In 2013, Sarah became the first female Director of Photography at National Geographic Partners. In late 2019, she left to found the Visual Thinking Collective, a community for independent women photo editors, creative directors, teachers and curators dedicated to visual storytelling.
For nearly 20 years, she worked as a freelance photographer for the National Geographic magazine until 2004 when she joined the staff as a Senior Photo Editor. As a photographer, Sarah published sixteen stories and produced six covers for the National Geographic magazine.
In 1979, Sarah was the first woman to receive the College Photographer of the Year award while a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The award was an internship at the Nat Geo magazine where she produced her first Nat Geo story, “Return to Uganda.”
Sarah works individually with photographers and agencies editing long term projects and books including the America, Again project by the VII Photo agency publishing on Medium and the 2020 FotoEvidence and World Press Photo Book Award winner book HABIBI by Antonio Faccilongo.
Sarah has a won numerous awards for both her photography and photo editing from the Pictures of the Year International, Best of Photojournalism and the World Press Photo Awards.
Leen teaches photography and photo editing workshops at the Missouri Photo Workshops, the Maine Media Workshops, the Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and the PhotoLux Festival in Lucca, Italy.
She has juried numerous contests and portfolio reviews including Pictures of the Year International, Lens Culture, Critical Mass, Photo Lucida, The FotoEvidence Book Award, the Carmignac Award, The W. Eugene Smith Grants and the Getty Images Editorial Grants, the New York Times Portfolio Reviews and the World Press Joop Swarts Masterclass.