The Observer, the Storyteller, the Photographer

The University of Miami welcomes renowned photojournalist and documentarian Susan Meiselas as a Distinguished Presidential Fellow and 100 Talent.

Distinguished Presidential Fellow & Documentary Photographer Susan Meiselas

Susan Meiselas has traveled the world as a documentary photographer for over 40 years.

Her photography has transported people to the rubble and destruction of lower Manhattan on 9/11, to Nicaragua’s popular insurrection during the late 1970s, to a village in El Salvador destroyed by the country’s armed forces in the early 1980s, and to witness the photographic history of Kurdistan which was presented in book and exhibition form in 1997.

Meiselas said she believes documentary photography is “an engagement with the world.” Now she will share that engagement, her experience, and her talent with the University of Miami community as one of its 100 Talents, one of the University's Roadmap to Our New Century initiatives, introduced by UM President Julio Frenk.

As a Distinguished Presidential Fellow with the College of Arts and Sciences, Meiselas is actively engaging and interacting with students and collaborating with facutly across mutliple disciplines. Her visit will culminate in a public lecture at the Newman Alumni Center on March 21.

So far, Meiselas’ time on campus has found her in photography and sculpture classrooms in the College's art department, where she has shared her expertise on topics such as the history of war photography and how to make a living as an artist.

Meiselas said she hopes to help inspire photography students by answering questions and sharing her own experiences. But above all, she hopes to encourage them to get out, take risks and not be afraid to make mistakes, while moving from skills training to working on their own in-depth projects. 

“You only truly learn by doing it yourself,” she said.

The challenge for photographers, she added, is to help viewers of their work become engaged with people and issues that may be foreign to them.

Muchachos await the counterattack by the National Guard, Matagalpa, 1978. Meiselas/Magnum Photos

To welcome Meiselas to campus, the College and School of Communication is hosting a special documentary film screening depicting her work in Nicaragua entitled, “Pictures from A Revolution,” at 7 p.m. on February 9, at Shoma Hall. The film showcases Meiselas’ photographs made during the Nicaraguan popular insurrection and her search a decade later to find as well as hear from the people she photographed.

Along with the screening and public lecture in March, Meiselas said the additional details of what activities she will be involved with on campus are still evolving, but she plans to continue to engage students and faculty across departments in the hopes that some of her previous experiences can complement their studies.

Miami has yet to become a subject for Meiselas, and she admits that most of her previous encounters with the city have been during moments when she was traveling through it to get to other destinations throughout Latin America.

However, Meiselas said she is honored to be joining the University of Miami and is excited to dig deeper into the “multiplicity of lives” that she said Miami’s vibrant immigrant community cultivates.  

Meiselas got her own start while teaching photography in an elementary school in the South Bronx during the 1970s. During that period, she became intrigued by a traveling "Girl Show" and the women who performed a striptease at small town carnivals and fairs in the Northeast. For three years during her summer breaks, Meiselas followed the women and the men they performed for from town to town. Her photographs evolved into her first book, Carnival Strippers, with images and stories she recorded at that time.

Her work has been published in The New York Times and Time Magazine and she has had solo exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. She is a winner of the Robert Capa Gold Medal and in 1992 was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow.  Her work is included in American and international collections.

By Andrew Boryga

 

February 08, 2017