In 1979 Westenberger was hired as a junior photographer for Look magazine when it was revived by Hachette Filipacchi. She worked as a photojournalist covering events, parties, and celebrities. Although Look folded some six months later, Westenberger had made by then her mark, and for the next decade she was a sought-after freelance photographer for all the leading national magazines. A self-confident woman who was never “star-struck,” she excelled at photographing and interacting with high-profile musicians, actors, celebrities, and sports stars. At the same time, she welcomed assignments with “real people”—to use her own term!
Among her many clients were Savvy, Money, Rolling Stone, Life, Paris Match, Sports Illustrated, New York, Bunte, Stern, Time, Forbes, Fortune, Premiere, and Family Circle.
Westenberger worked extensively on movie sets for magazines and the publicity departments of the leading movie studios. She was hired to produce “special photography” for their marketing, advertising, and magazine covers. She shot A-list movie stars for Entertainment Weekly, Life, and TV Guide. This cover of Steve Martin epitomizes the sense of humor that helped her capture the personality of her subject and shows off her skill in creating an illusion for the camera.
Between 1981 and 2005, Westenberger worked as a photographer on 51 movies for studios such as Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount, New Line Cinema, 20th Century-Fox, and Carolco Pictures, resulting in fifteen movie posters to her credit. Her last shoot for a movie studio client was in December 2005 with her friend Meryl Streep on the set of the movie The Devil Wears Prada.
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Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Westenberger established herself as a leading portrait photographer who could handle any type of personality and, because of her meticulous planning, could work under the unavoidable pressures of time. Westenberger was always in demand to shoot CEOs and other influential businessmen and -women, who rarely gave her more than twenty minutes to shoot. Her dramatic lighting and composition lent interest and gravitas to these executives.
Westenberger also photographed four U.S. presidents, two vice presidents, and their wives for Time, as well as the leading women politicians in the country, including Hillary Clinton, who was Newsweek’s Woman of the Year in 1992.
An active member of the photography community, Westenberger won numerous awards, and her work was exhibited in fifteen shows during her lifetime. She taught photography workshops in Woodstock and Maine, and at the prestigious Santa Fe Workshops. Westenberger was honored in 1996 when the U.S. Postal Service created 32-cent stamps using two of her images of the American Indian Dance Theatre, originally shot for Smithsonian Magazine in 1992.
During the 1990s, Westenberger started getting assignments as a travel photographer. She excelled at this kind of photography because her curiosity and zest for life were infectious, and she made friends who opened doors for her wherever she went. Her travel pictures were intimate and alive, full of people, color, and food. She contributed to Smithsonian, National Geographic Traveler, Conde Nast Traveler, andTravel Holiday. From 1989 to 2000 she completed assignments in, Miami, Australia, Brazil, France, Spain, and Portugal. In the 2000s she made trips to China, Thailand, and Hong Kong in addition to her work for Islands magazine, which took her to Puerto Rico, Martinique, St. Vincent, Jamaica, and Grenada. Westenberger was often asked to write short pieces about her experiences on assignment for these same magazines.