Close Out Women’s History Month With Photographer Jodi Cobb

Picture of a geisha
Jodi Cobb’s photos of geisha captured many elements to the subjects of beauty and women in the world. (Photo by Jodi Cobb)

Jodi Cobb was among the first female photographers almost everywhere she worked early in her career, including National Geographic. Rather than be thwarted by the adversity she encountered—including the dangers and discomforts of traveling as a single, working woman—Cobb found ingenious ways to turn these situations to her advantage. As she broke through these barriers, one after another, her career advanced.

Now, Cobb is sharing her stories in New York with her National Geographic Live tour, “Stranger in a Strange Land.” In honor of Women’s History Month, Cobb answered some questions about her career, inspirations, world travel, and her new tour.

What women have inspired your work?

I was inspired by the great women photographers who went before me like Margaret Bourke-White. I didn’t want to take pictures like her, but I wanted a life like hers. She had an incredible life. She worked for Life magazine and she had its first cover photograph. She was fearless.

I guess the fact is that there were not [a lot of] women doing what I was doing. I think that was an inspiration in a way. Without mentors or without someone to show the way [I was just trying] to figure it out on my own. That can be inspirational. That can be incentive. It can also be disincentive.

Talking about what you witnessed when exploring cultural notions of beauty in 10 countries, you once said, “The changes that were made to men’s bodies all made them appear stronger and more powerful, but the women somehow ended up maimed or their movements inhibited.” Could you elaborate on this thought and how standards of beauty are evolving?

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