ON THE PICTURE : Camels in Petra, Jordan. Photo by Annie Griffiths
by Madeline Nathaus
Annie Griffiths, a highly acclaimed photographer with National Geographic, will share his photos and stories of his travels at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center in Thousand Oaks on Friday, April 15.
“The camera has been my passport for so many years,” Griffiths said. “I will talk about this journey from a very young photographer to a place where I realized that my photos could be useful as well as beautiful.”
As a versatile photographer driven by an insatiable curiosity for life, she has covered subjects ranging from culture to landscape to wildlife over her past 40 years with National Geographic. Griffiths said she is thrilled to educate her audience by bridging the gap between civilizations and humanizing different peoples through her photographs.
The event begins at 8 p.m. with tickets starting at $41 which can be purchased online at bapacthousandoaks.com or at the box office. This will be the last show of the National Geographic series season for BAPAC. Colleen Debler, Marketing Director at BAPAC, said they hoped to announce the next season within the month.
“After having to postpone twice due to COVID, we are thrilled to welcome Annie Griffiths to the Bank of America Performing Arts Center,” said Debler.
Griffiths began working with the famed publication in 1978 when she was just 25 and fresh out of college, making her one of the youngest photojournalists on the team. Amazingly, Griffiths said being a photographer hadn’t even crossed his mind until he took a college photography course.
“Photography was a whole new way of communicating for me,” Griffiths said. “I always thought I would become a writer, then I realized I could tell stories with pictures. I’ve always been on the path of storytelling, but it never occurred to me that I could do it other than by writing.
National geographic was looking to diversify her staff when Minnesota-born Griffiths, then working for her local newspaper, pitched editors a photojournalistic story covering residents of Minnesota’s north shore of Lake Superior. The magazine accepted her first proposal, making her one of the publication’s first women.
For her early stories, she continued to cover the news in the United States. Before long, however, the woman who had never been east of Ohio was reporting stories around the world.
Since then, Griffiths, now 69, has spent time on all seven continents. She noted that some of her favorite places are the Middle East, Africa and Syria for their beautiful stories and beautiful people.
“The less you travel, the more fear of ‘the other’ grows within you,” Griffiths said. “The more you travel, the more the fear of the unknown goes away because you gain the confidence to direct yourself towards curiosity and let curiosity overcome fear.”
She didn’t let her gender inhibit her either. She said that National geographicThe work environment at has been supportive from the start and free from drama and harassment. She even said that she felt being a woman actually gave her access to stories that men don’t necessarily have.
“I think women tend to be less threatening, so people are more likely to let you come to their house,” Griffiths said. “I could sit on the floor with moms while they cooked and took care of their children, and I could totally relate.”
Griffiths said the ability to see into this aspect of people’s lives has allowed her to form honest relationships and provide a more intimate perspective through her work. She said those she reports on are never just subjects but rather partners in her projects.
“Giving proper attention to people and entering their lives slowly and thoughtfully is where the real storytelling images are and how you humanize a subject,” Griffiths said. “You fall in love with them.”
The inspiration she found in the women she covered prompted the photographer to team up with other photojournalists to launch the nonprofit Ripple Effect Images, which she will also talk about at her event. Stories about women in different cultures, while important, often cover their struggles rather than their strengths. Griffiths said she instead wants to help shine a light on their perseverance and power with solutions-based journalism that empowers women to tell their own stories.
Ripple Effect Images works with and funds educational and support programs that empower women to help themselves and their communities cultivate food and water security, health, schooling, and economic empowerment. The nonprofit then documents this work through film and photography so others can see for themselves the true strength of women and girls around the world. For more information, visit rippleeffectimages.org.
“When I hear people say ‘a voice for the voiceless,’ I feel like throwing up,” Griffiths said. “They have voices, but no one handed them a megaphone. They don’t want to be pitied, they want to do it themselves.
In addition to her passion for bringing visibility to other cultures, Griffiths said that after all these years, she still wants to learn more and meet new people.
“I’m still curious, I don’t feel so different from when I was younger. Helping people create more understanding and respect for each other is so important to me. I want to help people see beyond their assumptions.
Annie Griffiths: Photography Without Borders takes place Friday, April 15 at 8 p.m. at the Fred Kavli Theater at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. For tickets and more information, call 805-449-2787 or visit bapacthousandoaks.com.