Susan Meiselas: In History (ICP/Steidl 2008) has received the 2009 Rencontres d’Arles Historical Book Award. This prestigious award is given to the best thematic or monographic documentary work about photography or a photographer. Published in conjunction with the major exhibition at the International Center of Photography, the catalogue is the first compendium of Meiselas’s work. Containing both celebrated and unpublished bodies of images, it also features texts by ICP curator Kristen Lubben, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, David Levi Strauss, Lucy Lippard, Edmundo Desnoes, Diana Taylor, Elizabeth Edwards, Caroline Brothers, and Allan Sekula.
Best known for her work covering the political upheavals in Central America in the 1970s and ’80s, Susan Meiselas’s process has evolved in radical and challenging ways as she has grappled with pivotal questions about her relationship to her subjects, the use and circulation of her images in the media, and the relationship of images to history and memory. Her insistent engagement with these concerns has positioned her as a leading voice in the debate over the function and practice of contemporary documentary photography.
The exhibition and its catalogue are structured around three key projects, presented in their complete form, which exemplify the evolution of Meiselas’s process and approach: photographs and audio of New England carnival strippers (1972–76); photographs, films, and public installations from Nicaragua (1978–2004); and photographs and collected archival objects and video from Kurdistan (1991–present). Since the 1970s, questions of ethics raised by documentary practice have been central to debates in photography. Perhaps no other photographer has so closely and consistently represented and participated in these debates than Susan Meiselas.