WASHINGTON, DC (June 26, 2014) – Four photographers have been named as National Geographic Photography Fellows during a surprise announcement at the National Geographic Explorers Symposium.
David Guttenfelder, Lynn Johnson, Cory Richards, and Brian Skerry were announced as the inaugural group of visual storytellers who will join the Explorers line-up of scientists, innovators, and researchers.
As a Fellow, Geographic exploration officer Terry Garcia explained, they will spend the next two years "sharing their visual expertise with diverse areas of the National Geographic Society and with the public, producing stories, sharing their storytelling knowledge with other explorers, and bringing the Society's mission to illuminate, teach, and inspire the world at large."
Geographic photography director Sarah Leen said, "We've chosen people who are not only strong photographers but wonderful leaders, spokespeople for the Society on photographic storytelling."
The photojournalism world has been speculating about Guttenfelder's future because of his recent announcement on Facebook that he was leaving the Associated Press after 20 years with the wire service. As AP's chief photographer for Asia, based in Tokyo, he's spent much of the last few years showing the world some rare glimpses of daily life inside North Korea – from traditional AP coverage to artistic photographs in Social Media and Instagrams.
"It's tough to even say it. I grew up at the AP," Guttenfelder wrote on Facebook. "Anywhere I landed in the world, I had family. AP sent me everywhere and always trusted my point of view. We've seen so many mind-blowing moments and I've been very lucky ... My last day will be June 30."
During his two decades with AP, Guttenfelder has covered stories and wars in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, and North Korea. He's spent almost his entire career outside of the United States, starting as a freelance photojournalist in East Africa after studying Swahili at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He was born in Iowa and graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and African Studies.
As an AP photographer he has been based in Kenya, Ivory Coast, India, Israel, and Japan. He is a seven-time World Press Photo winner, and was the National Press Photographers Association's Photojournalist of the Year. He has also been a seven-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Johnson has been a freelance photojournalist shooting for Life, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated and various foundations since she left her staff shooting job at The Pittsburgh Press in the early-1980s. She was a Knight Fellow at the School of Visual Communications at Ohio University, which included completing her master's thesis. She has an undergraduate degree in photojournalism from the Rochester Institute of Technology. After Pittsburgh she freelanced as a contract photographer for Black Star and then later for Aurora Photos.
Richards has been an adventure photographer and a member of the North Face climbing team. In 2012 he was named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, photographing from Antarctica to Nepal and Pakistan. His work has been published by National Geographic, The New York Times, and his clients include Red Bull and Fossil.
Skerry specializes in marine wildlife and underwater photography, and he says that he's spent more than 10,000 hours under water during the last 30 years. He's been a contract photographer for National Geographic since 1998 and he is currently working on his twentieth story for National Geographic.