Paula Lerner, photographer and photography advocate, died on Tuesday from breast cancer at the age of 52. Steve Skoll gathered these comments from those who knew her.

Steve: A collection of thoughts from friends and colleagues on the passing of Paula Lerner.

Manuello Paganelli writes: Folks I just learned the awful news that our friend, dear colleague, talented and award winning still/video photographer and former Editorial Photographer (EP), President passed away.

You all know that she was a strong advocate for photographer’s rights and was always there willing to show her wisdom and vision with the rest. She was also batting for photographers making sure magazines would pay decent day and space rates and less rights grabbing.

Today my heart just dropped out. RIP wonderful Paula…my heart goes to your husband and children.

Brian Smith, President of EP writes: I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Paula Lerner’s death. As the founding Vice President of Editorial Photographers, Paula was instrumental to setting EP’s course. She was directly involved in negotiating the Business Week and Forbes contracts that raised the bar for fair deals for editorial photographers. Paula remained committed to educating and inspiring others and it is extremely sad to lose her just as she was producing the finest work of her career.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.

Ed Greenberg writes: It is with unspeakable sadness that we inform you of the untimely death of a great lady, Paula Lerner. Paula possessed the all too rare qualities of both bravery and courage well before the insidious cancer ever invaded her body.

While most of us are content with the safety of our daily lives, Paula was busy risking her life to bring home the intimate stories of the brave women in war torn Afghanistan. Dodging bombs and bullets on five journeys, Paula created the finest collection of photography ever created in or about Afghanistan. Paula won a richly deserved Emmy Award for her work as a photojournalist on “Behind the Veil” an in depth multi media feature which also captured an EPPY Award for Best Web Feature.

Those of us who create prose rather than images, know all to well that there is simply no “appropriate” space limitations when extolling the virtues of Paula whether referencing her work or her character. The fact that both her images and life story will become part of the curriculum at Harvard is testament to an extraordinary life that precious few of us will ever even approach in magnitude. Her images will continue to speak to us and that makes her great photographer. Her character, charity, kindness, curiosity, tenaciousness and bravery made her a great person. Her family, friends, colleagues and clients know that her kind won’t pass this way again.

Michael Grecco writes: Paula was fearless in the pursuit of the things she believed in, whether it was to fight for photographer’s rights, as the first Vice President of Editorial Photographers, or when traveling to the war zone to use her lens and multimedia skills to expose the plight of the women of Afghanistan. I was thrilled when she won an Emmy for her hard work. She was a dear friend and will be missed.

Andrew Buchanan writes: In working with Paula professionally for more than ten years, I knew I was working with someone with passion. Not coming from a photojournalism background myself, I was inspired by someone who found a cause she believed in, then used both her artistic and journalistic abilities to get the story and make a difference.

But in pursuing her passion, Paula never forgot her purpose — to inspire, to share, to lead by example. She was generous with her time, her knowledge, and her inspiration. Knowing her made me a better photographer, but more importantly she made me a better person.

Thank you for that Paula, you’ve left your mark on this world in ways you maybe never even knew. My best thoughts to your family at this very difficult time.

Link to piece on PDN: Photographer Paula Lerner, Leader of Photo Advocacy Group.

There are threads on APAGroups and Editorial Photographers paying tribute to Paula Lerner.

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  1. I met Paula for the first time in 2006 when i was a photo editing intern. And while I cannot say that I truly knew her, she left an indelible mark.
    She was not only a gifted storyteller, she also embodied the spirit of photojournalism.
    There are few individuals who posses such grace and contribute so positively to so many lives. She was and will continue to be an inspiration. My thoughts go out to her family and friends.

  2. Paula was more than the storyteller, the photojournalist – she was an inspiration to those that met her. We stayed in touch via email over the last three years since I met her and she constantly gave me advice and confidence. Some of us are here for a higher purpose and never realize that purpose and others find it and pursue it and live their dreams and fill others dreams. Paula lived and shared her dreams and made them reality. Thank you Paula and my heartfelt condolences to her family and close friends.

  3. I was fortunate to meet Paula for the first time five years ago at Aurora’s lakeside get-together in Maine. Here was a woman with serious focus, passion, drive and commitment! While also being incredibly selfless and generous with her time and advice. Paula kickstarted my path into motion projects while always being available as an extra set of eyes on my portfolio and my pro sponsor into ASMP. Her dedication to the women of Afghanistan was deep and inspirational. We’ll miss you Paula.

  4. In keeping with EP’s mission of education and empowerment for working editorial photographers, the EP Board has voted to make a donation in Paula’s memory to the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace), the organization that Paula was working with in Afghanistan the past several years, and for which work she was winning so many accolades recently.

    For those that don’t know, “Bpeace is a non-profit network of business professionals who volunteer skills to entrepreneurs in conflict-affected countries to help them create significant employment for all, and expand the economic power of women.”

    Paula’s passion continues.
    Andrew Buchanan
    EP Treasurer

  5. I wouldn’t be one to say i knew Paula well, i hadn’t spent a lot of time with her. In fact nothing more than a 2 hour car ride together. But in that ride, it became clear to me that this is someone who is a friend. Someone i could trust. A truly rare ally in this competitive, ego driven business of ours. We got to know each other over that journey, and shared an honesty that is both rare and valuable. For that she will be missed by me and i know countless others she has touched in the same way. She was indeed a brave, sharing soul. My only regret after leaving her car at Boston Airport, was that i hadn’t met and got to know her earlier during the Aurora weekend at Lake Sebago we’d just come from. Thank you Paula, and my thoughts and prayers are with your family.

  6. At Manuello P’s insistance that I join EP. I would have never met her. Love Paula and ALL SHE STOOD FOR. “What a wonderful Lady, that I had the pleasure to call on occasions. When we all started this journey into digital photography and we were all fighting for our rights and protecting them. She gave so unselfishly to help us all. THANK YOU for the ultimate gift. the gift of help and kindness to MANKIND. YOU RIPPLED THE POND!” Let us not Mourn…Let’s CELEBRATE the Life of one of God’s Angels!

  7. Paula came to Atlanta in 2010 for an ASMP program. Her skill and the passion she expressed affected all that listened to her that evening. We are so blessed that she passed through lives. Her work is a testament to a life well lived.

  8. Paula and I became friends in the early heady days of EP. (Editorial Photographers)

    I wrote a blog post about our friendship and photographing her for a book she shot on Breast Cancer walks.

    I first met Paula back in the late nineties during the heyday of (EP) Editorial Photographers. I was on the advisory group that worked with the newly elected board of directors. Paula was the Vice-President of EP and was the voice of reason and patience amongst the testosterone fueled male founders of the organization. Paula always had a strong point of view, but it was tempered by a female perspective and her ability to be graceful under pressure. She knew how to negotiate so that everyone involved came away from the table winning.

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