Stephen Alvarez

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Stephen Alvarez (born 1965) is an American photojournalist who produces global stories about exploration, culture, religion, and the aftermath of conflict. He has been a National Geographic photographer since 1995.[1] His pictures have won awards in Pictures of the Year International [2] and Communications Arts[3] and have been exhibited at Visa Pour L’Image International Photojournalism Festival[4] in Perpignan, France.

Photography career[edit]

Stephen Alvarez’s first magazine assignment came in 1991 from Time Magazine[5] to photograph discoveries in Mammoth Cave. He has continued to photograph cave exploration and underground landscapes throughout the world.

His first National Geographic assignment in 1995 took him over 20,000 feet up into the Peruvian Andes to photograph the discovery of a 500-year-old Incan Mummy Juanita, the Ice Maiden.[6]

He continued his work for National Geographic with several expedition stories. He travelled to Borneo to document exploration of the caves of Sarawak to aid their conservation.[7]

In Belize, Alvarez covered a 1999 jungle expedition to map Chiquibul, the longest cave in Central America.[8]

In Mexico he photographed a poisonous hydrogen sulfide cave, Cueva de Villa Luz, where scientists study clues to the origins of life.[9]

He traveled to the Middle East for National Geographic in 2001-2002 to photograph the deserts of the Empty Quarter and the immense caves of Oman on the Selma Plateau including Majlis al Jinn.[10]

The Nature Conservancy assigned Alvarez to document ongoing cave conservation and exploration in the southeastern United States for a 2004 article.[11]

In 2004 Alvarez won a Banff Centre grant to photograph the Cave of the Swallows, a deep vertical pit in Mexico, and presented his work at Banff in 2006.[12]

The Maya Underworld story, published in the November 2004 National Geographic Magazine, took Alvarez to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.[13] The story covers the worldview of today’s Maya peoples through their rituals and religion as well as their archeological past. The Maya Underworld has roots in the Maya sacred book the Popol Vuh. Alvarez was invited to exhibit this work at Visa pour L’Image International Photojournalism Festival in 2005.[4]

Alvarez has taken time from his assignment career to document the ongoing conflict and its aftermath in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.[14] One of his photographs of the cycle of violence on the Uganda/Sudan border won an award in 2004 Pictures of the Year International.[2]

On another National Geographic assignment Alvarez photographed the deepest cave in the world, Voronya Cave, located 2000 meters beneath the Caucasus Mountains in the breakaway Russian republic of Abkhazia.[15]

He photographed subterranean Rome in 2005 for National Geographic.[16]

In 2006 National Geographic assigned Alvarez the story Raging Danger, which documents the river caves of Papua New Guinea.[17] This story won a Communication Arts award in Editorial Series.[3]

Traveling across the Pacific in 2007, Alvarez photographed Peopling the Pacific, a story about the earliest voyagers of the Pacific Islands. His adventure included sailing on the traditional Hawaiian vessel, the Hokule'a. The story was published in National Geographic Magazine in March 2008.

In June 2009 Deep South, Alvarez's photographs of caves in the southeastern United States, including Rumbling Falls Cave, Tennessee, was published in National Geographic Magazine.[18]

Alvarez covered Madagascar's Tsingy de Bemaraha Stone Forest for the November 2009 National Geographic.[19]

He photographed a story entitled Bat Crash covering white-nosed syndrome for the December 2010 National Geographic.[20]

His most recent story took him to the tunnels, sewers and catacombs of underground Paris for National Geographic February 2011.[21] The Paris Underground story was also featured on NPR.[22]

Biographical notes[edit]

Alvarez holds a B.A. in Comparative Religion from Sewanee: The University of the South. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, United States, with his wife, April, and their two children.

Awards and exhibits[edit]

  • Banff Mountain Centre Grant and Exhibit 2004[23]
  • Pictures of the Year International 2004[2]
  • Communications Arts 45 (2004)[24]
  • Visa Pour L’Image Exhibit 2005[4]
  • National Geographic Lecture Under the Map 2006
  • PDN Photo Annual 2006[25]
  • Uganda/Sudan Border Project 2006[26]
  • The Aftermath Project Auction 2006[27]
  • Communications Arts 48, Editorial Series (2007)[28]


  1. ^ "Photographer Stephen Alvarez Biography - National Geographic". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  2. ^ a b c "Second Place | General News Reporting". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  3. ^ a b "Communication Arts - Home". Archived from the original on 2008-01-22. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  4. ^ a b c [1] Archived February 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Time Magazine, November 30, 1992, "Subterranean Secrets"
  6. ^ "National Geographic Photo Gallery: Inca Culture-Ice Maiden". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  7. ^ [2] Archived November 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ [3] Archived November 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Mexico's Poisonous Cave @". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  10. ^ "Oman @ National Geographic Magazine". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  11. ^ The Nature Conservancy Magazine, Autumn 2005, "The Last Frontier"
  12. ^ [4][dead link]
  13. ^ "National Geographic Magazine's Sights & Sounds: Maya Underworld". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  14. ^ "Crimes of War". Crimes of War. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  15. ^ "Deepest Cave, Call of the Abyss - National Geographic Magazine". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  16. ^ "Rome's Ruins - National Geographic Magazine". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  17. ^ "Caving in Papua New Guinea - Learn More - National Geographic Magazine". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  18. ^ "Deep Southern Caves — Photo Gallery — National Geographic Magazine". 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  19. ^ "Stone Forest — Photo Gallery — National Geographic Magazine". 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  20. ^ "Bat Crash - Photo Gallery - National Geographic Magazine". 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  21. ^ "Paris Catacombs - National Geographic Magazine". 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  22. ^ "Life Below The City Of Light: Paris Underground". NPR. 2011-01-29. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  23. ^ "Banff Centre Media Release". 2006-04-13. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  24. ^ "Communication Arts August 2004 Photography Annual 45". 2000-01-01. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  25. ^ "PDN 2006 Photo Annual: About". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  26. ^ "The Uganda Sudan Border Project". Retrieved 2013-12-03. 
  27. ^ Archived from the original on May 14, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2009.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "Communication Arts August 2007 Photography Annual 48". 2000-01-01. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-12-03. 

External links[edit]