National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb, who was once named White House Photographer of the Year, detailed her experiences as a photojournalist and spoke about modern-day human trafficking to a packed Campbell Hall last Sunday.
As the first female photographer to be hired by National Geographic, Cobb has taken photographs in over 50 countries, capturing everything from geishas to Saudi Arabian women and beauty pageants to human trafficking. She won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Society of Media Photographers and has received awards for Picture of the Year from the National Press Photographers Association and the World Press, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating higher standards of photojournalism worldwide. Her book, Geisha: The Life, the Voices, the Art, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and Sunday’s lecture focused on a more recent writing of hers — an article called “21st-Century Slaves,” which exposes various forms of human trafficking on a global scale.
According to Cobb, there are more slaves today than there have been throughout four centuries of African slave trade combined. She explained that although she had no idea whether or not National Geographic would publish her photographs, she embarked upon the project because the topic was one she felt should be discussed more, and she said her photos could reach 40 million people and thus eventually reach “people who can do something.”
Richard Lindekens, a photographer and retired airline captain, found inspiration in Cobb’s efforts to change the world through her photography.
“It’s interesting to find out what she does, especially about changing the world,” Lindekens said. “I think a lot of photographers feel that way when they first get into doing photography, but then they find out the world’s not going to change because of them.”
Annie Hasserjian, a senior at Oaks Christian High School who plans to study photojournalism at Boston University next year, said she admires Cobb’s passion.
“I just learned about the human trafficking in India several days ago from an organization that was there,” Hasserjian said. “It was really inspiring to see the actual pictures of it.”
Cobb said she photographs by her mantra, coined by her four-year-old brother many years ago: “What can I do that I never have done before?”
Nicole Haun, a photojournalist for The Channels at SBCC, said it is this willingness to capture dangerous subjects in pictures, often getting considerably close to those subjects so as to ensure she gets great shots, which inspires her to be daring with her own photography.
“People don’t have the courage to stand up and do things they really want to do, and I think this is someone who really put her life in danger for something she really loved,” Haun said.