Susana Vera

Susana Vera

Based
Madrid, Spain
Born
Pamplona, Spain
Status
Photographer
Camera
Canon 5D Mark II, 1D Mark IV, 1D X
“The camera fulfils my need to express myself, but most importantly it‘s a tool that allows me to tell the stories of people whose voices might not be heard otherwise. It’s a privilege and a great gift.”

Beat

I cover general news, features on social issues, sports, entertainment, business, politics… A little bit of everything.

One Shot

. KAEDI, Mauritania. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Boys play soccer with balloons after attending a dance recital about water shortages, in the town of Kaedi, Mauritania.
“I don’t have a favourite picture, to be honest. For the most part, the photos that stay with me are those that remind me of the meaningful experience I had while I took them, whether it was a happy or a difficult one. That applies to the image I’ve chosen for this profile. Photographing these children playing with air balloons in Mauritania was a blast, one of the most joyful moments of a recent trip to report on the country’s food crisis.”

Profile

I went to the University of Columbia-Missouri as an exchange student in 1996. It was my last year of college and I was studying to become a newspaper reporter. My professors there encouraged me to take a “Basics of Photojournalism” class. The thinking was that it would help me improve my storytelling techniques, since photography would force me to pay more attention to details and make my narrative more descriptive. I ended up trading the pen for the camera and my life in Spain for one in the United States for the following seven years.

On my first day as an intern at a newspaper in the States I covered a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The idea of photographing a staged event that was nothing but free publicity felt discouraging, but it taught me an important lesson: in order to do the kind of photojournalism that you believe in, you have to pursue your own stories.

Documenting Megan White’s fight against a rare type of lymphoma in 2002 left a big mark on me. Six weeks after giving birth to her only child, Megan White was diagnosed with peripheral T-cell lymphoma with Epstein-Barr variation. Only 30 cases had been identified worldwide in the previous decade, six of them in the United States. None of them had survived. Unfortunately, Megan passed away just four months after being diagnosed. I’ve had to work on painful stories ever since, but nothing has affected me quite in the same way. In a way, Megan prepared me for everything else that would come next.

I prefer small, intimate stories where I can work by myself and at my own pace, as opposed to big media stories. It’s not that I dislike shooting for front pages, it’s just that I get much more out of photographing ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances or just going about their own lives.

I take pictures for anyone, anywhere. I try to make my photos compelling for anyone in the world, so that people can connect with the subject matter regardless of their cultural background or where they come from.

Be honest with your subjects. Photographing real people at their best or worst is a huge responsibility. Their image, their reputation, is in our hands. We can’t take that lightly.

In my profession, I respect all those photographers who are willing to risk their lives to show the world what’s going on. In life in general, I respect people who think and work for the common good more than for themselves.

I feel very fortunate that I can work in a profession that I enjoy so much. My job provides me with a deeper awareness of the historical and cultural changes of my time, allowing me to grow as a person. The camera fulfils my need to express myself, but most importantly it‘s a tool that allows me to tell the stories of people whose voices might not be heard otherwise. It’s a privilege and a great gift.

Behind the Scenes

. Selibaby, Mauritania. Maria Perez Negro
Reuters photographer Susana Vera takes photos of Mariam Mint Ahamed, 2, with her mother and brother at their home in Mauritania, during a visit to the drought-stricken country to report on the food crisis.