Nancy Siesel is a Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist whose compassionate eye and concerned photography have graced the pages of newspapers and magazines since 1990.
A former staff photographer for The New York Times, Nancy's passion for photography dates to her junior year in High School where she was exposed to the work of photographers Susan Meiselas, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank by an art teacher. A deep interest in the transformative power of documentary photography was sparked, which would continue through her college years and subsequent professional life.
A senior project documenting the life of an old school classmate who was making her living as a topless dancer, and who would later become one of the early victims of the AIDS epidemic, further grounded her in the practice of the concerned photographer. The project, entitled Solitary Dancer, was a personally painful and cathartic undertaking, and would continue for seven years. The story, which was published widely internationally caught the attention of the Times' Director of Photography, which in turn led to regular freelance assignments, and ultimately a staff position in 1992
In 1988, she jumped at the chance to participate in a newly established WPA style documentary program at Illinois State University, focused on the struggles of rural america, and for which she was granted a full scholarship, ultimately earning her MA in documentary photography. The project also involved participation from sociologists and anthropologists, and allowed her to continue to use the camera as a tool for probing the intersections of social forces, personal hardship and the resiliency of the human spirit through a story about a family of diary farmers in Ava, Illinois, and a father working two jobs to support his family of five. The work was exhibited in Philadelphia's Level 3 Gallery and a set of prints was gifted to the University. While at the School of Visual Arts in New York she was also the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant for a project dealing with teenage pregnancy.
As a news photographer, photojournalist and Times staffer, she has covered stories ranging from Romania after the fall of Ceacescu, to the racial unrest in Crown Heights, to New York city crime stories, to lifestyle, concerts and the arts, a variety which she feels has strengthened her ability to communicate both with and about her subjects, and an already inquiring eye. A frequent contributor to the VOWS section of the Times, her wedding photographs are infused with intimacy, humor and compassion. She has traveled to, and photographed in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, India and Kashmir.
At present, she is working on a book of landscapes, which she says "reflect the mystery and spirit of places both exotic and mundane," in contrast to her news photography and photojournalistic work. She is the recipient of a 2009 Brooklyn Arts Council Grant for Kashmir Cross Culture, a collaborative project of her landscapes of this region exhibited with Kashmiri photojournalists who document the day to day struggles for independence. In 2008 she was awarded her first Brooklyn Arts Council grant for a project entitled View in a Room, an exhibition of large scale landscape photographs in patient rooms in the critical care unit of Woodhull Hospital. The project was inspired by a study that suggests that people who either have a view out the window or gaze at landscape paintings or photographs recover faster.
Her 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph, part of a group entry for the New York Times, of the sole surviving fireman in Fire Company 226, embracing the son of a fallen comrade on 9/11, is a haunting reminder of the emotions of that day and the fleeting and temporal nature of life.
All Photographs Copyright Nancy Siesel, 2009, All Rights Reserved, with the exception of VOWS photographs, Copyright The New York Times