Susan Meiselas, born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1948, received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MA in visual education from Harvard University. Her first major photographic essay focused on the lives of women doing striptease at New England country fairs, whom she photographed during three consecutive summers while teaching photography in New York public schools. Carnival Strippers was originally published in 1976 and a selection was installed at the Whitney Museum of Art in June 2000.
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. She published her second monograph, Nicaragua, in 1981. Meiselas served as an editor and contributor to the book El Salvador: The Work of Thirty Photographers and edited Chile from Within featuring work by photographers living under the Pinochet regime. She has co-directed two films, Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family and Pictures from a Revolution with Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti. In 1997, she completed a six-year project curating a hundred-year photographic history of Kurdistan, integrating her own work into the book Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History and developed akaKurdistan, an online site of exchange for collective memory in 1998.
Her monograph Pandora’s Box explores a New York S & M club, has been exhibited both at home and abroad. Encounters with the Dani reveals a sixty-year history of outsiders’ discovery and interactions with the Dani, an indigenous people of the highlands of Papua in Indonesia.
Meiselas has had one-woman exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, and her work is included in collections around the world. She has received the Robert Capa Gold Medal for her work in Nicaragua (1979); the Leica Award for Excellence (1982); the Engelhard Award from the Institute of Contemporary Art (1985); the Hasselblad Foundation Photography prize (1994); the Cornell Capa Infinity Award (2005) and most recently was awarded the Harvard Arts Medal (2011). In 1992, she was named a MacArthur Fellow.