Credit: Connor Frost | Mustang News

One picture can say a thousand words; take more and pretty soon you’ll have a story to tell. For Annie Griffiths, one of the first female photographers to work for National Geographic, her pictures tell a story of globe-trotting adventure — an adventure that has taken her through all 50 states and to nearly 150 countries.

Griffiths gave a talk on her photographic career at the Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, Nov. 14, where she discussed her passion for “telling stories that never get the front page.”

Originally studying journalism at the University of Minnesota to be a news reporter, she switched over to photojournalism during her junior year to let her pictures speak for themselves. After two years of hard work and dedication, she landed a job at National Geographic as a photographer.

“Early on there were so few women doing this,” Griffiths said in an interview with Mustang News. “Publishers and editors and directors of photography were protective of me [and] I had to explain, ‘I can’t be the girl photographer.’”

Being a woman in a largely male-dominated field did not hinder Annie Griffiths. Upon seeing the outside world in her travels, she discovered the strengths of many women despite hindering societal standards.

Take for example her trip to an African village, where indoor smoke can often be the No. 1 killer over AIDS. In her photos, the subjects are women of the village building chimneys for huts and designing solar panels. In one picture, a man looks over at a woman adjusting wires for a panel.

Griffiths has photographed in nearly 150 countries. Annie Griffiths | Courtesy

Griffiths said the man wanted to create solar energy, too. He was quickly informed that it was a woman’s job in the village.

Among other things, Griffiths wanted to clear the stigmatized view of the Middle East. She said people she would meet there were some of the most caring individuals. Up on the screen flashed the photo of a man wearing a ghutra with his arm around Griffith’s child. They were caught up in a sandstorm in the Saharan desert and the man wanted to make sure her boy slept peacefully.

Griffiths would take her two kids on most of her trips to avoid being separated from them for too long. She carried her camera bag between all the diapers.

Even though the people in Griffiths’ photographs speak many different languages, she insists on traveling without an interpreter.

“Make an idiot of yourself,” she said. “[Express] compliments and then they will be comfortable enough to do the same.”

“Make an idiot of yourself,” she said. “[Express] compliments and then they will be comfortable enough to do the same.”

Griffiths’ next few trips are already set up for when she returns to the East Coast: Antarctica, then England, then a private National Geographic flight to nine other countries.

Environmental Earth and Soil Sciences junior Rialda Mustić said she is inspired by Griffiths’ worldly journeys.

“I feel like that’s a way you can learn the best — by immersing yourself in all these different cultures,” Mustić said. “We’re so brainwashed and whitewashed here, and it’s scary ’cause you don’t really know what’s outside your own doorstep.”

Griffiths said she believes the first step anyone can take to follow in her footsteps is solving their own personal problems that hold them back from success.

“It’s what I learned from my mom,” she said. “Okay, you’ve got a problem? Figure out a way to go around it.”

And if it is a problem with the world? Perhaps you can figure it out by going around that, too.

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