Ami Vitale is a beautiful and inspiring photojournalist. Personally, her photographs inspire me and help define the type of photojournalist that I hope to become. However, her spirit and thoughts inspire me more than anything.
Vitale feels it is important for journalists to think about the implications of their images, how they are being used, and to make sure they are not sensationalizing things. “To be honest,” she says, “the more I do this, the less I do it for photography’s sake. I love photography, but it’s more about what’s happening. I wish I were a better writer, or poet or musician, to use some other way to use my experience to move people. We’re at a crucial time in the world, so polarized, with such a lack of understanding. The pictures themselves have power, but I don’t want to do it to make nice pictures.”
Ami Vitale’s journey as a photojournalist has taken her to more than 75 countries. She has witnessed civil unrest, poverty, destruction of life, and unspeakable violence. But she has also experienced surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit, and she is committed to highlighting the surprising and subtle similarities between cultures. Her photographs have been exhibited around the world in museums and galleries and published in international magazines including National Geographic, Adventure, Geo, Newsweek, Time, Smithsonian. Her work has garnered multiple awards from prestigious organizations including World Press Photos, the Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism, Lucie awards, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and the Magazine Photographer of the Year award, among many others.
She graduated from UNC with a degree in International Studies and went to work as a picture editor for the Associated Press in New York and Washington, D.C. However, she decided after a short period of time there that she wanted to take the kinds of photographs that she was seeing everyday on her computer screen.
“I can actually remember the day,” she said, “seeing some pictures coming in from the Balkans and being really moved.”
She worked and saved up her money. Then in 1997, she moved to the Czech Republic and she began traveling throughout Eastern Europe and Africa. She tried doing little feature stories, writing and trying to sell photo packages to newspapers, just to break even.
Now based in Montana, Vitale is a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine and frequently gives workshops throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. She is also making a
documentary film on migration in Bangladesh and writing a book about the stories behind the images.
Ami Vitale is a role model to aspiring photojournalists, not solely based on her skills as a photographer and a storyteller, but for her attitude and outlook on the field of photojournalism.
Vitale’s photographs transcend the ordinary glance; they are filled with an intimacy and insight that does not come from simple observation. Amy Vitale is not the proverbial fly on the wall. She does not simply report her stories. She lives them. While the journalist Vitale likes taking pictures, she cherishes the life experiences as much as getting them on film. “It almost had less to do with photography; it was a whole other look at Guinea Bissau,” she said. “They taught me everything from learning to carry water in buckets on my head to laughing in the face of some terrible stuff.”
To see more of Ami Vitale’s work click here.