Some of the photos were familiar, but many we met for the first time. Whether new or old (to us), we found the details surrounding each stories elevated our interest. It's one thing to gaze at a photo thinking, "wow, that's a beautiful shot" or "how did the photog capture that light so brilliantly?" But, where many museums and exhibits end the education at name, place, and date to leave the remaining interpretation of beauty to the eye of the beholder, National Geographic's 50 Greatest Photographs goes ten steps further. Visitors learn the photographer's tale, the photo's inspiration, the planning required behind securing that perfect frame, or the dumb luck that resulted in a lasting moment.
There's the story of a photographer who faced danger among thousands in Mecca circa 1985, a time and place where strangers with a camera were not openly welcome. Or, the storm chaser who spent six weeks in his third spring waiting and chasing after the money shot to no avail. He argued for a one-day extension and, two hours before going past the final final deadline, ultimately scored his moment in history. Or, the photo with "local" ties to Elko, NV where the photographer went looking for one shot and instead came away with an unrelated, but long-lasting shot of the the worn cowboy above. We won't completely ruin the highlight of the exhibit for you, but the famous "Afghan Girl" portrait has a backstory and after photo that took a lot of commitment and a little luck.
Suddenly, each photo was not a frozen snapshot of a moment in time, but a full story that helped turn that image into a movie in our head. For some visitors, that may take too much imagination and interpretation out of enjoying the photo's merits, but for us, it shed a whole new light and enhanced the enjoyment on some displays that we may have otherwise quickly passed by.
Is this 50 Greatest Photos exhibit for everyone? Of course not. Love photography? Really into the museum experience that involves a lot of reading and watching a few vids? This is a well done exhibit right up your alley. Those on the other end of the spectrum that don't have the patience to read 50 placards can just click at their leisure. The rest of us that fall in the middle need to decide if this is what they want in their "Vegas experience." For our money, we don't mind taking an hour in the Venetian at our own pace over being rushed through a full blown museum by Mr. Professor-Know-It-All behind us.
Super fans or those in a rush can take home the book for $17.95 or 1,298-minute DVD set for $99.95. The exhibit is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 6 p.m. Tickets are $16, or $13 for students, Nevada residents, military and seniors. Children 12 and under are free with a paid adult.
And, from all 50 those photos, we didn't spy one boob in the room. Who knew our youth was wasted memorizing so many photos that wouldn't rank among the best of all-time?