National Geographic : 1997 Jan
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Assignment * JOSEPH ROCK Rock Collectors A GEOGRAPHIC ARTICLE can start anywhere-all it takes is an idea. When he began work in our Image Collection ten years ago, picture editor Joergen Birman (below) took special interest in organizing materi als from an early contributor, Asia specialist and explorer Joseph Rock. Back home in Denmark, Joergen had studied Chinese history. He also lived in China to learn to speak the language. Putting order to Rock's collection was a gargantuan task. Holdings include 3,000 black and-white prints, 100 sepia prints, and 600 Autochromes, as well as movies, artifacts, journals, letters, and books. When he was through, Joergen thought we had more than a collection-we had the story of a fascinating life. He proposed an article, and the piece was soon under way with photographer Mike Yamashita (above). "I already knew Joseph Rock through his writings on the Mekong," says Mike, who shot that river for the February 1993 issue. "I had an interest in this story, since I'd traced his foot steps there." Following him in Yunnan, Mike photographed these Mosuo women, who live-and look-much as their grandmothers did when Rock came through. "Unless I can work in the wilder ness and the unex plored regions," Joseph Rock once wrote, "I would have no incentive to living." Not much lies uncharted in southwestern China anymore thanks in part to Rock himself. But he might be glad to know that much is wilderness still. NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC(ISSN0027-9358) ISPUBLISHEDMONTHLYBY THENATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY,1145 17THST.N.W.,WASHINGTON,D.C.20036-4688. $25.00 A YEAR,$5.00 A COPY. PERIODICALSPOSTAGEPAIDATWASHINGTON,D.C.,AND ELSEWHERE. POSTMASTER: SENDADDRESSCHANGESTONATIONALGEOGRAPHIC,P.O.BOX2174, WASHINGTON,D.C.20013.