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Baldwin Alumnae Spotlight: Maya Robinson ‘11, Senior Photo Editor, New York Magazine

Published By Maya Robinson / published on: February 12, 2021

Maya Robinson ‘11 reflects on her newsroom’s shift to remote work last March due to the pandemic, necessitating a reimagining of how photography is created. She also shares how her Duke Visual Studies degree taught her the power of photography and critical thinking.

Photograph by Justin Kurland. Cover illustration by Joan Wong. 

The following piece is reprinted from Duke Baldwin Scholars’ February 2021 newsletter.

I am narrowing in on a year of editing the photography for New York Magazine and digital sites from my apartment in Brooklyn. I have been working at New York Magazine for nine and half years. I am currently the Senior Photo Editor, where I primarily work on print but also oversee the digital editing. Moving remote last March was a major adjustment for our newsroom and especially for the print production of the magazine. We had to reimagine how photography was created, figuring out how to shoot remotely since we could no longer do in-person shoots, and implementing new safety measures for all photojournalists documenting the changing world. It was an exciting time for creating photography because it was uncharted territory for everyone.

My Visual Studies degree from Duke and time at New York Magazine has taught me a lot about being a critical thinker, what makes a powerful photograph, and the power a photograph can hold.

With the non-stop news cycle of 2020–21, photo research for news has become an even bigger aspect of my job. I am extremely fortunate to lead a great team of photo editors (all women) when we are working on breaking news photo research, such as for Black Lives Matter protests or the insurrection on January 6th. We look through thousands of images to find the best photographs to tell the story. My Visual Studies degree from Duke and time at New York Magazine has taught me a lot about being a critical thinker, what makes a powerful photograph, and the power a photograph can hold. For print, we have long conversations as a photo team and with editors about each image that runs in the magazine to make sure it’s the best one. For digital, the speed is the opposite and we don’t have the luxury of conversation about each image. Each photo editor must rely on their judgment and training to select the best image, leaning on the team when needed.

My most recent project was this week’s cover story (seen above). It is a package of stories focused on over 2 million women pushed out of the workplace during the pandemic due to loss of jobs, childcare or family needs at home. Women of color have lost jobs at the highest rate. To tell this story visually, we had five photographers around the country photograph seven women who have experienced job loss differently over the past year. Hearing these moving stories from these women reminded me of the powerful women I know from Baldwin. [The Alice M. Baldwin Scholars Program inspires and supports female-identified undergraduate students to become engaged, confident and connected leaders in the Duke community and beyond.]

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