Maggie Shannon, Photographer
Maggie Shannon’s photographs are an amazing glimpse into a just-off world, there is nothing predictable about these beautifully composed and fun images. She talks to us today about having confidence in your work, taking risks and making time for personal projects - and you know we’re big fans of that! Thanks Maggie.
What do you do?
I’m a portrait / documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, NY.
Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?
If something scares you it’s probably worth doing.
What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?
Taking my first color photography class in college was a big one! I had always enjoyed taking photos but never considered really committing to it until that class. I love black and white but everything just clicked when I started shooting in color film!
Winning Magnum Photos 30 under 30 was a huge deal for me, too. It gave me the confidence to quit my day job and start freelancing full time.
Moving to New York City was also a big step! I grew up on a tiny little island off the coast of Massachusetts and then went to college in the middle of nowhere. So jumping into the big city was a little terrifying. I remember when I first moved here I lived right by Tompkins Square Park in the East Village and I was afraid to go outside. But there are so many great opportunities in New York and I’ve made tons of great and supportive friends. It was worth the leap!
What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?
Oh gosh I don’t know, you’ve done a great job with these :)
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I have a couple assignments coming up that I’m super excited about and a big website re-design in the works. But what I’m really gearing up for is a new project following this swim team on the Upper West Side. The kids are so inspiring! It’s also nice to have a personal project to work on. There aren’t any deadlines or structure, and I can make some really crazy pictures.
What is your dream project?
Gosh, I’ve gotten lucky, some of my pitches have been turned into assignments and I’ve collaborated with a lot of great people. I guess my dream would be to travel somewhere I’ve never been and really dig into a project for an extended time.
What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?
I have a large collection of sweaters and a very high tolerance for hot beverages.
Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?
I have a ton of supportive female friends and it’s continuing to grow. It was smaller when I first started out shooting but I feel like a lot of us are banding together and it’s a really beautiful movement to be a part of.
Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?
I remember pouring over books by William Christenberry, Martin Parr and Eggleston my first year in college and being completely blown away. It was like seeing that work gave me permission to find my own voice.
What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?
I’m actually in kind of a slump for these sorts of things so if anyone has book or podcast recommendations please email me! I just finished reading In Cold Blood which incredible. I’m also a little obsessed with those ghost hunter TV shows, where a team goes into a haunted spot, interviews people and then tries to find proof. I love all the equipment they use and how positive they are!
What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?
Having more women and minority photographers getting assignments! It’s insane how sexist this field can get, especially on the documentary side of things. I’ve heard some disgusting stories and can share a few of my own.
If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?
I recently heard Gloria Steinem talk and she totally blew me out of the water. She was so inspiring, especially in these dark political times. I’d love to hear her answers to these questions!
What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?
Remember to make time for yourself! I feel like it’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and work work work, but getting burnt out is never a fun thing. Plus it hurts you creatively, too. Self care is so important, and I feel like that’s when my mind really starts coming up with ideas for shoots or even just images I want to create. But I’m sure my boyfriend would tell you that I never follow this advice as much as I should.
How can we find our more about your work?
Who would you most like to answer these questions next?
My friend and photographer Anna Beeke!