In 2003, as an independent photographer unable to get a military embed, Rita Leistner walked from Turkey to Iraq with Kurdish smugglers. That summer, she brought home some of the first photographs of Iraqi detainees, which would be published world-wide. Rita went on to publish feature stories and photographs on subjects including American Cavalry soldiers, women patients at Baghdad’s al Rashad Psychiatric Hospital, gravediggers during the 2004 Siege of Najaf, and fighters of the Mahdi Army in magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and The Walrus.
Rita started taking pictures and began processing her own black and white film when she was a teenager. She worked in the film industry in Toronto as a camera assistant and lighting specialist before moving to Cambodia in 1997 to work as an independent photojournalist. In her politically engaged photography, she works from the inside out, asking the subjects to define themselves in the framework of photographic storytelling.
In spite of being captured, threatened, and hit in the head with a brick, Leistner resolutely continues to work with a short lens, creating startling photographs that are strikingly intimate.