Photojournalist Maggie Steber Reflects on a Life of Beauty & Adventure
“Look, I’m just a little Texas dirt-eater. I worked my way through school. I’m nobody. But, I’ve had a life I never imagined I could have, and it’s thanks to photography.”
That’s Maggie Steber being modest. Her incredible work in photojournalism spans over 60 countries and has earned her many awards, grants, and the title as one of National Geographic’s Women of Vision.
A few key parts of the episode are highlighted below, with helpful links to some of the topics that came up, her work, and how to get in touch with her.
On being vulnerable—
As a means to deal with the pain of slowly losing her mother, Madje, to dementia, Maggie turned her camera into her shield. Although she never planned to release this series to the public, the public is glad she did. It has helped many, herself included, reflect on how we can set ourselves up for a better end-of-life experience in the process.
“That’s what we want photographs to do—to encourage people and inform them and change their minds about things,” she says.
To get the full experience, I highly recommend watching Rite of Passage.
Most known for her multiple decades of work in Haiti, Maggie has done a lot more than just feed into the headline-grabbing hellish realities of the nation.
“…it’s an unfair depiction,” she says emphatically. “It’s not even half the story…There’s this lyrical, ephemeral sort of otherworldly tenor to the country and to the people.”
In addition to starting the Audacity of Beauty, she's also turned the camera over to locals, co-founding a nonprofit that empowers Haitians to tell their own story for an important reason:
“The conquerors always tell the story of others, and the vanquished only get to read it.”
Similar to the point of this podcast, Maggie echoes the ethos: “Being generous and supportive is so much easier and so much more fun than being selfish.”
We spend a good bit of time discussing how the industry is changing, what that means for the next generation of up-and-coming photojournalists, and some recommended approaches for succeeding (or at least getting work). It’s clear that this business is not for the faint of heart. It takes real dedication, a commitment to specializing on long-term projects, introducing new perspectives, and really taking the time to connect with your subjects.
And if you really want to up your game in photography, I can tell you from personal experience that workshops* are the way to go.
Other topics mentioned:
- Russel Lee – Farm Security Administration photographer
- Gideon Mendel’s Submerged Portraits, a great example of photographing climate change issues
- Stephanie Sinclair’s work on Too Young to Wed, a nonprofit aimed at protecting girls’ rights and ending child marriage
- Taking pictures can enhance your experience, Outside Magazine
- Women Are Becoming More Adventurous Travelers—and Doing It Alone, Condé Nast Traveler
*Workshops with Maggie:
- Mystery in Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead through PhotoXpeditions
- Mystery in Miami workshop through Leica Academy