“I look for an authentic moment, whether it be reportage, portraiture, or documentary work. I look for beauty, surprise, and something that is deeply felt and plumbs the depths of human experience.” – Molly Roberts
Award-winning visual editor, independent curator, and judge of our 2022 Open Call Photography Award, Molly Roberts, offers her top advice for up-and-coming photographers.
Over the course of her twenty-five-year career, Molly has worked and collaborated with some of the most important names in contemporary photography, contributing to a host of leading international publications including, The Washington Post Magazine, USA Weekend, Smithsonian Magazine, where she served as Chief Photography Editor, and as Senior Photography Editor of National Geographic Magazine, a post she left in 2019 when she accepted a prestigious John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at Ohio University. She currently works at National Geographic Books.
A passionate advocate of powerful visual storytelling and human rights, she recently created the non-profit HumanEyesUSA, with the aim of, both focusing attention on human rights issues in her homeland, and creating new audiences for photography projects on these subjects.
– What is your favorite or most memorable moment from your career thus far?
MR: This is a tough question! I was 17 when I first saw the inspiring work of Robert Frank’s The Americans. That moment still resonates with me for all these years. To be capable of making images that are hauntingly beautiful and incisively critical at once, is a goal worth pursuing for a lifetime. I try to take this lesson with me when I photograph, when I shape work for magazines and books and when I put together exhibitions. I also like to keep in mind the phrase, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”, coined by Banksy, as he paraphrased author, Finley Dunne.
How has the industry changed during your career?
MR: Tremendously! There are now so many new tools for photography and visual storytelling, and platforms for the work to be seen. However, the power is not in the tools, the power is in the mind and heart of the practitioner. One admirable change that digital publishing has wrought is opening up this world of storytelling to many more, and diverse voices. That’s a change I champion.
– What do you look for in an image?
MR: I look for an authentic moment, whether it be reportage, portraiture, or documentary work. I look for beauty, surprise, and something that is deeply felt and plumbs the depths of human experience.
– What are your top three tips for up-and-coming photographers?
MR: Respect yourself and others in all that you do. Be yourself, be authentic, and be collaborative. Develop the skills you need to tell truly important stories. Listen much more than you speak. Empathy is an important part of the work we do.
All images in this article were entrees to previous awards. Since our inception, we’ve provided a platform for emerging visual artists, both through our monthly awards and through our magazine, where, alongside the work of more established artists, we feature and give exposure to award entrees that catch our eye.
With no express restrictions, The Open Call Award is a unique opportunity for practitioners from across the photographic spectrum to showcase their talent, creativity, and skill. Together with Molly, we look forward to discovering your work.
NB: The 2022 Open Call Award is open for entries until October 31. Submit your work here.
All images © their respective owners