The camera is an excuse to be someplace you otherwise don’t belong. It gives me both a point of connection and a point of separation.
– Susan Meiselas
Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer (born 1948) who lives and works in New York. She is best known for her 1970s photographs of war-torn Nicaragua and American carnival strippers. Susan Meiselas received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and her M.A. in visual education from Harvard University. Her first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women doing striptease at New England country fairs. She photographed the carnivals during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in the New York public schools.
She is the author of Carnival Strippers (1976), Nicaragua (1981), Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997), Pandora’s Box (2001), Encounters with the Dani (2003) Prince Street Girls (2016), A Room Of Their Own (2017) and Tar Beach (2020). She has co-edited two published collections: El Salvador, Work of 30 Photographers (1983) and Chile from Within (1990), rereleased as an e-book in 2013, and also co-directed two films: Living at Risk (1985) and Pictures from a Revolution (1991) with Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti.
Meiselas is well known for her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Her photographs are included in North American and international collections. In 1992 she was made a MacArthur Fellow, received a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), and most recently the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2019) and the first Women in Motion Award from Kering and the Rencontres d’Arles. Mediations, a survey exhibition of her work from the 1970s to present was recently exhibited at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Jeu de Paume, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Instituto Moreira Salles in São Paulo.
She has been associated with Magnum Photos since 1976 and been a full member since 1980. She has been the President of the Magnum Foundation since 2007. Her 2001 monograph, Pandora’s Box (Magnum Editions/Trebruk) which explores a New York S & M club, has been exhibited both at home and abroad. In 2003, Encounters with the Dani was featured as an installation in the International Center of Photography’s Triennial Strangers and co-published by ICP/Steidl Verlag. The book explores a 60-year history of outsiders’ discovery and interactions with the Dani, an indigenous people of the highlands of Papua in Indonesia.
Meiselas has had one-woman exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Her work is included in American and international collections. Honorary awards of recognition include: the Robert Capa Gold Medal for “outstanding courage and reporting” by the Overseas Press Club for her work in Nicaragua (1979); the Leica Award for Excellence (1982); the Engelhard Award from the Institute of Contemporary Art (1985); the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University for her coverage of Latin America.