Jodi Cobb’s trailblazing career spans four decades as a staff field photographer for National Geographic, the only woman to hold that position in its history. She has traveled through sixty-five countries, breaking gender and cultural barriers to document people and places on the edge of momentous change in some of the world’s most complex, impenetrable environments.
Cobb was one of the first photographers to cross China when it reopened to the outside world after decades of isolation, travelling 7000 miles from Beijing to the borders of Burma and Vietnam. She was the first photographer given permission by the king to photograph the women of Saudi Arabia, previously invisible to the outside world. And the first to be welcomed into the secret and exclusive society of Japan’s iconic geisha for a groundbreaking book on their beautiful but often difficult lives, showing for the first time the reality behind their perfect white makeup.
In a landmark National Geographic story, 21st Century Slaves, she exposed the brutal reality of people trapped in the clandestine world of global human trafficking, bought and sold against their will, held captive and exploited for profit. She photographed the victims, traffickers and rescuers in twelve countries: child labourers on carpet looms, and sex workers in India, babies at risk of illegal adoptions in Guatemala and rescued children in shelters in Bosnia and Mexico.
For global projects on love and beauty she photographed child marriages, Chinese bound feet, Ethiopian lip plates, and American girls still in diapers being prepared for beauty contests. She has explored cultures in some of the world’s most remote places, spending six thousand nights on the road and logging over two thousand airline flights during her long career. She has photographed royalty and rock stars, cannibals and missionaries, leopards, lions and terrorists, and has been shot at, teargassed, mugged and claimed as a wife by a desert Bedouin.
Jodi was the first woman named White House Photographer of the Year, has won World Press and the National Press Photographers Association Pictures of the Year awards, was named a “Nikon Legend” and a U.S. Presidential Delegate to the Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
She received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Society of Media Photographers [ASMP] and National Geographic’s Photo Society [TPS] and received one of journalism’s most prestigious honours, the University of Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the famed Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC.
A popular speaker for the National Geographic Live global series, she is also a frequent keynote speaker for corporations and foundations and teaches at workshops around the world. Cobb’s book Geisha: The Life, the Voices, the Art was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and won the American Society of Media Photographers Outstanding Achievement Award. Her photographs have been widely exhibited worldwide: featured in National Geographic’s Women of Impact film and exhibition, the Women of Vision book and traveling exhibition, the International Center of Photography, the Annenberg Space for Photography, and two solo exhibitions at Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan, France. And one of her photographs is on the Voyager spacecraft, somewhere in the universe forever.
Geisha : The Life, the Voices, the Art