Susan Seubert: National Geographic Photographer

Susan Seubert is an award-winning travel photographer who divides her time between Portland and Hawaii. Photo credit: Steven Josefsberg

Susan Seubert is a commercial, travel, and editorial photographer who splits her time between Portland, Oregon and Maui, Hawaii, according to her blog. She is an award-winning travel and editorial photographer and now works as an independent contractor who is hired for her services by photo magazines such as National Geographic.

“I am also a fine artist, which means I maintain a regular studio practice,” Seubert says. Her work is often conceptual, and ranges from worldly, to scenery, to representations of subjects such as domestic violence. She has a talent for using color, shadows and camera angles to portray certain tones and emotions she wants to invoke with her photos.

Seubert lectures regularly about her work at Harvard University and the Portland Art Museum. Seubert’s work has been well-received. She was nominated for Columbia University’s Alfred Eisenstaedt Award and recognized by the North American Travel Journalists Association for excellence in photography. The National Geographic Expedition page describes her as someone who “spends her time traveling the world shooting a variety of subjects and capturing a sense of place through her wide-ranging imagery.”

Seubert was born in 1970 and grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana with her “perspicacious” parents. Her father was a 0thought that it would be a great job to travel the world and make pictures,” she says. She started exploring photography in high school but did not consider herself a professional photographer until mid-1990.

She moved to Portland in 1988 to attend art school at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she majored in fine art with a studio focus in photography. With the support of her teachers, she moved to New York City for an internship at Magnum Photos, as well as a second internship with the artist duo Clegg and Guttmann. Seubert returned to Portland in 1992 and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree.

Being a struggling college student, she worked many freelance jobs to get by, such as waitressing, and working as a photographer’s assistant, which included production, location scouting, and a bit of teaching.

Although she loves what she does, Seubert admits that photography can be draining and does not come without conflicts, especially when accounting for extra jobs she was balancing at the time. “This career is not for the meek. It was an do-it-yourself career like none other…Can you imagine each time you got up and went to work, you had to reapply for your job?…You had to work and work and work…It was an absolutely terrible way to live.”

Seubert met her husband in 1996 at a show at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. The show was called Pushing Image Paradigms and it was a big deal for Seubert because all of the participating artists, besides her and one other photographer, were from countries outside of the United States.

“I was running a fine art photography gallery in Portland (SK Josefsberg Studio),” says Steven Josefsberg, Seubert’s husband. “I have always been impressed by her fine art photography, but became very impressed by her editorial photography as well….She is about the hardest working person I know.”

During her time as an intern photographer, their first assignment was for Newsweek which was covering the Tonya Harding scandal. Seubert claims the shoot was a disaster, because they were scuffling to be allowed in the courtroom, let alone to get a clear and focused shot of the trial. However, they were able to get in along with the TIME Magazine photographer.

Her first official photo shoot was for a design garden magazine, where she was assigned to take a picture of a dahlia. In her TED Talk on YouTube, published April 3 of 2018, she mentions how she wondered, “Why a flower? I always thought journalism was supposed to be ‘breaking news’ or some sort of newsworthy event.” Seubert received an award for the photo, which catapulted her career into professional photography. She realized the capabilities of the camera, detailed capture of the aesthetic representation of imagery in her work. Seubert continues to travel the world, capturing photos of Thailand, Texas, Canada, the Caribbean, and others for the National Geographic travel magazine, paying close attention to how a shot is taken: the angles, the lighting, and most importantly, the people in them and how they influence the scenery. Ever since the photograph of the simple but impactful cover of the dahlia, Seubert has come to realize the power of photography. “It solidified this idea to me, that what was central to my work, was giving a voice to beauty.”

 

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