Interview with PBN Juror Susan Meiselas

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Susan Meiselas Interview with PBN Juror Susan Meiselas

The July 15 deadline for Photography Book Now (PBN) submissions is just three days away. If you’re not too busy working on your book, we thought you might want to take a moment to hear what Susan Meiselas—influential photographer, journalist and published author (several times over) as well as one of the PBN jurors—thinks about great photography books and which books have been the most influential in her life.

Blurb: In your opinion, what makes a great book of photographs?

Susan: When I think about a great book of photographs, it is mostly about narrative sequencing and its capacity to engage me. Sometimes additional text or visual materials can add dimensionality as well. You know it’s great when it stays with you over many years.

Blurb: What role have photography books played in your own career and understanding of photography?

Susan: I have always thought in terms of books, as the final form for a project, whether or not my photographs have had other lives in publications or exhibitions.

Blurb: What three photography books would you take if stranded on a desert island?

Susan: If stranded I suppose I would want books that have rich content that I can reread and reflect on again. Some of my favorites are Telex Iran by Gilles Peress, Raised by Wolves by Jim Goldberg and Conversations with the Dead by Danny Lyon. All three have powerful images complemented by a variety of texts and documents interwoven.

Blurb: What was the first photography book you bought (or consider as being key to your artistic/creative development)?

Susan: The first photography book I remember buying was Tulsa by Larry Clark; it still stands out for its remarkable intimacy.

Thanks, Susan. We’re honored to have you, as well as all the jurors, on the PBN team. For those of you who want some more background on Susan, please see her extended bio below:

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. CARNIVAL STRIPPERS was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1976. A selection was installed at the Whitney Museum of Art in June 2000. The original book was revised and reprinted by the Whitney Museum and Steidl Verlag in 2003.

Meiselas joined Magnum Photos in 1976 and has worked as a freelance photographer since then. She is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America, which were published widely throughout the world. In 1981, Pantheon published her second monograph, NICARAGUA, JUNE 1978-JULY 1979 which was reprinted by Aperture in the fall 2008.

Meiselas served as an editor and contributor to the book EL SALVADOR: THE WORK OF THIRTY PHOTOGRAPHERS (Writers & Readers, 1983) and edited CHILE FROM WITHIN (W.W. Norton, 1991) featuring work by photographers living under the Pinochet regime. She has co-directed two films: “Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family” (1986) and “Pictures from a Revolution” (1991) with Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti. In 1997, she completed a six-year project curating a 100-year photographic history of Kurdistan, and integrating her own work into the book entitled KURDISTAN: IN THE SHADOW OF HISTORY (Random House, 1997; reprinted by the University of Chicago Press, 2008). Meiselas then created the website,, an online archive of collective memory; as well as an exhibition that launched at the Menil Collection in Houston, and traveled for eight years to several venues in the United States and Europe.
And to all of you working on your PBN submissions, we wish you good photography bookmaking mojo. We can’t wait to see your work and welcome you into the fold. Great things are happening with 2010 PBN, and we’d love for you to be a a part of it. So, get cracking and join the fun.

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