Susan Meiselas

Susan Meiselas (1948- ) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. (Visual Education) from Harvard University.  Meiselas has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1976, having been invited to join in part on the strength of a daring photographic documentation of the lives of carnival strippers who performed throughout the northeastern United States. “Carnival Strippers” was published (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1976) with a disc of interviews with the women she photographed, and in 2000, was exhibited at the Whitney.  Meiselas has proven herself to be a fearless, motivated and highly talented documentary photographer and filmmaker with a strong social conscience.  She has covered politics, insurrection, assassination and war throughout the world.  Meiselas has a history of pursuing social justice inexhaustibly through her art as well as through active social participation.  In 1971 she was assistant editor on Frederick Wiseman’s documentary, Basic Training.  In the early 1970s Meiselas taught in rural American communities and developed curriculums for teachers in New York City schools.  In 1977 she photographed in Cuba, before traveling to Chad to cover the civil war and resulting refugee crisis.  In 1978 Meiselas traveled to Nicaragua to cover the revolution; her photographs were published in the New York Times Magazine.  In 1979she covered the assassinations of priests in El Salvador and went on to cover the civil war there over the next four years, while also continuing to cover the conflict in Nicaragua – for which she received the Robert Capa Gold Medal for “outstanding courage and reporting.”  In 1981 Meiselas was wounded by a landmine in El Salvador while on assignment for Time.  Also this year her book Nicaragua; June 1978-July 1979 was published by Pantheon. Photographs she took in 1981 documenting the aftermath of the El Mozote Massacre were later used as evidence in congressional debates to halt U.S. military aid to El Salvador. Over the next years, Meiselas continued her documentary work, organized exhibitions, and produced films.  In 1986, Meiselas covered among other events the Aquino election in the Philippines and her work there on “Mail-Order Brides” was published in the NYT.  In 1990, photographs from her project on illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border were included in the exhibition Crossings, at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1991 she became a Gahan Fellow at Harvard where she taught photography.  She also joined a San Francisco-based project investigating domestic violence.  Also in 1991 she began to collect a visual history of the Kurdish people.   A MacArthur fellowship in 1992 assisted that effort.  In 1994 she received the Hassleblad Foundation Prize.  In 1995 she created “Pandora’s Box,” a study of the S&M culture indulged in by New Yorkers on their lunch hours.  In 1997 Meiselas shot a video of life in a New Orleans’ hospital emergency room, which won an Emmy for cinematography.  In 2001 Meiselas photographed the collapse of the World Trade Center.  In 2006 she joined with the Human Rights Watch to document the migration of Indonesian domestic workers to Singapore, part of a Magnum project on contemporary slavery.  Meiselas continues to photograph and work for social justice.  Her work is in numerous public and private collections.  They include The Whitney, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, The  Fogg Museum at Harvard, ICP, the San Francisco Museum of Modern art and the Library of Congress.