Podcast: Connection and Purpose - The Photography of Cheriss May


This week’s episode of the B&H Photography Podcast is produced in collaboration with Leica Camera, and we are pleased to welcome photographer and journalist Cheriss May to the program.

One of the qualities needed to tell good stories is an ability to listen and, in conversation with May, it becomes clear that her skill for framing and capturing an image with her camera begins with her skill for listening and for engaging with people and their stories. As a freelance editorial and portrait photographer, these talents are continuously in use, whether the story she is telling has been assigned to her by an editor or is one she is pursuing and photographing of her own accord. We discuss some of May’s recent assignments with her, as well as self-assignments for The New York Times and other outlets, and how she develops stories, pitches them, and, at times, even attaches herself as the writer. We also discuss the cameras, lenses, and techniques she uses to create these series.

May is also a regular photographer on the political beat in Washington, D.C. She is a White House pool photographer and was on assignment at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and she shares stories of covering that event and other major news stories of the past few years. She is also a long-time professor at Howard University and relates some of her thoughts on teaching (and learning) photography. In addition, as a former graphic designer and photographer who works in multiple genres, it should come as no surprise that she also exhibits her work, and currently has a photo series on display at the Leica Gallery Los Angeles and will be a part of the wonderful “Eyes on Main Street” exhibit in Wilson, North Carolina. We encourage you to check out her images from these series, as well as the rest of her wide range of purposeful work.

Guest: Cheriss May

Photograph © Cheriss May

Kenneth Meeks holding his two-year-old son Mosiya's hand, watching the oldest known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Hughes Van Ellis, 100, Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106, and Viola "Mother" Fletcher, 107, go by in a horse-drawn carriage followed by descendants of the Massacre, during a march on Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, Ok., on Friday, May 28, 2021. Photograph © Cheriss May, Ndemay Media Group
Ian T’senre stands on Greenwood Avenue in a moment of silence during a candlelight vigil, to remember the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, at 10:30 p.m. on May 31, 2021, the exact day and time the first shot was fired 100 years ago. Photograph © Cheriss May, Ndemay Media Group
Washington D.C. Councilman Robert White, Jr., with his daughter. Photograph © Cheriss May, Ndemay Media Group
Parents actively show their children how to speak out and take a stand against inequality. Photograph © Cheriss May, Ndemay Media Group
President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden wave from the North Portico of the White House, on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Official White House Photo by Cheriss May)
Natural Beauty. On exhibit — Leica Gallery Los Angeles. Photograph © Cheriss May, Ndemay Media Group
Sisterhood. On exhibit — Leica Gallery Los Angeles. Photograph © Cheriss May, Ndemay Media Group

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Shawn C Steiner