This week on Photojournalism Now: Friday Round Up – last night I had the pleasure of talking about photography with the Australian chapter of Women Photograph, via Zoom. Sharing my journey into social documentary photography and photojournalism reminded me of the many interviews I’ve done over the years with photographers from all over the world. In the coming weeks I’ll share some of these interviews that have been published in various newspapers and magazines. This week is my interview with Susan Meiselas.
Also, if you missed last week’s post, check out our latest Photojournalism Now: In Conversation video interview with Beijing-based, award-winning photographer and filmmaker Sean Gallagher. Thanks to the Pulitzer Center for publishing a story on our new series too!
Awards, Grants, and Other Opportunities:
Women Photograph 2021 Mentorship Program
Women Photograph‘s 2021 Mentorship Program is now open for applications. This program pairs “24 industry leaders (12 photographers and 12 photo editors) with 24 early-career photojournalists over the course of a year. Mentors include editors and photographers from The New York Times, The Guardian, Associated Press and Apple, among others.” Deadline 1 October 11:59 ET (USA).
FotoEvidence W Award – Entries open 1 September
I’m excited to be a member of the international jury (pictured above) for this award instituted by FotoEvidence Press in 2019. The second FotoEvidence W Award is open for entries from September 1.
The FotoEvidence W Award for Personal Story will be granted by the international jury to one woman photographer whose work merits a book. The hardbound book will be published by FotoEvidence Press, which has forged an impressive reputation as a publisher of photobooks on stories that address social injustice and the abuse of human rights. Two other entrants will receive honourable mentions. Entries close October 15th, 2020.
The winner of the W Award will be announced in January 2021 on the FotoEvidence website. This award is part of a new initiative for FotoEvidence Press: FotoEvidence Women, a space for free expression, devoted to engaged women photographers who want to tell their stories in the form of a photobook.
“Through their lenses women can shape the world differently and we want to give them this chance,” says FotoEvidence founder Svetlana Bachevanova.
All applications should be based on a long-term project and reflect a personal experience of the photographer. All photography mediums accepted. The award was made possible with the support of VII Academy @viiacademy, Grodzins Fund and individual contributions.
Indian Photo Festival – Call for Entries for 2020
The Indian Photo Festival – Hyderabad 2020 invites photographers from all genres and any geographic location to submit work for consideration. The 2020 festival opens on November 12 and runs until 13 December. The 2019 edition presented works by 550 established and emerging artists from 60 countries.
This year’s selection panel:
Deadline – October 4 /Click here to apply.
Looking Back: What I Know Now – Susan Meiselas in interview with Alison Stieven-Taylor
Who or what taught you the most early on in your career? What taught me the most was just working. When I look at what is very common now – internships, mentors, workshops – there’s a whole culture of supporting emerging photographers, but that wasn’t in place when I started out. Being in the field and confronting questions and problems and trying to solve them, that’s what really taught me the most.
What was the biggest career risk you took? Obviously there are different kinds of risks, there’s the physical and also the psychological. When I began working with the media it was a different culture to the documentary process I’d come from. The risk, specifically with Nicaragua, was that my judgement to stay for an extended period of time was not understood. As a career choice it might have been better to move around a lot to different kinds of conflicts in that classic photojournalistic way. But I didn’t really define myself like that. I wanted to invest and to immerse myself.
Which of your personal projects taught you the most? That’s a difficult question because I learn such different things from each project. When I was doing the work with carnival strippers, taking the time to build relationships was probably the lesson. But I’ve learned the most I guess from the Nicaragua work because time has been such a factor in my perspective.
Do you consider you have a particular style? I have an approach, but I’m not interested in style per se. I’m not sure I want people to be thinking this is a Meiselas photograph versus being engaged with what’s in the frame. My intent is to be successful in creating a kind of narrative space.
How do you define approach? It begins with finding something I’m curious about, often for reasons I’m not even sure of. It could be a particular group of people such as a project I did very early on, that few people know about. It was on a group of Santa Claus’ from the Bowery in New York near where I live. Or it could be about a place like Nicaragua, a culture in transition, a social conflict evolving. I’m drawn often to history and the evolution of an historical process like in Kurdistan. So my approach is building off that curiosity a set of relationships and engaging over time.
Can you define what has been the most artistically or personally satisfying work that you’ve done? I can’t judge one project over another. I’m not invested in having the same style or representation of the work. In fact I am more committed to exploring different approaches to represent the ideas I’m trying to make more visible. The aesthetics may change, so for example the work I did on the border of the US and Mexico was done with a panoramic camera, which creates a different dynamic. I think the aesthetics are influenced by what I’m trying to achieve with the work.
When you started out did you have an idea of what you wanted to do, did you think you were having a career? No not at all. First of all I started doing photography in a teaching environment and I was very interested in what we called at the time visual literacy. At that time I was not so much focused on my own work, although I was doing that on the side; that’s when I began the carnival stripper work. I stayed with teaching for a number of years, but I didn’t see myself as a teacher in the long term. I didn’t have a road map to how to be a photographer for life. That’s what I’ve done but I didn’t know how to get there.
What turned out to be the most helpful thing you did to advance your career? The invitation to join Magnum was a definite shift and created many different kinds of opportunities, but most importantly a community with which I’ve related for forty years. There’s something about Magnum’s integration of multiple generations, which is particularly special and watching those lives evolve, and looking at the sustaining choices they’ve made in their practices, that’s invaluable. It’s not always what you talk about, but what you see around you. There’s a lot of diversity in Magnum more than similar notions of photography.
What’s the most important thing you could tell someone about creativity? That it comes from within, it’s the process of engagement with what you see, and it’s about interaction. Ultimately creativity is solving the problems you create for yourself.
(Interview originally published in New Zealand Pro Photographer October/November 2016).