Model, an accomplished rock climber, was also part of a team that completed the first free ascent of the East Face of the Trango Tower, a 20,600-foot (6,280-meter) spire in Pakistan's Karakoram Range.
An account of the expedition in the April 1996 issue of National Geographic magazine landed a picture of Model on the cover. He was 22 years old at the time.
A photograph he took with a point-and-shoot camera of expedition photographer Bill Hatcher dangling from a rope "became the signature adventure photo for National Geographic," said Rebecca Martin, head of the Society's Expeditions Council, which awards grants to explorers.
The Trango expedition team included Model's mentor and friend Todd Skinner, a renowned climber who died last October pioneering a new route in California's Yosemite National Park.
Model has also covered Sudan's civil war, a trek across Iran (see photos), and the border dispute in the far northern Kashmir region of Balistan—among many other adventures around the world.
"He's been recognized here as a great emerging talent in photography," Martin said.
Model was born and raised near Cody, Wyoming. He moved to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004 to better cover Africa. In addition to National Geographic magazines, his work has appeared in the New York Times, Outside magazine, and Mother Jones magazine, among others.
Steve Bechtel, a friend and team member on the Trango expedition, said Model's transition from climbing photography to cultural photography illustrates his great strength of character.
"He went from this pretty dang good career," Bechtel said, "to one of just trying the help out the continent of Africa."
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