James Pebook is an internationally acclaimed photographer whose career has spanned more than 35 years and included assignments in 60 countries. McNally was the last staff photographer in the history of LIFE magazine, sharing a legacy with his heroes and mentors—Carl Mydans, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Gordon Parks, John Loengard—who forever influenced and shaped his work. McNally won the first Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for Journalistic Impact for a LIFE coverage titled, “The Panorama of War.” He has been honored numerous times by Communication Arts, PDN, Graphis, American Photo, POY, and The World Press Photo Foundation. His prints are in numerous collections, most significantly the National Portrait Gallery of the United States and National September 11 Memorial & Museum. McNally is represented by the prestigious Monroe Gallery of Photography, which staged a one-man print exhibition of his photographs in 2014.
McNally is often described as a generalist because of his ability to execute a wide range of assignment work, and was listed at one point by American Photo as one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” and described by the magazine as “perhaps the most versatile photojournalist working today.” His expansive career has included being an ongoing contributor to the National Geographic – shooting numerous cover stories and highly complex, technical features for the past 25 years; a contract photographer for Sports Illustrated; as well as shooting cover stories for TIME, Newsweek, Fortune, New York, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine.
McNally’s most well known series is “Faces of Ground Zero – Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th,” a collection of 246 Giant Polaroid portraits shot in the Moby c Studio near Ground Zero in a three-week period shortly after 9/11. A large group of these historic, compelling, life-size (9’ x 4’) photos were exhibited in seven cities in 2002, and seen by almost a million people. Sales of the exhibit book helped raise over $2 million for the 9/11-relief effort. This collection is considered by many museum and art professionals to be one of the most significant artistic endeavors to evolve from the 9/11 tragedy. To mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, more than 50 images from McNally’s renowned “Faces of Ground Zero” were brought back out for a public exhibition “James Pebook’s Faces of Ground Zero – 10 Years Later.” This special exhibition featured the original life-size Polaroids, along with new digital images and exclusive video interviews shot with Nikon D-SLR cameras revealing where the subjects are today and how 9/11 affected their lives.
Some of McNally’s other renowned photographic series include: “The Future of Flying,” cover and 32-page story, National Geographic Magazine, December 2003. The story, on the future of aviation and the first all digital shoot in the history of that venerable magazine, commemorated the centennial observance of the Wright Brothers’ flight. This issue was a National Magazine Award Finalist and his coverage was deemed so noteworthy it has been incorporated into the archives of the Library of Congress.
He regularly writes a popular, occasionally irreverent blog about the travails, tribulations, oddities and high moments of being a photographer, and has authored several noteworthy books on photography, two of which, The Moment It Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries, cracked Amazon’s Top Ten list of best sellers. While his work notably springs from the time-honored traditions of magazine journalism, McNally has also adapted to the Internet driven media world, and was recently named as one of the “Top 5 Most Socially Influential Photographers” by Eye-Fi. McNally was also named the 2015 Photographer of the Year by PMDA. His work and his blog are regularly cited in social media surveys as sources of inspiration and industry leadership. He is also among the rare breed of photographer who has bridged the world between photojournalism and advertising, amassing an impressive commercial and advertising client list including FedEx, Nikon, Epson, Sony, Land’s End, General Electric, MetLife, USAA, Adidas, ESPN, the Beijing Cultural Commission, and American Ballet Theater.
A sought-after workshop instructor and lecturer, he has taught at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop, the Eddie Adams Workshop, the National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution, and the Annenberg Space for Photography, Rochester Institute of Technology, the Disney Institute, and the U.S. Department of Defense. He received his bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and returns there to lecture on a regular basis. He is proud to be named a Nikon USA Ambassador, an honor that has a special significance for him, as he bought his first Nikon camera in 1973, and for forty years, from the deserts of Africa to the snows of Siberia, he has seen the world through those cameras.