Maggie Steber: Portraits That Tell Stories

About the Masterclass

If there is one thing almost all photographers have in common, it’s portraiture. No matter what kind of photographic course one follows, portraiture is almost always a key element in our work, whether you are professional or enthusiast.

This masterclass is a journey into the multiple ways of using portraiture in the creation of important visual documents/storytelling. The approach to your portraiture project can reside in the vernacular of fine art, conceptual photography, photojournalism, documentary – as well as experimental photography, digital work and found images. This workshop will be about pushing your creativity to the next level.

The masterclass will be research-based and there will be an emphasis on your written proposal, artist statement and writing captions for the images.

The final coursework will be a series of 7 portraits and must be presented under the assumption that this will be finished work to be presented to a client, gallery or for publication. The volume of works produced is limited to allow for more emphasis on idea generation, research, production, and finishing. The final outcome will be works that represent your personal growth as photographers, narrators, and artists in your own right.

It will be very important for each participant thoroughly researching a story, presenting ideas, writing concepts and presenting visualizations of your ideas prior to the programme. Participants are strongly encouraged to explore a diverse range of narratives, from current news, myths & legends, personal stories, true accounts, and reenactments.

This masterclass is designed for photographers who’ve had at least 3 years of photographic experience in making photographic bodies of work. Your registration will be vetted by the tutor based on the portfolio(s) you submit. Only 12 participants will be selected for this programme.

Masterclass Outline

The first day we will look at the work of a variety of photographers in both the documentary and art worlds whose styles you might want to apply this week to your own work. I will also show work. Participants should bring 10 to 15 images of their own which we will review as a class. In these images, I’m looking for how you shoot and what you find interesting so I can decide how to be of the most assistance to you during the week. We will discuss ideas and focus them. Focusing an idea is one of the hardest things to do and this will be a helpful lesson.

The remaining days will be spent shooting photos and coming to class to edit them and discuss your progress and what might come next.  We might also meet one-on-one for a few days and then gather the class together. We will probably meet in the mornings but we can set a firmer schedule day to day depending on needs of the participants.

If any participants are working on longer term projects, please bring them for me to review with you. Participants must own their own cameras.

About Maggie Steber
Maggie Steber Portrait

Maggie Steber has worked in 67 countries on stories concerning the human experience. Her honors include a Guggenheim Foundation Grant for 2017-2018 for The Secret Garden of Lily LaPalma, Leica Medal of Excellence, World Press Photo First Prize in Spot News, the Overseas Press Club, Pictures of the Year for Best Documentary Photo, the Medal of Honor for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the University of Missouri, the Alicia Patterson Grant, the Ernst Haas Grant, and a Knight Foundation grant for the New American Newspaper. In 2014, Steber was named as one of 11 Women of Vision by National Geographic Magazine. Maggie works for various publications including National Geographic Magazine.


The OBSCURA Festival Workshops and Masterclasses bring world-class industry practitioners to nurture a new generation of photographers seeking to improve their knowledge and understanding, while simultaneously expanding their network with the photography industry and community. Led by a faculty of award-winning photographers and mentors, the programme is an intensive experience for amateurs and seasoned professionals alike.

Objective & Methodology

The OBSCURA Masterclasses and Workshops aims to nurture the latent talents of photographer to become good storytellers who are able to create work that resonate with and are relevant to the world today.
The masterclass is delivered through a combination of in-class lectures,  discussions, practical & theoretical sessions, peer-learning and review, one-to-one consultations with the instructor, as well as field shooting and in-class editing and processing.
Over the course of an intense week, participants will find their knowledge and expectations tested to their limit, as they hone their photography, editing and storytelling skills, overcome various challenges and further develop a personalized vision and approach to their photography. At the end of the OBSCURA masterclass, the participants be empowered and connected to a wider network of fellow photographers, editors, curators and cultural managers.



Participants of the masterclass are required to:

  • Be able to attend the masterclass for its entire duration of August 18-23, 2018.
  • Bring examples of past or ongoing projects for in-class portfolio review. Sample works should be as closely representative of your photographic interests and direction as possible.
  • Provide for your own food, accommodation and transport fees, in addition to any costs from hiring fixers or translators.
  • Produce a photography series over the course of the programme, which will then be projected during the festival. Participants are highly recommended to research on and have several possible topics to shoot prior to attending the masterclass.



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