Home » Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Molly Roberts, Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic Magazine

Molly Roberts

Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Molly Roberts, Senior Photo Editor, National Geographic Magazine

by | Feb 7, 2019

Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature Molly Roberts.  Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos  and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.

Molly, please provide a short bio.

I  am a visual editor, independent curator and photographer. I tell visual stories in conjunction with wonderful photographers, videographers, writers and designers. I have spent my career primarily in the magazine print world; Washington Post Magazine, USA Weekend, Smithsonian and now National Geographic Magazine, where I am a Senior Photo Editor. More and more we are focusing on the digital space, which is boundless, while print consumption continues to decline. We tell stories to inform and engage our audience about things that matter; current events, science, natural history, culture and historical context.

Are you involved in any other organizations?

I’m involved with quite a few organizations outside of work. Because encouraging diverse voices in our medium is important to me, I am on the Board of Directors for Women Photojournalists of Washington, and also involved in mentorship with Woman Photograph. I am on advisory panels for Ripple Effect, Social Documentary Network and ArtWorks Projects.  In addition, I have a fledgling non-profit that I am slowly working to build called HumanEYES USA which uses contemporary documentary photography, photojournalism, art, video and other media to encourage awareness of human rights issues in the Americas and inform concerned citizens. The idea is that through knowledge, empathy can be enhanced.

 What are the things you are most proud of?

My two children, who are adults and doing wonderful things in their respective fields of wellness and law. And, I am proud of my relationship with the creative and committed photographers I work with, and the people whose stories we try to amplify.

Who is your personal role model?

As a photographer I was very influenced by Sally Mann, whose work I find always inspiring. She sees and lives with boundless curiosity, and that’s something that is important to me. I’ve also learned to keep engaged and keep learning about this amazing world we inhabit, and hopefully share in a responsible way.

Did Sally Mann offer professional advice that helped you in your career? 

One thing that Sally has often offered as advice, and which resonates with me, is that the things that are close to you are the things you can photograph the best. And unless you photograph what you love, you are not going to make good work. And I think that means, focus and dig in, so that the stories you tell come from a deep understanding, and not just a passing glance.

What professional advice do you have for others?

Combine your intellectual powers and your emotional impulses to make powerful observations. Don’t be motivated by the marketplace, or even the lack of marketplace. Make images about people, places, things, situations you know something about. There is no reason to helicopter into places that are already being documented by people more knowledgeable than you.  In addition, develop your expertise, and demonstrate your expertise.

 What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

My musical taste is very eclectic, I enjoy a range from the indie band Roman a Clef to jazz classics like Chet Baker and Billie Holliday, and alt country like Jason Isbell and Gillian Welch.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Rasika is pretty high on my list, I also love Jaleo, and hats off to Jose Andres for his activism.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I’m one of those people who everyone thinks is an extrovert because I am very involved in the photo community, but I’m actually an introvert who needs quiet walks in nature, lazy hours reading, and regular yoga and meditation to keep my balance intact. I recommend serious self-care for all! That way you have the energy to engage the world and empathize with the larger community.



About the Author

Cade Martin

The only child of a university art professor and freethinker mother, Cade Martin grew up surrounded by shapes and images. His love of art grew out of summer vacations filled with trips to galleries, museums and art studios. At home he often found himself around the dinner table with an eclectic cast of characters – sculptors, writers and painters. They paraded through his childhood, shaping his art foundation and forming his appreciation for the candid beauty found in people from all walks of life. Cade’s been chasing characters ever since. He seeks out their stories-told through the architecture of their faces or the costumes they wear-whether he’s on a commercial production or setting up an Avedon-like photo booth at Comic Con. They are the heroes in his pictures. His thirst for capturing adventures took its hold while shooting stills on movie sets and then as a photographer for National Geographic covering the railways of India. And it is that sense of adventure that Cade brings to his productions elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary with a cinematic touch. It’s not just a picture. He’s committed to the experience, building beautiful environments and, sometimes for his portraits, simply building trust. A talented storyteller, Cade splits his time between the East and West Coasts creating images for editorial, advertising, fashion, and lifestyle clients


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