Steve Raymer is an award-winning National Geographic photographer and author of numerous books on subjects ranging from Vietnam and Islam in Southeast Asia to the Global Indian Diaspora and St. Petersburg, the Russian imperial capital. Today, Raymer is an emeritus professor of journalism at Indiana University-Bloomington, where continues to teach about witnessing war and terrorism.
Raymer earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and studied Soviet and Russian affairs at Stanford University. He has been a Fulbright Research Fellow in Asia, as well as a fellow at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University. A lieutenant in the artillery, Raymer served in Vietnam as an Army public affairs officer.
Raymer joined the staff of National Geographic in 1972, launching a career that has taken him to more than 100 countries. From famines in Bangladesh and Ethiopia to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Raymer’s photographs illustrated some 35 National Geographic articles, as well as numerous other Geographic articles, books, and multimedia presentations. Among his notable National Geographic stories were reports about the global hunger crisis, the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, the worldwide illegal trade in endangered animals, Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul under Soviet occupation, the humanitarian work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in war zones, the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, and the uproarious collapse of the former Soviet Union.
From 1989 to 1995, Raymer served as director of the National Geographic Society News Service, establishing joint ventures with The New York Times, the Associated Press, and National Public Radio. He also reported from Russia for National Geographic, as well as from the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) and Vietnam, as it established diplomatic and trade relations with the United States and intensified the search for American servicemen missing in action.
In 1995, Raymer joined the faculty of Indiana University School of Journalism, now the Media School, teaching classes in visual journalism, media ethics and responsibilities, international news-gathering, and reporting conflict. He also authored six large-format books and mounted exhibitions of his work in the Arab and Muslim World, Russia, and Vietnam. Raymer continues to teach an interdisciplinary seminar called “Witnessing War and Terrorism” in the university’s Hutton Honors College.
In 2018, Indiana University Press published Raymer’s photographic memoir, Somewhere West of Lonely: My Life in Pictures. Thomas Kennedy, former executive director of the American Society of Media Photographers, called the book “must reading for all Americans as a reminder of why photojournalism matters, and as a way of appreciating the depth of passion and commitment in those who create it.” Pictures from Raymer’s memoir were exhibited at Visa Pour l’Image, the international photojournalism festival at Perpignan, France, and at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong.
Raymer was named “Magazine Photographer of the Year” in 1976 by the National Press Photographers Association and Pictures of the Year for his reporting of the global hunger crisis. He also has been honored by the Overseas Press Club of America for reporting requiring exceptional courage and enterprise for his coverage of the illegal trade in endangered animals. In 2019, Raymer received the NPPA’s John Long Ethics Award for his career-long commitment to ethical practice in photojournalism and journalism education.