Photographing Sallie Krawcheck was probably the fastest of the portrait sessions owing to some very hectic schedules and shooting around unruly crowds of tourists on Wall Street. Since I wasn't present for the interview I struck up a conversation to lighten the mood and get to know a bit about the woman behind the figure, and started with a pretty basic question, what do you do? Sallie gave me the best answer I've heard recently, "whatever I want." A 20-year veteran of Wall Street working for Meryl Lynch, Bank of America, and CFO of CitiGroup, she has essentially retired from corporate finance to begin several projects as a consultant, focusing her time and energies to the projects and causes that she is passionate about, which is currently working to help empower and unite professional women around the world. Her current major project is as chair of the Ellevate Network. Ellevate is a global community of women at all levels of business that strives to empower its members through offering networking and educational opportunities as well as invest in companies that a focused in gender equality in business. As she eloquently puts it, investing in women is just smart business.
Dr. Laura Forese, the current President of the New York Presbyterian Healthcare System. She began her medical career as a orothopedic surgeon before making the move to hospital administration including the position of COO of New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital. She was kind enough to take us on a small tour of her hospital and talk a little about how she got into medicine in the first place. According to her the thing she loved about orthopedic was that you could make an immediate effect on someone's life. Throughout her career she has distinguished herself both as a doctor and an administrator, working to bring both preventative medicine and acute care resources to new members of the New York Presbyterian/ Weil Cornell healthcare system.
Edie Lutnick was our final participant. Hers was probably the most moving of all the sessions I photographed. At one point in her life she was a name partner and labor lawyer working out of an office on the 101st floor of World Trade Tower One. On September 11th she lost her brother and 657 friends and colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald. Three days later she stepped away from her practice to work with her brother the CEO and Chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald to found the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund. At first it was a way to help the 658 families of the deceased employees and has since grown to a completely not for profit charity focused on addressing the "short and long-term needs of victims of terrorism, natural disasters, and emergencies." She freely admits that as much as they have been able to give to others she is equally thankful for the opportunity to help and to turn her overwhelming grief into something positive and constructive that can help others through their own personal tragedies. The Relief Fund is different from many other charities by giving direct financial assistance to those in need because as she puts it, only you know what's best for your family. Thirteen years later the Fund is still growing to take on new causes and challenges and is currently partnering with 200+ charities to help those in need around the world.
On a personal note this series of projects deeply resonated with me. Since arriving in New York I have devoted the majority of my time to fashion work rather than portraiture, and so to have the magazine's publisher, Grace Capobianco, call me and tell me that she thought that I would be the perfect person for this project was a huge compliment. However, beyond professional pride this project held a much more personal significance. The "lean in" concept may be one that only recently pierced the wider public consciousness, but growing up it wasn't a concept, it was just what you did. You work hard and you excel. You follow your passion to your purpose and you do your best. Growing up I was surrounded by an army of strong, talented, driven, uncompromising, and incredibly encouraging women. I was raised that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I was willing to work for it. They told me stories about starting out is the 70's when there were relatively few women in the corporate workforce and about the lack of female role models. That generation of women are now positioned to be our role models, they have a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to give. Moving to New York, starting my own business and getting a look at the "real world" (or at least my version of it) was a profound education, and more and more I find myself thinking about my mother and her friends who encouraged and supported me. There are moments when I think that we've come so far, and moments when I think of how much farther we have to go. Then over the course of a month I worked with these incredible women. They have excelled through their talent, intelligence, creativity, persistence, and resilience. And now they are all focused on encouraging others to follow them and excel.