When Julia Calfee clicks the shutter of her camera, she doesn’t just take a picture. She also makes contact. It’s not about looking as much as feeling, not depicting, but rather delving.

“Photographing gives me access to people. If you show interest in other people, they’ll generally respond by opening up,” says Calfee. “Whatever the situation is, there’s an interaction. And that’s what I have to work with. If I want the interaction to be good, if I don’t want someone to turn away from me or shut down, then I have to make that person understand that I’m not capturing him or her, but rather entering into their world and showing that it has a connection to the whole world. It’s an interaction between that person, me and all of humanity. The only thing I can go on is to believe in the humanness of it all, and that we all have something to exchange with each other.”

Calfee and her camera have traveled the common ground of humanity from Mongolian reindeer herders and prisoners to wealthy Chinese urbanites, residents of the famed Chelsea Hotel and Malaysian garbage-heap dwellers. “What I seem to be drawn to, in spite of myself, are situations and people who are somehow living on an edge that will disappear,” she says. “I’m drawn to, or even called to, places where there’s a great deal of intense life that’s in a state of change.”

More of this article can be read in the Fall 2010 issue.