“I never think I’ve got the story. Ever. It’s almost ridiculous. I put myself through the wringer” says the ever humble, ever dedicated Pete Muller. Muller is a contributing photographer to The New York Times and The Washington Post, and is currently working on his third story for National Geographic Magazine. Since 2005 he has been working to document the individual consequences of war, poverty and social unrest. Through a combination of photography, text, audio and video recordings, he aims to illustrate broader issues through individual stories. He creates images and material that demand consideration for the lives of those depicted, driven by the belief that intimate, sensitive photographs leave indelible marks on the conscience and actively oppose the sterilization of human suffering. In 2011 Pete was named TIME Magazine’s Wire photographer of the year for his contributions to the Associated Press from Sudan and Central Africa. Visit Pete’s website and follow him on instagram below.
SELECT QUOTES FROM THIS EPISODE:
On photography and the role of art
“Photography is a relatively simple medium in its technical elements. Therefore it has to mean that what’s driving the photography is something bigger than just the photography. I love the visual elements of photography. I love the artistic components of photography. But to me it’s got to be part of a conversation.”
“It might be beautiful to look at, but your staying power comes from your critical thinking. What are you helping to explain or explore or understand through photography?”
“The role of art is to connect us and let us know that we are not alone… You have to give a lot of yourself. And that’s where connection happens. That’s where trust happens. And that’s where vulnerability happens.”
On self doubt
“I never think I’ve got the story. Ever. It’s almost ridiculous. I put myself through the wringer.”
Advice for younger photographers
“I would advise younger photographers to put your head down and think about what you are shooting and why. Think about how you can add to the conversation. Think about how to contextualize your work in broader conversations that are unfolding. Try to make yourselves relevant by contextualizing yourself appropriately and situating yourself in discourse that’s interesting and important beyond photography.”
On being asked to shoot the ebola story for National Geographic Magazine
PM: “When I got the chance to shoot the ebola story, I was SO scared. SO nervous. I was a ball of nerves.” RM: “Did you have to sit on it, think about it, do a little research before you agreed?” PM: “Well I accepted it right away. There was no way I wasn’t going to do it.”
Peter van Agtmael has been a mentor and source of inspiration for Pete – check out his work here.