Outside magazine is celebrating its 40th anniversary in May with an issue devoted to “The New Icons” of adventure, a group of ten women that includes American photojournalist Erin Grace Trieb. Among the women featured alongside Trieb on the cover of Outside’s May issue are retired U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach, champion skier Lindsey Vonn, endurance swimmer and bestselling author Diana Nyad, and Nepali ultrarunner Mira Rai.
This is the first time in Outside’s 40-year history that women have written and photographed an entire issue of the magazine.
Outside primarily covers outdoor sports and adventure. Both the outdoor industry and photojournalism share a common history of white male dominance, notes Mary Turner, Outside’s Deputy Editor, who edited the issue. “It was important to us to include a woman photojournalist because it’s a profession that’s still predominantly male, and we wanted to shine a light on women photographers doing trailblazing work in parts of the world that very few of us ever get to see,” Turner says.
The Istanbul-based Trieb, who has created conflict reportage through embeds with American troops in Afghanistan and the Peshmerga military in Iraqi Kurdistan, has more recently focused on telling women-driven stories. In 2015 she reported for The New York Times on a Kurdish collegiate women’s basketball team in Iraq, and she’s also produced a widely published story about female Kurdish fighters battling ISIS in Syria.
Trieb was in conversation with Outside about another project when the photo editor and creative director suggested they profile her and put her on the cover. “Erin’s photography has such a raw elegance and compassion to it,” Turner told PDN via email. “Then you meet Erin, and you can see where that’s coming from. She’s adventurous and brave and thoughtful and talented, and all those qualities allow her to get access to photograph people in a way that many others couldn’t. She has a lens on the world that I’m eager to see much more of.”
Trieb says she was “honored to be the representative female photojournalism voice for the issue…. As a woman photojournalist and minority in the field, I thought it was important to talk about those issues and represent the other women who do the same job that I do.”
When the photo editor contacted Trieb, she initially thought they wanted her to shoot the cover. It took a few emails for her to realize Outside wanted her to come to Los Angeles to appear in the group photograph, which was shot by photographer Annabel Mehran. In her profile in the magazine, Trieb says posing for pictures rather than making them is a good exercise. “It’s good for me to remember how my subjects must feel.”
She also speaks about empathy, safety in conflict zones, the psychology of witnessing trauma, and the myth that “people from Muslim countries don’t like Westerners.”
And she gives a shout out to her fellow women photojournalists, who are demanding more attention and leading the field toward inclusivity.
In speaking with PDN, Trieb is careful to point out that, “White, male, western photographers (or adventurers, etc.) are obviously not wrong or bad for being great at what they do. I have a lot of good friends who are white males and who are also incredibly empathetic, talented storytellers and wonderful people.” Their traditional dominance, however, “shapes how audiences see and view the world. That right there is critical, and a drastic shift is overdue. Minorities, especially women and people of color, have a unique perspective and voice that needs to be seen and heard. And it is partly up to our industry’s willingness and invested effort in order for serious changes to be made in that regard.”
Trieb says her work with women in other countries has given her perspective on her own opportunities. “I’ve definitely been dealt struggles in this industry being a female, but I also feel that I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had a very supportive family and community…. I know Afghan girls and Iraqi girls who want to do the same job, but because of cultural restrictions they just can’t ever go into conflict zones or embed with an all-male military unit like I can. Seeing that I’ve had that chance and trying to use that opportunity to the fullest potential and not taking it for granted is really important.”
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