“What I love about photography is creating, connecting, collaborating and discovering interesting moments to share with the world.”
Lianne Milton is an American editorial and documentary photographer based in Brazil.
Her work focuses on the effects of politics on people and their environments, in places such as Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the United States. Her most important project to date, La Vida No Vale Nada, which examines the effects of post-civil war violence in Guatemala, was awarded the 2013 PDN Photo Annual in documentary and 2012/2013 Latin American Photography Award, among other recognitions.
Social Urbanism is Lianne’s second series for #FutureofCities. The story takes a candid look at the way the people of Medellín have been affected by their city’s large-scale urban development.
In her first #FutureofCities story, The Big Pool, Lianne explored the Piscinão de Ramos, an artificial pool in Rio de Janerio’s highly polluted Guanabara Bay.
About / Biography
Lianne Milton is an editorial and documentary photographer, and a member of Panos Pictures.
After graduating from San Francisco State University in 2004, Lianne worked for newspapers until she was laid off in 2009 due to challenging economic times in the industry. However, the layoff was a blessing in disguise, enabling her to pursue stories and personal work that she deeply cares about. Lianne began her freelance career with a project documenting the rise of Sharia law in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, a consequence from the 2004 tsunami. From 2009-2012, she focused her personal work in Southeast Asia and Latin America, exploring subjects such as food insecurity and the history of violence in Guatemala, as well as drug addiction and the impact of river dams on ethnic minorities living downstream in Cambodia.
In January 2013 she packed up her life in San Francisco and moved to Brazil, with cameras and surfboards in tow, to work on a collection of stories about changes in the country’s social and environmental landscapes. Lianne also works with international non-profit organizations, which have brought her to Haiti, Guyana, Brazil, Ghana, Tanzania and Argentina photographing issues on poverty, malnutrition, education, women's empowerment, and corrective surgery for children with cleft lip and palate.
Lianne lives in Rio de Janeiro, where the City meets the Ocean. When she is not photographing, she's out there surfing.
Describe the moment you knew photography changed your life
I believe that photography hasn’t changed my life but I would say it has definitely shaped it, and continues to do so today. My drive to make a career and life of photography was influenced by two important women in my life at that time: a friend and a photography instructor. I had been thinking about being a travel writer when I met a Norwegian colleague in a mass communications course at university in San Francisco. She convinced me to take a photojournalism class with her favorite instructor. She said it would “change my life”. So I did and I fell in love with it. Our instructor was so passionate about photography it was practically contagious. For me, photography was not only a way of telling stories in pictures but also capturing a feeling of a moment that I felt while photographing that became a whole new world for me.
If you could sum up your work in one word or one sentence, what would that be?
All I hope for is that my images move people emotionally. I moved from being a newspaper photographer to an editorial and documentary photographer working on personal projects. I'm not a machine any more chasing the news circuit. I certainly have enjoyed that work, but I didn't learn anything about my personal vision. Once I was laid off from my newspaper job in 2009, my real growth began, and by doing so, my work has become more personal and evolving.
What is the most remarkable person, place or thing you have ever photographed and why?
Big question. All I have to say is that the world is full of remarkable, resilient people. Some stay with me for a long time, and others pass by. There are places that are more magical to me than others. And there are some that I’m dying to explore.
Talk to us about your bucket list... what is on the top of that list of things to photograph?
I think I’ve kicked this bucket list down the road a long time ago, along with some other things. I really prefer the serendipitous life of being open to what comes my way because you never know what kind of magic lies around the corner. Life can be subjective and happenstance when you let go a bit. You can fill your head with all sorts of ideas of an assignment, or project, or trip, as I still do sometimes, but the best part are the surprises that arise from letting go. I definitely have a story list, an endless list of ideas. Some work and others not so much, which is why I like to see how sometimes the universe can shape things. But if I had a bucket list, it would be mostly to work with certain editors or producers, or even writers, who share mutual respect, connection and understanding about a particular project or story.
If you had not become a photographer, what might you be today?
The ultimate question. I really don’t know. I might have been an artist of some sort. I’ve always been a waterbug, so maybe something in that arena that would keep me surfing and being creative. Or, perhaps work in the humanitarian field. But it’s really because of photography that I’ve learned much more about my passions and myself.
Give us your thoughts about the Global Imaging Ambassadors program?
I just recently started with the program. I really appreciate how supportive Sony has been with the stories and platform, and I look forward to exploring more with the cameras. I think the greatest benefit for all of us, which include the audience, is that we get to see these amazing, beautiful and very real stories from around the world on the Sony website. And as ambassadors, we can still stay true to how we not only photograph but how we see and interpret the world around us with the Sony cameras.
What is your favourite Sony camera of the moment (explain why)?
At the moment the only camera I’ve photographed with is the α7S and it has been really fun to experiment with. I’m totally amazed at how a compact camera can shoot not just full-frame, and in raw, but it’s also silent as a turtle and the LCD screen
24-70mm, 35mm, 50mm lenses
The usual batteries/memory cards
A 13-year-old, well-worn and beloved Domke camera bag
Junk: metro card, copy of my passport, gum, notebook, pens, a band-aid, lens cloth, rubber bands and hair-ties
Depending on the shoot: Hasselblad film camera + film + light meter
Depending on the weather: umbrella (it’s the tropics!)
Cambodian scarf for when it gets dusty or sweaty