Interview with Maggie Solady, photo editor at The American Lawyer & chapter chief of SalaamGarage
Saturday October 6th, 2012
by Bill Cramer
In addition to her day job as photo editor at The American Lawyer, Maggie Soladay is the New York City chapter chief of SalaamGarage, a humanitarian media organization that works with non-profit organizations to support positive social change. Maggie and I talked about it over Sheppard’s Pie at Pound & Pence near her office in New York’s Financial District.
What does SalaamGarage do?
We identify humanitarian injustice and then find non-profit organizations that are making a difference in that area. Often I’m looking for a cause and organization that have been overlooked by the mainstream media. I also want to work towards change in areas that can be changed if only more people knew about them. Then we work with the non-profit to identify stories and subjects that shed light on the cause and the work being done to help improve the lives of those affected. I “assign” the story to one of the photographers who have signed up to participate. Every storyteller can approach their subject in whatever style they want. It’s wonderful how diverse the styles are and how well they all work as a total project with many authentic and original approaches.
What are some projects that you’ve been working on most recently?
My latest two projects were about obstetric fistula, a birthing injury that is far too prevalent in Ethiopia, and the plight of kids who age-out of foster care. With the foster care story, approximately 25 local photographers, journalists and writers volunteered their talents to tell the stories of 15 young adults who recently aged-out of the foster care system in New York City and Long Island. We produced a compilation of all the stories in a beautiful book called Everybody Needs Someone, The Aging Out of Foster Care Project. We just took down a three month show at the Long Island Children’s Museum and hoping to have it show in NYC next.
How did you get involved in SG?
SalaamGarage was founded by Seattle photographer Amanda Koster. She’s a close friend and someone I worked on photoshoots with as an assistant (and later producer) when I lived in Seattle.
Why did you get involved in SG?
I am a serial volunteer. I was on the board of APA/NY for 4 years and was spending all of my volunteer time trying to help photographers, especially assistants. But I wasn’t finding it rewarding enough. I felt like I needed to do something bigger to help bigger issues. SalaamGarage is a brilliant idea, filling several needs at once. We help the non-profits by telling stories that we hope support their cause by raising awareness for the issues and for the orgs themselves. We also help photographers by giving them access to meaningful stories and introducing them to subjects. Cutting out the need for photographers to produce their own volunteer work from scratch. It takes an average of a year to build up trust with an organization and help them understand what we are doing and what we want to do and then get agreement to participate from the subjects and volunteers.
I believe everyone has a calling to give back to the communities they care deeply about. Law Firms are expected to do a certain percentage of pro bono work each year. Photographers should too. I think it reflects well on photographers if some of their time and talent is spent making a difference. When media professionals use their talents to help important social causes they can make a huge difference, worth immeasurable amounts, towards causing positive permanent social change.
Where does the name SalaamGarage come from?
Amanda was in Asmara, Eritrea in 1991 and was unable to communicate with her taxi driver. The address she was looking for was next to Salem Garage. Luckily her driver knew where the garage was since taxis were serviced there. She never forgot that name, since it means Peace Garage. SalaamGarage is a sort of Peace Workshop. Salaam being the more common spelling, just like salem or shalom.