Maggie Steber’s Documentary Work Paves the Way for Future Photo Journalists
Photographers Tasneem Alsultan and Maggie Steber share their work in our annual photo issue.
For our annual photo issue we reached out to 16 up-and-coming photographers and asked them which photographer inspired them to pursue the medium. Then we approached their "idols" to see if they would be willing to publish work in the issue as well. What was provided, we think, creates a unique conversation about the line of influence between young artists and those more established in their careers. This post features work by Tasneem Alsultan and her chosen idol, Maggie Steber.
Tasneem Alsultan, who was born in the United States and educated in England, traveled to Saudi Arabia for her undergraduate thesis and, after completing her master's at Portland State University, decided to pick up a camera for the first time. Once she had established herself as a sought-after wedding photographer, she dove into the social issues of the region, using her images to explore the gaps between her religion's holy book and the lives led by women like her—women who had married young and divorced against their families' expectations and overcame. Alsultan found stories of widows and divorcées and happy wives. She repurposed old photos she had shot at wedding ceremonies. She snapped portraits of her young daughter and grandmother. She has been looking, that is, for all the conceptions of love.
In the 1980s, Maggie Steber was in Haiti covering the political and social upheaval that came with the fall of the 30-year rule of the Duvalier dictatorship: the nation's first attempt at democratic voting, which left voters massacred and elections canceled; a 1988 attack on the church of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the priest who would later become the first democratically elected president of the country; and Bill Clinton's 1994 restoration of Aristide's power, after he had been overthrown by a military coup in 1991. Over time, however, Steber felt that she was only telling part of the narrative. She wanted to focus on the ordinary aspects of life that continued during periods of turmoil, and she "began going, too, during more peaceful and quieter times, into the countryside where the real Haiti lives, to find the beauty, the magic, the resilience, the stamina, and the heart and soul of extraordinary people." Her photos, like the ones presented here, show that while Haitians live alongside poverty and violence, they are not defined by them.