books & long-term projects

"My biggest challenge was moving from photography to film without losing my way of working - which is very intimate" - Mexican photographer Maya Goded

Last week, I sat in the kitchen with photographer Maya Goded at her home in Mexico City, and we talked about transitions. We talked about getting older, and the hunger to do ambitious projects and have creative control over our work. She shared her experience in moving from photography to making documentaries. Stories remind us of what is possible, and I carry hers with me as I work on two book proposals.

When I think of commitment (to a person, to an idea, to a project), a photograph by Maya flashes through my mind in which an old woman and a man embrace on a bed. The woman is a sex worker, and the man is her client of decades. I love the photo because it reminds me that commitment and love are ideas that can and should constantly be redefined.

Putting together a non-fiction book proposal involves more or less the following steps:

  1. You write a 70-100-page proposal that usually includes two completed book chapters and the structure of the book

  2. Your book agent sends out the book proposal to publishers

  3. You meet with interested editors/publishers (still via Zoom in pandemic times)

  4. Publishers make an offer

This process can take months or years. For me, it is a needed and wanted shift away from journalism.

The stories I’m telling are not ones I will get via telephone, texting, FB, Whatsapp, Twitter, or TikTok. And so I’m out, driving an old stick-shift down dirt roads, talking with people on their porches, in their kitchens. They may be illiterate. They may be undocumented. They may not have enough money to pay their cell phone bill this month. But they have stories to tell.

Events and workshops

July 23-29: Visual Storytelling Workshop with National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer in Great Barrington, MA