Obituary: Photographer Paula Lerner, Leader of Photo Advocacy Group

Photographer Paula Lerner, past vice president of the Editorial Photographers trade association and creator of an Emmy-winning multimedia piece, died today at her home in Belmont, Massachusetts, according to her family. The cause of death was breast cancer.

Raised in Hudson, Ohio, Lerner attended Harvard University and became a photojournalist in1985. Her clients included Time, Inc., People, and Harvard Business Review. In the Nineties, she became a leader of Editorial Photographers (EP), the volunteer organization supporting the rights of editorial photographers. She was a frequent lecturer on photographers’ rights and business practices.

“Paula dedicated a good portion of her life to help make life as a editorial photographer better for others,” notes Seth Resnick, past president of EP. “Paula always fought for what she believed in and always eloquently conveyed her position. At times she sacrificed  her own career to better the industry.”

Brian Smith, EP’s president notes that as the organization’s founding VP, “[Lerner] was directly involved in negotiating the Business Week and Forbes contracts that raised the bar for fair deals for editorial photographers. Paula remained committed to educating and inspiring others and it is extremely sad to lose her just as she was producing the finest work of her career.”

Her photography often focused on women’s issues. In 2003, she began volunteering her time to photograph the work of Business Council for Peace (Bpeace), a non-profit organization that helped women in conflict zones develop businesses. She eventually began recording sound and shooting video. From 2005 to 2006, she traveled to Afghanistan five times, on her own and with Bpeace, to document the lives of women in Kandahar.  She spearheaded the multimedia piece “Behind the Veil,” a six-part multimedia series published by the Globe and Mail newspaper. In 2010, it won an Emmy award for New Approaches to News and Documentary  Programming: Current News Coverage. “People in the West know very little about Afghan women…This feature tells some very important, untold stories that we need to hear in order to inform our policy decisions,” Lerner told PDN.

Lerner also co-authored the book Why We Walk: The Inspirational Journey Toward a Cure for Breast Cancer, published in 2005. While working on the photos for the book, she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lerner is survived by her husband, Thomas Dunlap, their two daughters, her brother and her parents and stepmother.

A memorial service will be held March 9th at 10 am at Beth El Temple Center, 2 Concord Avenue, Belmont, Massachusetts. Lerner requested that donations be made in her memory to Bpeace and to Metavivor, which supports research into metastic breast cancer and supports the families of patients with metastic breast cancer.

Related story
Globe and Mail, New York Times and Time Win Emmy Awards

Tags: ,

7 Responses to “Obituary: Photographer Paula Lerner, Leader of Photo Advocacy Group”

  1. Stephen Webster Says:

    What Paula did for us as a profession… we will all miss you!

  2. Ed Greenberg Says:

    A great photographer and a greater human being. Her kind will not pass this way again. All of the time I spent with Paula over the years was priceless…all of it. Precious few – if anyone – has her guts, bravery, courage, kindness and intelligence. Her brilliance transcended photography. Her loss will be unbearable to anyone lucky enough to have known her.

  3. Ellis Vener Says:

    A tragedy for her family and for the rest of us working photographers. She was talented and compassionate, gracious and tenacious. Goodbye, Paula.

  4. jon sachs Says:

    I am utterly shocked and saddened to hear of Paula’s death. Her Afghanistan postcards are always on my frig, and I my appreciation for her work and her mission are reinforced every day. I can just not believe that this wonderful, vital woman is gone.

  5. Andrew Buchanan Says:

    In keeping with EP’s mission of education and empowerment for working editorial photographers, the EP Board has voted to make a donation in Paula’s memory to the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace), the organization that Paula was working with in Afghanistan the past several years, and for which work she was winning so many accolades recently.

    For those that don’t know, “Bpeace is a non-profit network of business professionals who volunteer skills to entrepreneurs in conflict-affected countries to help them create significant employment for all, and expand the economic power of women.”

    Paula’s passion continues.
    Andrew Buchanan
    EP Treasurer

  6. Jack Lueders-Booth Says:

    I was privileged to be one of Paula’s advisors at Harvard. It was immediately clear that she was an exception, among exceptions. It is remarkable that a life ended so soon has by its pure presence and gifted vision made a mark on humanity that will extend well beyond all of our lifetimes. Paula Lerner made the world a better place, and I am grateful for her photographs that will keep me alive to both the memory and enduring presence of that gift.

  7. Piper Watson Says:

    Wow, this makes me reevaluate the day – Paula was an amazing person who’s work and teaching really inspired so many of us. Paula- you will be greatly missed…