Paula Nelson

Paula Nelson

What she teaches …

Paula Nelson works with both graduate and undergraduate students guiding them to discover their creative potential and to emphasize intention in every aspect of still image making, editing, and sequencing – all elements of visual storytelling. Using a visual language that demonstrates a deep understanding of the power of each image singularly as well as in sequence, students create compelling visual narratives.


A storyteller at heart, Paula Nelson began her career of more than 30 years as a staff photographer at The Dallas Morning News. Part of a small team of journalists, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for “Violence Against Women: A Question of Human Rights.” She documented sex-selective abortion, dowry burnings and the sex trade of minors in India and Thailand. Nelson traveled to 48 countries, around the U.S. and across Texas photographing breaking news, multi-picture feature stories, sports, food and fashion. She was recognized with top photography honors from the NPPA, Southern Short Course, the Katies, POY and as a skilled picture editor with strong storytelling abilities from the International Pictures of the Year. Nelson became a picture editor and Assistant Director of Photography, shepherding her colleagues’ award-winning photography into publication both online and in print.

In 2002, as Page One picture editor at The Boston Globe, she set the visual philosophy and selected images for display illustrating the top stories of the day. During the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, she edited from tens of thousands of images daily for publication in special sections. The following year, as director of photography, Nelson managed a staff of 31 visual producers – both still and video – and led the effort to build an online visual presence, including the groundbreaking visual blog, The Big Picture. She worked in concert with renowned editor, Marty Baron, to set the bar for storytelling visuals and for adherence to strict ethical standards. As Assistant Managing Editor for Photography – the first for The Globe and the highest rank in the newsroom for a visual professional – she continued her leadership. The Boston Globe was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for its multimedia coverage of the marathon tragedy that included visuals produced under Nelson’s leadership. In conferring its breaking news award, the Pulitzer board cited the “Globe’s ‘exhaustive and empathetic’ coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing manhunt that enveloped the city, using photography and a range of digital tools to capture the full impact of the tragedy.”