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Photography: Designer's picks

The National Geographic Traveller (UK) design team share their favourite ever shots from the magazine

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 17 Nov 2016, 15:00 GMT, Updated 19 Jul 2021, 13:08 BST
Papua, Indonesia

Papua, Indonesia

Photograph by Joshua Irwandi

Lauren Gamp, designer
The thing I love about this photo (much like many photos in NGT) is the 'feel like you're there' factor. Joshua has captured a moment in time that couldn't be further away from where I'm sitting right now, yet I can almost feel the warmth of the fire at the heart of the composition. In an image with such overall cool hues, the colour of the flame is incredibly powerful. This central focus unites the tribal members, as they drum towards it. The image has a sense of intimacy and community you should only be able to feel by being there, but, for just one second, you are a part of their tribe and you can hear their music.


Chris Hudson, group art editor
I've worked on every issue of the magazine so this is a really hard choice. We work with a lot of fantastic photographers shooting such a range of subject matters, but what always strikes a chord are when they get a great person shot. This one actually came from our annual photo competition, and the photographer has since started working for us on commissions off the back of winning the competition. We've coined the image 'Bear Boy' here at the magazine, but Alecsandra's powerful image tells such a deep story. The bear is a symbol of strength and courage in Romania, and has been used for hundreds of years in novels and poems. The skins are not from bears killed in the ritual – the costumes have been kept and preserved for many years. What is great about the shot is how Alecsandra has isolated the boy with a shallow depth of field, using the string red in the background to lead your eye to the main subject. There is a fascinating insight into another culture and, as a viewer from the outside, you really want to delve in and find out more. This for me is what our magazine is all about — communicating a story or experience, through locals and cultures from all around the world.


Daniel Almeroth, designer
The quality of Kris Davidson's photography really shines when she takes portraits of people she meets. She manages to relax her subjects to the point of making them feel at home, where their character and personality are on show for her to capture. In a single portrait, Kris creates an enigmatic narrative of her subject that, ultimately, grabs your attention.

None is more apparent than of the snazzily dressed 'Parrot Lady'. Her friends call her Nancy and she runs a parrot sanctuary that rescues and rehomes orphaned parrots in Key West. Not only does Kris have perfect timing (and the luck of a lottery winner) to capture this eccentric character on her daily bird bike ride, but she manages to seize and record a moment which illustrates Nancy's life-consuming work, love and passion. A good photographer can't just rely on their technical understanding of the camera or creativeness to compose a well-balanced scene, they must be able to befriend their subject and persuade them into unknowingly giving us a window into their daily lives and personality. Ultimately telling Nancy's brilliant bird story with a single image.


Philip Lay, designer
Others may see this image and find it, perhaps, a tad gruesome. I mean, a polar bear just ripped apart a seal and seemingly dragged him through the snowy landscape, leaving a trail of fresh blood behind him. What draws me to this image the most is the expression the photographer captures on the white fella's face — a look of innocence beams across it. The moment is great and tells a story of survival. Seeing a red river among the snow is quite a contrast and conveys the struggle that had occurred prior to the final shot.


Gabriella Finney, junior designer
Nick Warner's image of a restaurant near the Las Ventas bullring captures the mixed feelings the Madrid city life piece has discussed. Whilst the restaurant is seeping in the culture; from the colour scheme to the famed images and bull heads on the wall, the reality is the dangerous sport is facing criticism.

Bull fighting is vital to the economy of this neighbourhood, particularly during the international competition season of May. The community is clinging to its survival, but it's falling out of favour for ethical reasons. I think the image summarises this well as it displays the culture of the traditional aspect of the sport and the true fans it has in a relaxed setting.


Lauren Atkinson-Smith, senior designer
This is a challenge because often it's not one image that sells a piece, rather a collection of images that need to work together. The picture is also required to fill in the gaps of the reader's imagination, where the words end and photography takes over.

Kris Davidson shot a feature on Miami back in April this year, which found a place in my memory. The images as a whole have a warm and sunny feel to them, conveying the destinations vibe and making you want to visit, which, after all, is what it's all about.

There's something about the expressions on the faces of our subjects in the photo I decided to focus on. While we normally prefer images with eye contact (as it aids a connection between the reader and the photograph) in this case everyone is looking elsewhere. It gives a nonchalant feel and an insight to local character. You can also picture yourself in the photographer's shoes, sitting on a sofa, similar to that which can be seen on the left, enjoying the music much like the man who positioned himself just outside the premises, beer in hand, enjoying the performance and putting the band at ease.

What also appeals is the amount of information you can obtain, subconsciously or consciously, from the background and location; the tiled and wooden floor, trendy lighting, artwork on the walls and piano by the far wall suggest we're in a bar with its own character. The types of instruments being played and the way our leading man is dressed evoke the sounds of Cuban salsa music. The one-storey buildings outside tell us we're probably not in the city centre, instead we're in a residential neighbourhood — which adds to the shot's authenticity.

You can gain so much information by placing yourself in just one photo, but imagine how immersed you could be when presented with 10 photographs, painting such a large picture that it almost takes you there.

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Published in the November 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) Photography Magazine

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