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Not Just A Face

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Published Aug 14, 2018 | View the Assignment | Features Photos From 31 Contributors

    31 photos selected by

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    This one million-year-old sacred lake was created when a giant meteorite crashed in what was once...

    #fisherman #ghana #sacredlake #noboat

    Thanks to everyone who uploaded photographs for our “Not Just A Face” portrait assignment. There was a remarkable variety of ideas and approaches, offering numerous opportunities to comment on visual approaches. I got to give my thoughts on what makes a portrait and what goes beyond into the storytelling realm. That was the aim of this challenging assignment, which required stretching your imaginations and being open to new ideas of the definition of portraiture.

    Boxing is a brutual sport, and these women put their lives at risk when entering the ring. “I’...

    Editor's Note

    A powerful portrait that speaks of the sport and the brave women who pursue it. AND it's a decisive moment for you who like the work of Henri Cartier Bresson who wrote of this idea. This photograp... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    This photo was taken nell'Omo Valley, in the south of Ethiopia, an ethnicity Mursi woman. For cen...

    #africa #people #ethnic #ethiopia

    Editor's Note

    Anytime we can make a portrait of endangered people, species or histories, we should do so. She's beautiful and powerful. I see her power and remind myself that all women are powerful if we use tha... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Human always has two sides in life. Each one of us should nourish the positive side so that the w...

    #travel #portrait #ao_dai_viet_nam #polang #not_just_a_face

    Editor's Note

    This is a classic beautiful image using light and shadow to create drama. The white dress is perfect for this portrait because it doesn't get lost in the shadow. Horst P. Horst, a very renown Vogu... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Many of you got past the head shot portrait and gave us full stories. But even with the more traditional portraits, there were many beauties. I especially wanted to thank people who posted the tiniest beings to the largest animals and landscapes. Portraits of bugs and animals give us appreciation for the magnificence of Mother Nature, and I regard landscapes as portraits of the earth. A goal of this assignment was to get you to think beyond a traditional idea, expand how we look at one another, and focus beyond the face to see even more about someone or something.

    But another extremely important goal about this assignment was this: in order to photograph people in the most honest, intimate way, we have to gain their trust. We are asking our subjects to be vulnerable before us, and thus, the world. In exchange we must also be vulnerable and honest.

    By the time I saw her, I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. Nothing could ever prepare me to...

    #beauty #white #eye #portrait #pure #albino #purity #translucent #whiteskin #albinogirl #notjustaface

    Editor's Note

    A gorgeous photo of an albino child. Translucent, as the photographer writes, is a precise descri... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Leaving her flip-flops behind in stride, a Ugandan orphanage house mother kneels in prayer with n...

    #not_just_a_face_assignment

    The New Yorker parked his wheelchair on the busy Fifth Avenue sidewalk. I watched him from acros...

    #people #portrait #model #blackwhite #newyorkcity #wheelchair #streetphotography #notjustaface

    As I age, I am more in tune with the changing seasons. So I created this new mashup as I am inspi...

    #abstract #trees #nature #leaves #portrait #seasons #tree_of_life #not_just_a_face_assignment

    Editor's Note

    EXCELLENT depiction of the passing of time, of the various seasons of life...very inventive, full story, moving and beautiful way to tell a story using portraiture!

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    my wife was reading to our youngest son after a fun filled and active day outdoors. The country a...

    #unconditionallove #storytime #motherandson #familylife #bedtimereading

    Editor's Note

    I love this real life scene from family life. Even the lighting is rather nice and gentle and I'm... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Working with the school kids and taking their pictures in the school yard, this little girl was n...

    #yard #girl #school #stare #sad #help #uganda #jinja #outreach #frawn

    At Kathmandu, Nepal. insdie class room at the village. There was one girl who has different face ...

    #face #school #portait

    Letters from the Bay is a poetic representation of a woman waiting for lost letters from her love...

    #portrait #lady #film #workinprogress

    Editor's Note

    The lighting and the wistful look on this woman's face make this a powerful portrait. I can feel what she feels, waiting to hear from her lover through letters, a lover that might never return. Y... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Over the past two years, I have been photographing a young woman who lost her face in a gun accident. The story appears in the September issue of National Geographic magazine. It’s a heartbreaking story that ended up being one of great inspiration and victory. But throughout the assignment I had to gain the trust of both the girl and her family because of so many broken hearts and exhausting efforts to move forward. These people let me into their lives and made me part of their family.

    One of my biggest efforts was to constantly photograph this young woman, Katie, to make beautiful portraits of her when she felt anything but that. But she had courage and pride, and that’s what I tried to respect and capture each time I photographed her. 

    Rickshaw driver Sankar,Sleeping on a small table adjusting himself somehow.The table was covered ...

    #street #blackandwhite #kolkata #notjustaface

    Ultrasound image of Be'ery, then at the fetus age of 6 months, staring at his family gathered aro...

    #eyes #mother #hands #father #son #mom #dad #gaze #pregnancy #fetus #ultrasound #black__and_white

    This is me and my dad. My dad adopted me from a very young age and we have a special bond. Often ...

    #family

    Editor's Note

    So...this assignment is not just a face...but this photo fulfills that goal, whether anyone agrees or not. This is not just a face. It is two faces with one heart. What a POWERFUL way to tell this ... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    The girl is waiting for her turn.

    #children #girl #waiting #expression #haircut #salon #next_turn

    Editor's Note

    For me, this is a portrait of the little girl more than anything, looking bored or bewildered as she watches her brother's (?)hair being cut. The colors are rich and deep and I get a sense of plac... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    “It is one thing to be alone, but what we would consider the greatest poverty, is the feeling o...

    #asia #gay #transgender #philiipines #ederly #pinoy_boys

    Editor's Note

    Powerful in all ways! I love the wig and that it's that which we see and not the face. The wig also tells a story. This photograph is very subtle about its subject and reflects what the photograph... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    The grass in my backyard became very overgrown last summer. I loved shooting images of it from a...

    #grass #nature #light #home #portrait #field #selfportrait #self_portrait

    Editor's Note

    A beautiful self-portrait! Well composed, great lighting, very moody and lovely.

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    My hubby, puppy and I went on an a epic adventure to the Boundary Waters last summer in Cook, Min...

    #nature #lake #summer #travel #places #adventures #minnesota #epic #bwca #boundarywaterscanoearea

    Editor's Note

    Beautiful portrait that places a man and his dog in the environment, telling us more beyond the person and animal. Where they are, what they like, the time of day, the wilderness and call of the wi... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Even leaves can take

    #nature #life #portrait #mood #indian #natgeo #instagram

    Editor's Note

    In this moment of the #metoo movement, I think we need to remember that many men are gentle and kind. We need to have their voices included in this current discussion, not only men but people of co... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    I was very fortunate to be able to follow these Hadzabe Bushmen in Tanzania as they hunted for th...

    #africa #kill #death #bushmen

    Editor's Note

    Excellent portrait of a group of bushmen on the hunt!

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    an artist by force,...a girl i met in Udaipur,.. making abstract stone sculptures, to survive at ...

    #india #rajasthan #pain #artist #udaipur

    Editor's Note

    This tears my heart out. I want to pick her up and hug her and tell her everything will be alright when I know full well it won't be. Very poignant, very simple, very powerful....her look tells the... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    New baby gorilla at the zoo. Mom must keep constant watch to protect this little one. There are t...

    #eyes #nature #wildlife #animals #portrait #baby #faces #gorilla #mom

    I decided to create a conceptual image by day-to-day used sttufs. I wanted to capture something c...

    #face #light #human #portrait #history #evolution #protecttheselands #yourshotadventure

    Ashadhi Vari is something special for us among 356 days.in Ashadhi Vari Lakhs of devotees comes t...

    #people #natgeo #travel_india #palkhi_festival_india #maharashtra_culture

    Editor's Note

    A beautiful family portrait, the lighting and moment and how they sit together so tightly. It's biblical in its feel, like a painting. Really well seen and presented. I've returned a few times to ... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    belonging to the same species every human are different in this world, likely the behaviour and t...

    #street #peoples #expression #street_photography #your_shot #black__and_white #daily_shot

    Editor's Note

    This portrait of 3 men reminds me of a still photograph from an old film. It has that quality. It's very strong and as the photographer explains, each man not only looks different but from their st... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    After a long day of hard work this boy came down to the hill stream adjacent to Dalma wildlife sa...

    #water #dive #joy #happiness #happy

    Editor's Note

    A portrait of sublime joy! It has everything: a captured moment, an emotional reaction, sense of place (as in a river), and the value of a very simple thing that can bring the greatest feeling or... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    This image was taken during a photo shoot I made to show the filial imprinting phenomenon. Both w...

    #animals #animal #pet #love #friendship #swimmers #weloveanimals #filialimprinting #notjustaface

    Editor's Note

    What a great portrait and the story about how animals attach themselves to people is fascinating and you found a lovely and sweet way to illustrate it right to the point. No rubber duckies here. ... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    An opposition politician in Kenya arriving for a political rally in an area inhabited by the Maas...

    #portrait #kenya #politics #photojournalim #kenyanportrait #election2017 #notjustaface

    Editor's Note

    A powerful portrait of a politician in Kenya campaigning.

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    Local youths have decorated and painted their neighbouring street with colour of their favourite ...

    #india #football #sport #youth #street #decoration #headless #madness #worldcup_football

    Editor's Note

    While this might not seem to be a portrait, I think it's very much one...about the love of soccer, about a neighborhood, about the boys who love the game, a group portrait captured in a great momen... More

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    My son and I traveled from Mankato, MN through Texas, including Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Hous...

    #water #texas #swimming #galveston #gulfofmexico

    Editor's Note

    Wonderful story, wonderful depiction of it, and shows the power of the ocean waters. We don't need to see his face, he's fully involved with this extraordinary place.

    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer

    In the end, Katie got a new face, and learned a powerful lesson: we are more than our faces. We are our character, our hearts, our dreams and wishes and integrity. We owe these things to the people who allow us to photograph them.

    While making my final selections, I loved being challenged to make some tough decisions. In the final selections I included approaches and ideas I thought best fit with the assignment, where we could learn something about the world that we might not have considered before. In this extended portraiture we learn more about one another, where we are from, how we grew up, what is important to us, and how environments and traditions shape us. Photography has no limits or boundaries; we are the ones who impose limitations on it. And faces can be like that as well. If we measure someone only by their face, we miss out on the whole being.

    Maggie Steber

    To view Katie's New Face story, please follow this link to read more. To learn more from photographer Maggie Steber on capturing Katie's story, please follow this link where Maggie and National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson speak on capturing portraits. 

    About the Editor
    Maggie Steber
    National Geographic Photographer
    Maggie Steber has worked as a documentary photographer in 63 countries. Her photos are included in the Library of Congress collection and the African Diaspora collection at the University of Miami, where she serves as a visiting lecturer. A collection of Haiti photographs from her longtime work in the country ...

    Photographers Published In the Story