Sarah Leen was appointed director of photography at National Geographic magazine in May 2013. She is the first female DOP in the National Geographic Society’s 125-year history. For 20 years prior she worked as a freelance photographer for National Geographic magazine and in 2004 joined the magazine's staff as a senior photo editor.
Leen graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She continued with graduate studies at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Leen was the College Photographer of the Year in 1979 and worked as a staff newspaper photographer at the Topeka Capital Journal and then the Philadelphia Inquirer until 1982 when she began her freelance photography career.
Her photography assignments for National Geographic took her to Lake Baikal in Siberia, the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia’s Far East, the ancient city of Djenne, Mali in West Africa, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Mexican volcano Popocatepetl.
Leen has won numerous awards for her photography at the Pictures of the Year (POYi) and in 2002 she won second place in the science and technology category of the World Press Photo Contest. In 2007 and 2008 she won first place Magazine Picture Editing Portfolio from POYi and second place in 2011.
Leen has taught photography and editing workshops at the Missouri Photo Workshops, the International Center for Photography in New York, the Maine Photographic Workshops and the Palm Beach Centre for Photography.
In 2013, Leen was the curator of the exhibit 'The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years' at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, California.