Documentary photographer Darcy Padilla has won nearly every major photography award, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a W. Eugene Smith grant. Besides pursuing her own projects, she is a dedicated teacher and mentor, currently at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In our interview with Padilla, she talks about her mentors, and lesson they taught her that she passes down to her own students. The work of several of those students is featured in the image gallery above.

PDN: Who were your mentors, and what did you learn from them?
Darcy Padilla: There are two: Eli Reed and Paul Fusco. I initially met Eli Reed when I left The New York Times. A colleague of his who freelanced for The Times said, “You need to know Eli Reed. He needs to see your work.” So Eli called me. When he would come through San Francisco we would meet and talk about what I was doing. It was probably almost two years [before] Eli Reed asked to see my photography.

PDN: It was two years before he saw any of your work?
DP: I waited for him to ask to see my work. I was more interested in [talking about] the intellectual approach to what I was doing, not having someone look at my work and critique it.


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