I get paid to travel. I devise the brief, whether it's Cuba or Nairobi, and put the whole package together. My job is as much journalism as photography - I get educated on an area, working on intuition and meeting people by chance. I hang out with them as they live their lives, and then get the picture. National Geographic uses the photographs but I own them, so I'm free to publish books of my work.
How did you get the job?
I majored in art history and, after graduate school, landed an art grant while working for a newspaper in Kansas. It was the best time I ever had.
I did a photo-documentary on my hometown in Virginia. It won awards and got me noticed at Geographic. That was 31 years ago.
Does reality match the dream?
It's better. Everyone I meet says it's the best job they've ever heard of. Even Sting told me that. It's a huge education and I get to express myself. Other people may earn more, but I can be anonymous and I'm not locked to a schedule. The physical act of travelling isn't fun - I adopt a zen approach to waiting in airports - but I don't feel the need to settle. I've got roots in New York, but I can swing it either way, and if I'm on the move it's because I want to be.