Best of ASMP 2020 First Place Winner’s Profile – Margaret McCarthy

by | Mar 15, 2021 | Best of 2020, Contests, Strictly Business Blog

New York, NY
Image © Margaret McCarthy

“2020 NYC Women’s March; Memorial for Transgendered Women of Color”

First Place – Self-Promotion / Personal

ASMP: What was your inspiration for taking this photo/video?

Margaret McCarthy: I’ve been photographing the peace and social justice movements from 1980-through our present day.

Gays Against Guns, an inclusive direct action group of LGBTQ people and their allies, march dressed in white, veiled costumes. Each marcher carriers a portrait, holding the space of a person killed by gun violence. Transgender women, especially trans women of color, are hugely and disproportionately impacted by gun violence.

I’m fascinated by how this group of veiled activists uses portraiture to make us aware of the price we pay in unique lives lost – they do this by covering their own faces. For me, their work resonates with the power of the human face – and the power of its absence.

ASMP: What type of setting do you prefer?

MM: Whatever gets me a great picture. Whatever gets me a magical image.

ASMP: Is there anything unique about your style or approach?

MM: I try to stay in the moment. I don’t know if that’s unique, but it can be hard – to put aside your expectations of what you think you should be getting. The older I get, the more my definition of genius becomes “stay out of your own way”.

ASMP: What type of lighting did you use for this image?

MM: As the marchers approached me, snow suddenly started falling at an incredible rate. In moments, under our feet, the street filled with slush; but those moments felt special. I love how weather changes the light. I love the mobility of light and weather, how that gives you completely different photographs just seconds apart.

Margaret McCarthy at the 2020 Women’s March

ASMP: How long have you been shooting this type of photography?

MM: I’ve photographed the marches and demonstrations of the peace and social justice movements from 1980 through our present day; I see these events as American history unfolding in front of me, ‘living theatre” with a message – peaceful activism as a creative act.

My first “fo EV ah” love is landscape – especially the landscapes of antiquity. Overall, my work is inspired by myth and dream. My philosophy: Beauty in an ugly age is revolutionary.

ASMP: What other photographers’ or artists’ work inspires you?

MM: Photographers – SO many – I love the way fashion photography is being re-invented by young artists of color. I see a lot of great new photography coming down the pike, yet I’m always rediscovering the classics.

The playfulness, the joyfulness of Jacque Henri Lartique; the obsessiveness of Eadweard Muybridge. I discovered Julia Margaret Cameron after I’d been photographing awhile, yet immediately felt a kinship. The way Robert Frank revised our understanding of America. The way Duane Michaels uses image & text together. All the great landscape photographers – and the critic Estelle Jussim – her book “Landscape As Photograph” was important to me.

I listen to a lot of music – I read a lot of poetry –

Musicians: I’m inspired by John Lennon – the way he lived his life, his commitment to peace, and the way he actually worked: “Get it out, get it down, put a backbeat to it”, he said. Meaning: trust your creative impulse and finish things. Composers: I need to hear Mozart for sheer graciousness of spirit – for absolute transcendence.

Poets: Walt Whitman- the original big, generous, expansive, colloquial American Spirit. Shakespeare – for the sheer power of what language can do.

Closer to home: Ursule Molinaro – a friend and mentor – an exacting fiction writer & visual artist – taught me you could work in more than one medium and create completely original work in each medium.

A childhood influence: The Catholic Church – The Mass, in Latin – gave me my sense of ritual, drama, & myth, which I now realize marks all my work. The church gave me a willingness to see things that aren’t visible – to imagine.

ASMP: When did you join ASMP and what do you find most valuable about your membership?

Margaret McCarthy at the 2020 Women’s March

MM: Community. My artistic community recognizing my work makes this honor very special. It’s also meaningful that this image being honored recognizes a moment of powerful community activism. The power of community and collective organizing is what ASMP is all about.

ASMP: What is the more important relationship you’ve formed through your ASMP membership?

MM: The Braintrust group I belonged to – the trust built over the years in that group. The ability to call on such talented colleagues – to share questions, opinions, knowledge, support. The friendships, the camaraderie. All SO important.

ASMP: What kind of gear do you use?

MM: I currently use a Nikon D7500 with several different Nikon lenses; I also use a Nikon D200 that has been converted and dedicated to black and white infrared. I go to march events with both cameras,
prepared to shoot color, black and white or both.

When just walking round the city, I have a SONY RX 100 VII camera in my hand-bag. I’ve also been known to use my iPhone; recently, I’ve used it to shoot video at march events.

ASMP: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started your career as a photographer?

Could any of us who started our careers as film-based photographers have ever imagined digital and all it would mean? I’m completely digital and love that freedom. But I might have spent more time in my darkroom when I had one, making vintage silver prints on Portriga, when all those things were still around.

ASMP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your work? Go ahead, surprise us with something unique and unusual.

MM: I write poetry and heightened language plays. NOTEBOOKS FROM MYSTERY SCHOOL (Finishing Line Press, 2015) was a New Women’s Voices Award finalist.

I also publish A VISION AND A VERSE , a seasonal web broadside combining my imagery and verse; it began as a way of sharing a page out of my creative journal, as I explored the interplay between image and text. You can check it out or subscribe for free at