Celebrating Women Photographers: Dania Maxwell

A woman holds her children
Karla Barrera, 28, of Los Angeles holds her children, ages 4 and 6, outside the Ralphs grocery store where she works as a deli manager on April 9, 2020. Barrera says she has not felt safe at work since the pandemic began and several Ralphs in L.A. has been fined for failing to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus. “If the company preps us and gives us the right equipment, we wouldn’t be so scared,” she said.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
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In honor of Women’s History Month, the Los Angeles Times photography department would like to highlight our award-winning female staff photographers.

Dania Maxwell joined The Times’ photography staff in 2018. Previously she was a staff photographer for the Naples Daily News in Florida. Maxwell also spent two years freelancing in Colombia, where she produced a short documentary film about the Wayuu people and how they are affected by one of the world’s largest open coal mines in La Guajira.

Maxwell’s honors include Emmy, POYi, Sigma Delta Chi and Edward R. Murrow awards for her work photographing and filming an adolescent boy becoming a man while he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

She was drawn to photojournalism through her interest in people and their stories. Early in her career, Maxwell believed she’d work as a sociologist or an anthropologist; however, sometime in her 20s, she found that a camera provided the type of access that allowed her to communicate those narratives.

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I love that my job inserts me into the community in the most intimate way. I also love that I can contribute to how things are seen and remembered through images.

Dania Maxwell

Officer Nick Ferara, center, with officer Dan Brown, right, hand Victoria Taboada a game for her daughter, Victoria, 3.
LAPD Officers Nick Ferara, center, and Dan Brown hand out games, food and other items to Victoria Taboada and her daughter, Victoria, 3, in San Pedro on April 29, 2020, while distributing donated essentials and gift cards to residents in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Behind the photograph:

This image was made during a peak in the COVID-19 pandemic. The original assignment I was sent out to photograph for this story was a not very visual question-and-answer session in a room at the police station.

Afterward, I wrote down some phone numbers and called the station regularly to see if they had any outreach events planned. So I hopped on board when they told me they were going to deliver donations to the community one day.

I remember being really touched by how deep the needs of the community are and how much the gesture to provide goods for people can help.

Dania Maxwell

A woman holds a violin in front of palm trees
Susie Garcia, a member of the all-female mariachi band Las Colibri, poses for a portrait in Rowland Heights on April 26, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

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Pastor Eddie Anderson casts his eyes heavenward at McCarty Memorial Christian Church
Eddie Anderson, a pastor and community activist whose McCarty Memorial Christian Church in Jefferson Park often hosts Black Lives Matter meetings, casts his eyes heavenward at the church on June 8, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
A dance class is held in a parking lot
Instructor Joe Brown, front left, leads a dance class with Gabriel Perez, back from left, Martel Jackson and London Outlaw at Movement Lifestyle Studio in North Hollywood on Aug. 20, 2020. The studio had to move its classes outside to follow pandemic rules.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
An ice cream vendor hands a customer a treat through a barred window at an apartment complex
Vendor Mauro Rios Parra passes frozen treats to a young customer through a window of an apartment complex in Pico-Union on June 16, 2020. Parra, who has not seen his family since he left them behind in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2002 to provide a better life for them, has sold paletas and ice cream on the street for the last 16 years. With schools and parks closed and people sheltering in place, the pandemic put a big dent in his sales.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Behind the photograph:

This image was made in the afternoon toward the end of Mauro Rios’ workday. I had walked with Mauro Rios from the early morning for a total of eight miles. I find the best pictures are made after I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with someone because they are so relaxed around me and my camera.

I remember being amazed by how hard-working he was and that selling ice cream to the Pico-Union neighborhood over the years has put his two kids through college in Mexico.

It’s important to remember that this image was made during the pandemic. Rios might not have delivered the boy his popsicle this way in another moment because he would have taken his cart to the boy’s school rather than his building.

I think this picture shows Mauro Rios’s dignity, that he works hard and that he likes what he does.

I hope that when folks hear a paletero in the future they’re more interested in buying from them because of this picture.

Dania Maxwell

Protesters link arms to block a roadway
Protesters link their arms while blocking the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles on May 27, 2020, a day of protests across L.A. and the nation in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Two people, one holding a sign reading "The joke is on us," stand on a police vehicle during a Black Lives Matter protest
Two people stand on a police vehicle during a Black Lives Matter protest on May 27, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

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Lucas Lepins rides around the Orchard Hardware parking lot with other lowriders before setting out on a cruise in Pasadena.
Lucas Lepins rides around the Orchard Hardware parking lot with other lowriders before setting out on a cruise in Pasadena on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020, in Los Angeles, CA. The lowriders will cruise the Rose Parade Route on New Year’s Eve as they have done so for decades.
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)
Overhead view of a variety of dishes, including fish curry and a whole fish, on a table.
Specialties at Anajak Thai restaurant in Sherman Oaks include fish curry and a whole dry-aged fish.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Behind the photograph:

I remember walking into the restaurant and being excited that the tablecloths looked so vibrant because they really complemented the food. I used two external lights to make this image. In food photography, sometimes the simpler the better, but it takes some time to figure out the right composition. There were a lot of other frames before I got this one just right.

A friend of the owner popped inside the restaurant and I asked if she was willing to use her hands for the image. Also, I was lucky enough to taste both of these dishes, so I can attest that the taste is as good as it looks!

This image was made for the Times’ 101 Best Restaurants series and I was grateful to work on a story that highlighted restaurants in Los Angeles because so many businesses have been deeply hurt and shuttered by the pandemic.

I do hope that my images helped the businesses we profiled flourish in some way.

Dania Maxwell

A child slides on a backyard water slide
The Cook family of Highland Park stays cool on Sept. 5, 2020, as temperatures climbed into triple digits in Los Angeles.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
An overhead view of marinated short ribs, spicy chicken thighs, charcoal pork ribs and an assortment of garnishes on a table
The weekly special of marinated short ribs, spicy chicken thighs, charcoal pork ribs and an assortment of garnishes at Guerrilla Tacos on May 12, 2020, in downtown Los Angeles.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Helder Guimaraes poses for a portrait in Griffith Park
Helder Guimaraes, a world-renowned performer, magician, and creator of theatrical and immersive experiences, poses for a portrait in Griffith Park on May 13, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
A dancer strikes an exotic pose
Dancer Mizon Garde strikes an exotic pose at Genever nightclub in Westlake, where she performs burlesque shows, on Nov. 6, 2019.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times )

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Behind the photograph:

When I asked Mizon Garde, a Filipina woman, if she could change into her entire burlesque costume for this photoshoot and she was on board, I remember thinking that the portrait would be that much better. And it was!

I used one external light for this picture, and I could not have made it without Garde’s commitment on the other end as well. She gave me her time and wanted to make a good picture just as much as I did. That makes all the difference.

I think culture is a fluid concept. I hope this image helps add to the conversation about Filipina American women, specifically, who are breaking from the norm of what is expected from them.

Dania Maxwell

People on the Oscars red carpet seen from above through a beaded curtain on Feb. 9, 2020.
People gather on the red carpet for the Oscars at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood on Feb. 9, 2020.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Tiffani and Lance Bryant pose with their cheeks pressed together.
Tiffani and Lance Bryant, photographed at their home on Oct. 24, 2019, in Los Angeles, met in the backseat during an UberPool ride and were married a year later.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
A woman stands in a doorway of a wooden structure
Meadow Carder-Vindel stands in the door of her GreenStone Farm & Sanctuary, a certified wildlife habitat in Mount Washington, on Feb. 20, 2021. Carder-Vindel rents the space to people who want to spend time in private urban gardens, much like homeowners rent their rooms and residences on Airbnb.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)