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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Susan Meiselas

Dates:  1948, 21 June -
Born:  US, MD, Baltimore
Active:  US
American photojournalist who started out with a study of Carnival Strippers. Her photographs of the dirty war in Nicaragua were a head-on horror story of a region out of control.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Meiselas has a BA degree (1970) in anthropology from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in education from Harvard where she took her first photography course in 1971. She consulted with Polaroid Corporation on strategies for visual education in the nation’s classrooms. Her earliest documentary book, Carnival Strippers (1976), is distinguished by her method of obtaining many of the images — she disguised herself as a man to gain entry to strip shows with her concealed camera. As a gatherer of "fact," she also made behind-the-scene images and sound recordings of women strippers she interviewed. Much of her career has been marked by involvement with the cultures and conflicts in Central America, particularly Nicaragua. Due to her tenacity and resourcefulness, she produced (and later published) an incredible record of civil war in Nicaragua (1978–1979) after determining that she needed to put herself in jeopardy in order to make the most compelling photographs. When she arrived alone in Managua she had little equipment, no press credentials, and could barely speak Spanish. She later documented civil strife in El Salvador, risking her life in areas where the government had banned all journalists. Her color photography documenting civil unrest is not so much a recording of "war" as it is a multi-layered view of a people’s struggle to define and preserve their culture, religion, and methods of government. Meiselas has been a member of Magnum since 1976 and has had work published in Time, LIFE, The New York Times, GEO, and Paris Match among many other titles. She recently has documented events and peoples in Kurdistan and New Guinea. 
(Author: Ken White - Rochester Institute of Technology) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Family history 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
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Internet resources

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Magnum Photos ... 
Probably the world‘s most famous photo agency for photojournalists. Use this site to access the portfolios, biographies of the many notable Magnum photographers. Where there are books by the photographers the website frequently includes the photographs used. 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Susan Meiselas.] 
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.462 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
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