Andrew Cullen

Andrew Cullen

Bismarck, North Dakota
“I always want to make photographs that will challenge stereotypes”


I cover news and features, gravitating towards stories about rural communities, especially those in transition, and about natural resources and the decisions people make on how to use them.

One Shot

Jesse Bear trains a horse on his family ranch in North Dakota. An oil well pad is visible in the picture, above the corral gate in the upper right.
“To me, it represents the internal conflict that many North Dakotans face: How to balance their intimate relationship with a landscape that sustains them spiritually but not always economically with a lucrative but sometimes disruptive and dangerous industry.”


The first time I was really floored by an image was in ninth grade. I found an image by James Nachtwey in Time Magazine, of a bloodied man fleeing a mob wielding sticks and machetes during a period of religious violence in Indonesia. It's a shocking image, and I couldn't understand how he was able to be so close to such a dangerous-seeming event. It's always stuck with me, and though I don't photograph armed conflict, that ability to bear witness in a challenging situation continues to drive me.

I feel like I'm still learning to photograph. You learn a lot from just going out and making pictures on your own.

The first assignment I remember doing was for a small newspaper in Boston - a portrait of a hometown man who had become an administrator for the town. I was anxious about getting it right, but the photo ran on the front page of the next day's paper.

I covered a winter disaster in Mongolia when I was just beginning my career. An unusually snowy and cold winter was killing millions of livestock animals and having a huge impact on rural public health and education. I travelled deep into the countryside to see how people were affected. People let me into their homes and showed me how they had lost whole herds of sheep and goats, and their livelihoods with them. It affected me significantly.

Any day photographing in the field is a good day, but I especially enjoy assignments with a psychological element to them. These are often difficult to illustrate in a photograph, but that challenge adds to the satisfaction of completing the assignment.

I always want to make photographs that will challenge stereotypes .

You can't hide behind your camera or in your car or over the phone to take intimate pictures. You need to get out into the world, walk, talk to people, and be present.

There are plenty of photographers whose work I respect. But more than anything, I respect the people who are willing to open their homes and their lives to me and my camera.