Published: August 2008

International Photography Contest

Steber Yellow Birds

Focus on People

National Geographic photographer Maggie Steber is your expert mentor in the People category.

Photograph by Maggie Steber

Photographing people has fascinated Maggie Steber ever since she decided that becoming a French teacher in Texas just wouldn't be as exciting. "As photographers, we ask people to be vulnerable before us, and before the world," she says, "so we should approach with humility and be prepared to be open and vulnerable too.

"Spending time with people establishes a trust and shows that your interest is genuine," says Steber. "It will also give you a much richer experience." Reading up on culture and history is another way to bring depth to your work. "Knowing a people's art and literature gives you clues to what makes them unique," she explains. "Travel with an open mind, without preconceptions, and let people teach you. I went to Haiti to photograph a country in civil strife, but because I'd read about its culture and history, I also discovered people of great beauty, mystery, and imagination. Haitians live by their wits—they see straight to your heart. And when I listened, so many facets were revealed—they were playful, dangerous, sweet, cruel, and excited to tell their story."

Steber has observed the rich, the poor, the powerful, the unknown: "Photographing people has opened my eyes to the world in wonderful ways. It's given me a life so rich, because people have shared their lives with me."

email a friend iconprinter friendly icon   |