In 2019, Sarah Leen co-founded The Visual Thinking Collective as a community for independent photo editors, teachers and visual managers that serves photographers, media, art institutions in telling their stories in unique, authentic and highly visual ways.

In 2013, Sarah became the first female Directory of Photography for National Geographic Magazine and Visual Media. She led a team of photo editors, photo researchers, freelance photographers, studio photographers, and a photo engineer. She assigned all photographers, managed departmental budgets, and led the visual content for both the National Geographic magazine and the Nat Geo Traveler magazine.

For nearly 20 years prior, she worked as a freelance photographer for National Geographic magazine until 2004, when she joined the NGM staff as a Senior Photo Editor. Leen published 16 photo stories and produced five covers for the magazine. Sarah has also won numerous awards for both her photography and photo editing from the NPPA, the Pictures of the Year and the World Press Photo Awards.

Leen teaches photography and photo editing at the Missouri Photo Workshops, the Maine Media Workshops, the 
Santa Fe Photography Workshops, the Eddie Adams Workshop, Syracuse University and At Home in the Berkshires. Mentorships are sometimes available through application and portfolio review.  

Editing photography books with individual photographers is a passion. Leen has been the photo editor for Habibi, by Antonio Faccilongo, a World Press Photo Book award winner for FotoEvidence, Like a Bird by Johanna-Maria Fritz, Anders Wo by Petra Barth, The Phoenician Collapse by Diego Ibarra Sanchez which won the 2022 Lucie Book Award for Independent Book, We Cry in Silence by Smita Sharma, A Troubled Home by Anush Babajanyan. She is also the photo editor of 
Ukraine: A War Crime by FotoEvidence which was shortlisted for the 2023 Recontres d' Arles Historical Book Award.

Leen has juried numerous contests including Pictures of the Year International, LensCulture, Critical Mass, Photo Lucida, the FotoEvidence Book Award, the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, the Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, the Getty Images Editorial Grants, the World Press Joop Swarts Masterclass and the Santa Fe Center Reviews.

She is on the Board of the International League of Conservation Photographers, on the Advisory Council for the Eddie Adams Workshop and a member of The Photo Society. Leen has curated exhibitions at Photoville in Brooklyn, NY, the Annenberg Space for Photography LA, LOOK3 and the National Geographic Museum.

PARTNERS AND CLIENTS: The National Geographic Society, VII Photo, Santa Fe Photo Workshops, Maine Media Workshops, FotoEvidence, Women Photographers of Washington (WPOW), Women Photograph, iLCP and PhotoNola.



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  CONVERSATIONS      I believe in creating community...

I believe in creating community and collaborating with partners to create authentic, compelling and transformative experiences. Please check out this online panel I moderated for the Focus on the Story Festival on how to pitch ideas to photo editors.

   EDIT/CURATE         Working with individual...

Working with individual photographers and publishers to create visually-driven narratives is my passion. I am available to develop your ideas, edit your project or book, curate exhibitions, and review portfolios. Click below to see Ukraine: A War Crime. Now available to order. 


   TEACH/MENTOR      I teach workshops on how to edit...

I teach workshops on how to edit visual narratives at varying locations including Maine Media Workshops and the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. I am also available to create custom workshops about the elements of visual storytelling for your team.


Visual Thinking Collective

The Visual Thinking Collective is a community of creative independent women. We are committed to visual storytelling.
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