The year was 1978 and Annie Griffiths, at the age of 25, had just landed a job at National Geographic.
She was one of the first women to be hired as a photographer by the magazine, and also the youngest. At that time, she had never been outside of the United States, but quickly found herself thrust into the fast-paced world of international photojournalism, often working in several different countries for a single project — and, eventually, with two kids in tow.
Annie is deeply committed to photographing for aid organizations around the world. She is the Executive Director of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of photographers who document the programs that are empowering women and girls in the developing world, especially as they deal with the devastating effects of climate change.
“It was really starting to become my DNA,” she said in the keynote, “to work with these great women and to tell unreported stories. It’s just unbelievable how few stories are told about women.”
Griffiths’ work focuses on uncovering often dire, but solvable, problems. These include the need for better education for girls in poor countries and the huge, but underreported, issue of household air pollution. Caused by burning wood, coal, or other solid fuels for warmth and cooking, household air pollution is the biggest killer of women and young children in the world — more than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Annie’s work has also appeared in LIFE, Geo, Smithsonian, Fortune, Stern, and many other publications. Along with author Barbara Kingsolver, she produced Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands, a book celebrating the last pristine wilderness in North America. Proceeds from the book raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for grassroots land conservation.
In 2008, Annie published A Camera, Two Kids and a Camel, a photo memoir about balance, and the joy of creating a meaningful life. In 2010, she published Simply Beautiful Photographs, which was named the top photo/art book of the year by both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Annie is currently at work on three new books.
Annie is a Fellow with The International League of Conservation Photographers and has received awards from the National Press Photographers Association, the Associated Press, the National Organization of Women, The University of Minnesota and the White House News Photographers Association.
You can watch the full, 25-minute presentation above. Our post-keynote interview with Griffiths follows, which has been edited for clarity and length.