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5 Famous National Geographic Covers

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Since 1888, National Geographic has introduced millions of readers to remarkable stories, scenes and discoveries from around the world. The magazine’s cover images have been an iconic element of that storytelling since September 1959, when a picture of a U.S. Navy fighter jet became the first cover photograph to appear. Since then, the cover images — captured by gifted and innovative photographers — have brought readers to every continent, to the ocean depths and into space as part of the magazine’s acclaimed storytelling.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories by Mark Collins Jenkins, is an illustrated history of National Geographic’s memorable, beloved and groundbreaking covers and cover stories. The book brings together hundreds of images that have transformed our understanding of the planet — and beyond — and combines these visuals with backstories (many previously unrevealed) and insights. Organized by decade, these visual touchstones chart our evolving understanding of the world, the unfolding of international political events, the amazing discoveries that have rewritten history and the enduring and sometimes endangered beauty of our planet.

October 1888

Cover by NGS

001 1888 first cover

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories

National Geographic Magazine, volume I, number 1, features the Society’s first seal, a map of the United States.

June 1985

Cover by NGS Photo by Steve McCurry/National Geographic

005 06 1985

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories

Haunting eyes and a tattered garment tell the plight of a girl who fled her native Afghanistan for a refugee camp in Pakistan.

December 1969

Cover by NGS Photo by Steve McCurry/National Geographic Photo by Neil Armstrong

003 12 1969

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories

Buzz Aldrin stands on the lunar surface.

October 1978

Cover by NGS Photo by Steve McCurry/National Geographic Photo by Neil Armstrong Photo by Koko

004 10 1978

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories

A newly minted National Geographic photographer makes her own self-portrait.

October 2009

Cover by NGS Photo by Steve McCurry/National Geographic Photo by Neil Armstrong Photo by Koko Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic

013 10 2009

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories

Part of a portrait made up of 84 shots, taken as cameras rode a rope rigged by canopy ecologist Jim C. Spickler.

cover image National Geographic THE COVERS

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC THE COVERS: Iconic Photographs, Unforgettable Stories