Jodi Cobb, National Geographic Photographer
Author of “Geisha: The Life, the Voices, the Art”
February 08, 2001
|Acclaimed photographer, Jodi Cobb has been with National Geographic since 1977. She has worked in more than fifty countries since then and has specialized in photographing the Middle East and Asia. Jodi answers questions about her work and chats about her book, “Geisha: The Life, the Voices, the Art.” Read the transcript and view amazing photos that were showcased during this unique chat experience. Please note, not all pictures used during the Live Event could be added to the transcript because of copyright issues.
Page 1 of 5
Good evening. Tonight, we are pleased to be able
to bring National Geographic photographer Jodi Cobb to
you via this state of the art chat application.
Jodi has worked in over 50 countries, and she brings with
her a vast amount of experience in photographing the
world around us.
Now is your chance to ask questions and participate
in this event -- jump right in!
I would really like to thank Kodak for the opportunity to do this chat tonight, and especially for the help that Kodak has given me through my career with their wonderful film, and also their support on the book I did on Geisha.
What's the hardest photo assignment you've been handed from NGS?
I think the most difficult assignment that I had was the Women of Saudi Arabia. It was a story that had never been photographed before. The people of Saudi Arabia think it's illegal to photograph anything, and especially the women. So people on the street stopped me every time I tried to take a picture, and then I had to ask every woman that I wanted to photograph for her permission. Then, she had to get the permission of her husband or father, and 99 percent said no. In fact, I ended up in jail for taking pictures. So that was the toughest.
You seem to have entered worlds others have not been able to penetrate--women of Saudi Arabia, the geisha of Japan, etc. How were you able to gain access where others have not had success?
Usually, it's a matter of time--the amount of time that you spend on the assignment and on the story enables you to make friends with the people and to gain their trust. Then, you're able to spend enormous amounts of time getting the kinds of pictures that you want. In some instances, like the geishas of Japan and the women of Saudi Arabia, it was essential that I was a woman, because men were just not welcome into their world, especially men photographers. In the case of the Geisha of Japan, it was just day by day, geisha by geisha.
Did the Geisha women actually consent to having their photos taken?
Yes, they did. I didn't photograph anyone who didn't want me to, and I was careful to make sure to get the permission from the women involved. In fact, I wouldn't have even been able to be in the room with them if I hadn't obtained their permission. It's a very secretive and private world, and I was actually the first photographer who was able to get that far into their world. It ended up as a book called, "Geisha- The Life, The Voices, The Art."
I absolutely love the photos in National Geographic! What special types of equipment do you use?
Thank you for the compliment, on behalf of all the photographers who work here. I think the secret to a lot of the photography is keeping the equipment as simple as possible. The photographers in the different areas, such as wildlife, under water, adventure, etc., need to have their own specialized equipment. Among the photojournalists there who do cultural work, they all seem to agree that the it's not the amount of equipment, but the most film that is the important thing.
Do you have a funny experience while shooting photos that you'd like to share?
Sure. The Santa's in the Subway in New York. I was following them to work from the group home where they lived. I was surprised to see that they rode the subway to their positions along 5th Avenue. While I was walking through the subway, the Santa's had rounded a corner, and someone tried to grab my cameras from me to steal them. I was shouting, but nobody in the subway stopped until the Santa's came back to find out where I'd gone. They saw what was happening, jumped the turnstiles, and were screaming obscenities at the mugger. At this point, he ran off, and all the New Yorkers in the subway came to a dead stop. It takes a lot to amaze a New Yorker in the subway! (smile)
Page 1 of 5