Recorded in: New York City
Episode Length: 45:12
Air Date: February 28, 2019
Produced by: Jordan Weitzman
Edited by: Cristal Duhaime
I got to Susan Meiselas’ Mott street studio a few minutes early and one of her assistants let me in to set up my gear. As I was waiting for her to arrive, I was leafing through a worn out first edition of Carnival Strippers, thinking to myself nervously, in that bout of anxiety before an interview - what are we going to even talk about that she’s gonna find interesting? The door clicked open she flew into the basement studio apologizing for a Magnum Foundation meeting running a few minutes late. She asked one of her assistants to prepare two cameras for some portraits of an old acquaintance she was going to do that evening an at the theatre, and rummaged through a couple manilla files looking for a note that she didn’t want to forget, and excused herself to shoot of a quick email. As soon as we sat down at the table and put the headphones on, though, her attention, in a split second, became so focused and engaged, as if none of the other million things she was working on or thinking about mattered. And that focus grabbed and threw me into this zone - my insecurities and preoccupations of what we were going to talk about dissipated in favour of an attention and curiosity in her.
Susan Meiselas has spent her life going into situations and making such varied acquaintances with who she has photographed over time, from young teenage girls outside her home on Mott Street to women doing striptease at New England country fairs. She’s documented human rights issues in Nicaragua to the goings on of exclusive S and M club in New York called Panora’s box. Meeting people and making quick acquaintances is one thing, but then making good pictures in those situations is another. It requires a kind of focus - getting into a zone - that I saw so palpably when we got together.
Meiselas was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1948, studied at Harvard earning her MA in visual eduction, taught in the New York public school system and has worked as one of our most esteemed documentary photographers for close to 50 years. In 1976, she joined Magnum Photos and became a full member in 1980.
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