Stephen Ferry was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a child, he witnessed the riots and protests against the Vietnam War that rocked the streets of Cambridge, giving him a lifelong passion for observing political and social movements firsthand.
Ferry has traveled to dozens of countries, concentrating on issues of human rights, social and political unrest, and environmental destruction. He takes a long-term approach, preferring to return again and again to a place long after the headlines have faded.
Since the late 1980s, he has covered major historical processes and events, such as the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the rise of radical Islam in Northern Africa, the destruction of rain forests in Brazil and the United States, and the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York City, along with stories in nearly every Latin American country.
He is currently focused on documenting, over a period of years, Colombia's ongoing civil war. His work there is supported by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Knight International Press Fellowship, and the Alicia Patterson Fellowship.
Ferry has received many honors, including two World Press Photo awards and numerous first prizes in the Pictures of the Year competition. His book on the Quechua silver miners of Potosi, Bolivia, I Am Rich Potosi: The Mountain That Eats Men, was published in 1999. He is currently preparing Tayrona, a book portraying the struggles of the indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta in Colombia, based on his October 2004 National Geographic article, "Keepers of the World."
Recognized as a distinguished teacher of documentary photography, Ferry is on the faculty of the Fundación para un Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (founded by Gabriel García Márquez in 1995 in Cartagena, Colombia) and of the International Center of Photography in New York. In 2005, he received the prestigious Howard Chapnick Grant and a National Geographic Expeditions Council grant to help a group of indigenous leaders from Colombia use photography in defense of their land.