Ilana Panich-Linsman ’06: The Big Picture
Ilana Panich-Linsman’s connection to creativity was sparked at age eight, when her father gave her her first camera. “I started taking pictures of whatever was in front of me,” she remembers. “From that age on, I knew what I wanted to do.” Her father, a television commercial director, taught summer courses at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, where his young daughter sat in. Years later, in high school, she took her first photography class, where her instructor became one of her mentors. Summers were spent back in Maine, taking teen and, eventually, adult photography workshops in which she was the youngest student “by about 20 years.”
Intent upon becoming a professional photographer, she arrived at Scripps adept at her craft’s technical aspects but lacking in its artistic and historical context. “So I took art history, general art classes, printmaking,” she remembers. “I learned about things outside photography that eventually contributed to my understanding of the world.”
Two teachers had a particularly strong influence: Professor of Art Ken Gonzales-Day and Fletcher Jones Chair in Studio Art Susan Rankaitis. “Ken became a mentor, and Susan opened my eyes to feminist artists I would never have come across otherwise,” Panich-Linsman says. “I took a lot of women’s studies courses, which contributed to what I like to photograph: women and children.”
After Scripps, Panich-Linsman taught briefly in Spain, returning to graduate from New York’s International Center of Photography and, eventually, from University of the Arts, London, with an MA in photojournalism and documentary photography. Now based in Austin, Texas, she works as a freelance photographer for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, NBC News, CNN, and others. Assignments have included trailing state troopers combatting gang violence; capturing the life and death of a pancreatic cancer patient; and chronicling efforts of anti-immigration supporters in Arizona.
What Panich-Linsman remains most proud of, however, is her own creative photos, which lately have been gathering acclaim. From Brooklyn teens to beauty queens, her portfolio captures the vulnerability of (mostly young) women at crucial junctures in their lives. “One of my editors recently said I photograph transitions,” she says. “I’d never realized that before.”
In 2014, Panich-Linsman was named one of “30 under 30” photographers by Magnum Photos, an international agency, and her work was honored by the Lucie Foundation, American Photo magazine, and Fotografia magazine. An original series, The Tree and the Apple, portrays an 11-year-old pageant contestant in Westfield, Massachusetts; it received an Honorable Mention in UNICEF’s 2014 Photo of the Year competition.
“UNICEF felt great because it’s an international award about the welfare of children,” Panich-Linsman says. “The project was a very personal one for me.”
Since leaving the College, Panich-Linsman has come to understand how photojournalism is less about technical aspects and more about connecting with people. “Scripps gave me a broad foundation and a better understanding of things I photograph,” she says. “I went from an all-women’s environment to a very male-dominated industry. Scripps gave me the courage to do that and never feel intimidated.”
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