Meiselas joined Magnum Photos in 1976, and has worked as both a freelance photographer and documentary filmmaker ever since. Her ability to combine empathy with storytelling in historical places and times has propelled her in the discourse of contemporary photography. Meiselas’ process has evolved in radical and challenging ways as she has grappled with pivotal questions about the relationship to her subjects, the use and circulation of her images in the media, and the relationship of images to history and memory. Her work is included in the forthcoming major photographic exhibition which marks the anniversary of WWI at TATE Modern, entitled ’Conflict, Time, Photography’.
Her first major photographic essay, Carnival Strippers, focused on the lives of women working in striptease at New England country fairs. She spent her summers from 1972 -75 photographing and interviewing the women, documenting their public performances as well as their private lives and bringing a hidden world to greater attention. Carnival Strippers was originally published in 1976 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. A selection of the work was installed at the Whitney Museum of Art in June 2000, with a new edition of the book produced by Steidl/Whitney in 2003. Recently acquired by MOMA, the works will be presented in the institution section of Paris Photo in 2014.
Within a year of finishing Carnival Strippers, Meiselas travelled to Nicaragua to cover the popular insurrection during 1978 and 1979. Her second monograph ‘Nicaragua, June 1978 – July 1979’ was published by Pantheon in 1981, and reprinted by Aperture in 2008. Her initial trip to Nicaragua became a 30-year project, one which she continues today. It has culminated in a body of work in which photographs and film intersect. Meiselas’ film ‘Reframing History’ continues the exploration of a place over a period of time. In 2004, 19 murals of iconic images were installed in their respective landscapes in 4 Nicaraguan towns, marking the 25th anniversary of the revolution. John Berger praised her early work for its ability to "take us right inside a revolutionary moment...Yet unlike most photographs of such material, these refuse all the rhetoric normally associated with such pictures: the rhetoric of violence, revolutionary heroism, and the glorification of misery.”