Several Concord Academy graduates have gone on to careers in documentary photography, capturing everyday life and historic events. Here are stories from four alumnae/i whose images help us see our world differently.
The photographers featured here use digital cameras now, but they learned the magic of manipulating film in the long-established photography program at Concord Academy. “I believe all young photographers should learn that process,” says Lili Holzer-Glier Kobielski ’06, who started taking pictures at CA. “The most important thing about high school for me was the sense of community I had working in that darkroom with friends, sharing music. It was a very communal, safe space for me to go.”
It was at CA that Jonathan Moller ’81, now a human rights activist and photographer, learned the power images can have. The enthusiasm of his teacher and slideshows of the history of photography were formative. Moller says, “It was hugely fundamental for me to be exposed to the range of what was possible.”
Frances FitzGerald Denny ’03, whose work investigates female identities, first took up photography at CA, under current and longtime teacher Cynthia Katz. She didn’t know that she’d make it her career. Denny advises others to figure out what is most important to them, and how they can use the camera to explore it. “Keep shooting,” she says. “It’s like a muscle you need to use to keep strong.”
For professionals who aren’t outgoing by nature, photography opens doors. “I wouldn’t know 99.9 percent of what I know if it weren’t for a camera,” says photographer and endurance athlete Zandy Mangold ’92. “Every day is a field trip to something I never would have experienced otherwise.” He enjoys returning to campus to talk with CA students. “I tell them it’s OK to have dreams and to tell people about them, as long as they put in the work to pursue them,” he says. “It’s so important not to get discouraged if you’re passionate.”
TRAILBLAZER: Zandy Mangold ’92
“I love the chance to work and work out at the same time.”
– Zandy Mangold ’92
Growing up in the New Hampshire woods, Zandy Mangold dreamed of becoming a photographer or an athlete, or both. Coming from a small town and lacking publishing connections, Mangold knew photography would be a hard field to enter. So he took some risks.
While studying abroad in Chile in college, he interned with a newspaper. Assigned to photograph former dictator Augusto Pinochet, Mangold got the shot that ran by finding a vantage point off-limits to the press. “Everyone else followed the rules,” he says.
Nine years ago, Mangold got a life-changing assignment with Racing the Planet, which hosts spectacular 155-mile footraces across the world’s most inhospitable terrain. Before photographing ultramarathoners, he never dreamed of being one himself. “I thought anything longer than a marathon was crazy,” he says, “but I was happy to be shooting in places such as Antarctica, Madagascar, and the Gobi Desert.”
At the Atacama Crossing in the Chilean desert, Mangold raced to frame shots with 35 pounds of equipment on his back. He found himself running faster than competitors. “That was the spark,” he says. “I saw that some of the runners were sponsored, and how rewarding racing could be.”
In 2010, he finished his first ultramarathon, dead last. It was a rude awakening, but he persevered. Seven years later, he broke the finish-line tape in the race he had first photographed. “Winning the Atacama was so satisfying,” he says. “It was my personal Mount Everest.”
In top form now after years of injuries, Mangold recently won a 100-miler in Florida and followed that up with a Badwater 135 finish in California. He still completes adventure-based commercial photography assignments around the world. “I love the chance to work and work out at the same time,” he says.
Left: Professional trail runner Sally McRae on a training run in British Columbia, Canada. Right: Pete Kostelnick passes through a long, hot stretch of Nevada desert on his record-setting run across the United States. Kostelnick ran from San Francisco City Hall to New York City Hall in 42 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes.
STORYTELLER: Lili Kobielski ’06
“There are many places I would never have gone without a camera.”
– Lili Kobielski ’06
A professor told Lili Kobielski she should pursue photography only if it’s the only language she speaks. Kobielski is a writer, too, but that didn’t deter her. She earned her master’s in photojournalism at Columbia University, takes assignments for Vogue, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, and teaches photojournalism at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, her alma mater.
Lili Kobielski documents the Preakness Stakes and the surrounding Baltimore neighborhood while on assignment for Narratively.
Journalism and photography have gone hand-in-hand in making her a stronger storyteller. “It’s my world,” Kobielski says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Inspired by street photographers, Kobielski’s images call attention to societal problems. After Hurricane Sandy hit New York, she spent two years walking around Queens, meeting people and taking pictures. Vogue picked up the photos, and Kobielski secured a book deal. Her 2015 book, Rockabye, documents the hurricane’s aftermath along the Rockaway Peninsula.
Her forthcoming book grew out of a collaboration with the digital publication Narratively and the Vera Institute of Justice. It focuses on mental illness among inmates in Chicago’s Cook County Jail.
Kobielski grew up on a farm with thoroughbreds in upstate New York, where she now runs a small farm herself. “I value flexibility,” she says, “being able to do several things.” She has covered the Kentucky Derby for five years. Many of her images look beyond glitz and glamour to elements more human.
“There are many places I would never have gone without a camera,” Kobielski says. “I’ve learned so much from talking to people. Photography has really expanded my access to the world.”
Left: Kobielski spent two years photographing in Queens, N.Y., after Hurricane Sandy. Right: For years, Kobielski has photographed the Kentucky Derby for Vogue.
See more of Kobielski’s work online at lilikobielski.com
EXPLORER: Frances F. Denny ’03
“I’m grateful to my subjects for being brave.”
– Frances Denny ’03
Judika (Brooklyn,N.Y.) from Major Arcana: Witches in America. Courtesy of ClampArt (New York, N.Y.).
Frances Denny calls her work “creative nonfiction.” Her latest series, Major Arcana: Witches in America, consists of portraits of women around the United States who identify as witches in various capacities. While researching her previous series, Let Virtue Be Your Guide, which focused on her ancestry in New England, Denny discovered a family connection to the Salem witch trials. A grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts jumpstarted the project, and for nearly three years she traveled from Maine to New Orleans to San Francisco to make the portraits.
Shine (New York, N.Y.) from Major Arcana: Witches in America. Courtesy of ClampArt (New York, N.Y.).
The series reflects her subjects’ diversity, and Denny lauds their courage in trusting her to represent them. “I’m grateful to my subjects for being brave,” she says. “It’s easy to forget that there is risk in publicly identifying as a witch in parts of the world even today.”
Denny’s passion for photography was ignited at CA, where she recalls first seeing the work of Sally Mann. “I didn’t know it was possible to represent one’s family in such an evocative way,” she says. Denny took a few photography classes in college, but it wasn’t until she began assisting photographers that she decided to pursue an MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. “It was a slow burn,” she says. “It took me a while to realize it’s what I really want to do.”
In addition to her personal projects, Denny contributes editorial photography to the New Yorker and the New York Times. She also collaborates with an art director, photographing for emerging brands and campaigns. She finds the two modes complementary. “My art work requires me to be pretty solitary,” she says. “That feeds one side of my personality, but I also love collaborating. My editorial and commercial work force me to grapple with challenges that I wouldn’t otherwise.”
Left:. Leonore (Montpelier, Vt.) from Major Arcana: Witches in America. Courtesy of ClampArt (New York, N.Y.). Center: Edith, with a portrait of her ancestor (Milton, Mass.), from Let Virtue Be Your Guide (2014). Courtesy of ClampArt (New York, N.Y.).
WITNESS: Jonathan Moller ’81
“I hope to bring a face to the people, to bring their stories about what happened into the light.”
– Jonathan Moller ’81
In the 1990s in the mountains of Guatemala, Jonathan Moller encountered sights that changed him: heavily armed soldiers, corpses. At clandestine gravesites, he photographed a forensic team’s exhumations of the disappeared — victims from indigenous villages. His pictures show survivors’ struggles and assist in bringing former military officials to justice for genocide. “Through my work,” he says, “I hope to bring a face to the people, to bring their stories about what happened into the light.”
Ailyn is 23 years old and lives with her two children, Ashly and Alex. Havana, Cuba, 2015.
Soon after Moller became active in solidarity work in the late 1980s, he traveled to Nicaragua to work on a project with Salvadorans in exile. He arrived in Guatemala in 1993, toward the end of the country’s 36-year-long civil war. He ended up staying for seven years, deferring and eventually abandoning plans to attend the San Francisco Art Institute.
In Guatemala, Moller photographed sporadically, but he wanted good images enough to lug a medium-format camera on two-day walks into the mountains to the Communities of Population in Resistance. He had the idea of eventually using his pictures in a book, but his immediate priority was contributing them to human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the Soros Foundation. After returning to the United States in 2001, he began selling and donating prints to museums.
Moller has since traveled to Peru to photograph forensic anthropologists’ investigations of human rights violations and to Cuba to document the growing diversity of young people there. He sells his books about Guatemala and Peru to benefit displaced communities in those countries. His latest book, Young Cuba, will be released this fall.
Left: Reynalda Andagua talks about her son, Martín Roca Casas, who was disappeared in 1993. In the mirror you can see the reflection of Javier Roca, Martín’s father, next to an altar dedicated to the memory of their son. Martín was detained by members of the naval intelligence service while returning home from a class at Universidad Nacional del Callao on the evening of October 5, 1993. Lima, Peru, 2009. Right: Juana Crisante holds the military service ID that belonged to her husband, Fortunato. Around the date that Fortunato was disappeared, 11 residents of Hualla were detained, held in the barracks of the Canaria military base, and then disappeared. Between 1983 and 1984, more than 50 people from the town were disappeared, never to be seen again. Hualla, Ayacucho Region, Peru, 2009.
See our related story on photographer turned communications professional Melody Ko ’89.