal photography and individuals’ attitudes toward animals generalizes to other forms of representation and types of attitude at the individual and societal levels.