March 6th, 2012

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 www.bpeace.org and to Metavivor, which supports research into metastic breast cancer and supports the families of patients with metastic breast cancer.

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