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PHOTOPAPER 33/34 – Susan Meiselas

Porch Portraits
South Carolina & Mississippi 1974
I would drive down a road, see a house, stop my car and hope that someone would open their door. I hadn’t planned what I would say. I began by explaining that I was teaching photography in the local elementary school, that I came from the North, and would like to take their photo. I didn’t really know why. As my work has evolved, it’s rarely been focused on portraits. Portraits usually aren’t an expression of a sustained relationship. I often find them to be awkward and tense encounters. Now, from a distance of more than 40 years, there are so many more questions that I wish I had asked, but maybe didn’t feel that I could. These photographs come from a time when tenderness was still possible. We could see each other, if only for a moment. Each exchange led me to make a picture and when I returned home I sent every family a print in the form of an enlarged postcard. That process was most important to me. They had welcomed me to trespass. The postcard was simply a gesture to acknowledge that crossing we shared. I wonder now how their lives have evolved. Looking back at myself as a young white woman making this work leads me to rethink my own connection to the history of the South, which I knew so little about then.
Susan Meiselas, May 2018

Susan Meiselas is a documentary photographer who lives and works in New York. She is the author of Carnival Strippers (1976), Nicaragua (1981), Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (1997), Pandora’s Box (2001), Encounters with the Dani (2003) Prince Street Girls (2016) and A Room Of Their Own (2017). She has co-edited two published collections: El Salvador, Work of 30 Photographers (1983) and Chile from Within (1990), rereleased as an e-book in 2013, and also co-directed two films: Living at Risk (1985) and Pictures from a Revolution (1991) with Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti. Meiselas is well known for her documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Her photographs are included in American and international collections. In 1992 she was made a MacArthur Fellow and most recently was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015). Mediations, a survey exhibition of her work from the 1970s to present was exhibited at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Jeu de Paume, and will travel to San Francisco MoMA in July 2018.

This edition of PHOTOPAPER is a »master« issue of an unpublished body of work from well-known masters in photography. We would like to thank Susan Meiselas for her kind cooperation. This special PHOTOPAPER issue has 32 pages. Images above showing selected pages.