Justin Maxon is a visual storyteller, educator and socially engaged artist. He collaborates with communities that are connected to his own positionality and history, making design and ideation decisions with participants. His socially engaged work seeks to challenge free-market capitalism, by challenging authoritative system of knowing through repositioning members of society within the social hierarchy. He seeks to understand how his positionality as a person racialized as white, who grew up on the Hoopa Valley Reservation in CA, plays out in his work as a storyteller. The question driving his practice is how do you offer a critical examination to counter what bell hooks describes as “the seduction of images that threatens to dehumanize”? He answers it by returning home to the places, people and issues that informs who, what, where and how he chooses to represent. He has received numerous awards for his work. His 8-year transmedia project in Chester PA, examines the physical, psychological, and spiritual repercussions of unresolved trauma from unsolved murder. The project, titled, Heaven’s Gain, materialized into many different visual forms: hand made mock murder case files which incorporated photography, archival material, and historical narratives; a trans-media installation, a short documentary, and a published investigative story in the Mother Jones Magazine. The different components of the project have been award the Aaron Siskind Foundation Fellowship, a Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund Grant, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace Professional Grant, the Visura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project, the Reminders Stronghold Photography Grant, the Cliff Edom “New America Award” from NPPA, and a Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.
As a photojournalist he has worked on feature and cover stories for publications such as TIME, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, MSNBC, Mother Jones Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Fader Magazine, The New York Times, and NPR.