Mimi Chakarova received her BFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute and her MA in visual studies from UC Berkeley. She has had numerous solo exhibitions of her documentary projects on South Africa, Jamaica, Cuba, Kashmir and Eastern Europe.

Capitalism, God, And A Good Cigar: Cuba Enters The Twenty-first Century, features over 75 of Chakarova’s documentary photographs of Cuba.

Chakarova is currently working on two long-term projects that examine the conflict in Kashmir and sex trafficking of women in Eastern Europe. This is her tenth year teaching photography at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Chakarova also teaches photography at Stanford University’s African and African American Studies and Comparative Studies for Race and Ethnicity. She is the recipient of the 2003 Dorothea Lange Fellowship for outstanding work in documentary photography and the 2005 Magnum Photos Inge Morath Award for her work on sex trafficking. In 2007, Chakarova became the series curator of Frontline/WORLD’S FlashPoint, featuring the work of established and emerging photographers from around the world.

Interview with Sarah Hart in January, 2008:

What do you think are some of the more exciting trends in journalism, and how can such trends be promoted in journalism school?

The type of journalism that I find most insightful is one that encourages complex and multifaceted storytelling. I think the best approach is the merging of mediums, which we see in multimedia stories: combining exceptional still images, audio, video and in-depth reporting. If we teach our students the skills alone, it’s not enough. I think multimedia is a state of mind, a way of understanding your surroundings and the fluidity of the story (i.e. when does one take still photos, or notes, or audio... and when is video appropriate.) In a way, it’s like mastering languages that have some words in common yet different ways of expressing sentences. It’s not good enough to just be conversational. Our students need to be proficient in all areas of storytelling.

What should be the relationship between the journalism profession and journalism school?

Journalism schools should be hands on. There isn’t much time for theory when our job is to deal with real time and real issues. I’ve always looked at graduate school as an opportunity to grow and devote two years of one’s life to learning skills and building long-term projects that could otherwise be difficult to dive into when working full time. It’s a time to grow intellectually and also question the bigger role of the media—the way it influences politics, culture and ultimately history.

What skills and new ideas are most important for would-be journalists to learn in j-school?

Definitely multimedia, from how to collect information to how to produce it in a cohesive and honest way. But also, ethics and understanding the challenges of working as a journalist in today’s world.