I first met Maggie Steber in the 1980s at the Maine Photo Workshops. Passion and motivation are the secrets of her success in making photographs for magazines and newspapers around the world. All the big names are on the list: LIFE, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Miami Herald, Smithsonian, People, Newsweek, TIME and National Geographic, as well as many foreign publications.
Even though she is a go-to photojournalist and documentary photographer, much of her success has come as a picture editor and director of photography for newspapers. Along the way, she has tried a bit of everything: news, war, documentary and fashion photography — even a short time as a paparazzo.
Steber is best known for her work in Haiti, which was the subject of her first book, Dancing on Fire (Aperture, 1991). She received the “First Prize Award for Spot News” from the World Press Foundation for her Haiti work. The Leica Medal of Excellence and NPPA Pictures of the Year awards followed. She has also received the Ernst Haas Grant from Kodak, as well as grants from the Alicia Patterson Foundation and the Knight Foundation. Her work has been exhibited at the Pingyao International Photography Festival and the Lianthou Festival in China, Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan, France and the Jardins du Luxembourg in Paris, France. Steber’s photographs are in many museum collections, and she is frequently invited to serve as a judge for major competitions such as the World Press Photo Contest and NPPA Pictures of the Year.
Steber lives in Miami, near a causeway across Biscayne Bay from Miami Beach. Lush tropical trees and plants surround her house. Inside, books and photographs are everywhere, but neatly organized. She welcomed me with a cup of coffee and we settled in for the interview.