Five Questions with Kat Forder
Current Occupation: Family Photographer
Workshop: Project New Orleans
Nonprofit Assignment: LA-SPCA
Instructors: Jamie Rose, Eva Russo, Chris Usher & Tom Smith
What motivated you to take a Momenta Workshop?
I actually did not set out to take a workshop! I was going to go on a vacation but ended up being pulled toward making it a working vacation instead (I swear, I’m not really a workaholic!). I chose Momenta because I was looking for something different.
I was just concluding an intensive two year photography and digital media program, to brush up on digital photography and video skills, and I felt like I needed to find my passion for photography once again. Momenta offered a chance to travel within the US to a location I hadn’t been to before and offered fantastic practical work experience as well.
What surprised you most about the location you visited or the experience of working with a nonprofit?
I’m Canadian, and while I have traveled through Europe and in other areas of the US, New Orleans was as far south as I have ever traveled before my workshop with Momenta. So everything from the friendly little lizards to the local culture was fascinating and new. There’s nothing like some travel to wake up the senses! I think the most surprising thing may have been how intense the experience was.
I spent time documenting the dedicated volunteers, staff and surgeons in the LA SPCA‘s high volume surgical center (one of only a small handful in existence in the country) and I spent time on a ride-along with the hard working LA-SPCA animal control officers who are out in the field every day working as ambassadors in the community and animal welfare officers.
I had the chance to meet, visit and speak with dozens and dozens of locals and was pulled into the stories and the experience in ways I couldn’t anticipate. I could have stayed for months just listening to the heart wrenching stories shared by local citizens.
What was the best lesson you took away from your workshop?
I think the best lesson I learned was that it’s ok to feel. Being a visual storyteller means that you can and most often should allow yourself to feel. It’s absolutely ok to “be in the zone” and block out your emotions while working. It’s completely fine to focus on composition, lighting, and all the technical aspects of a job while a surgeon is up to their wrists in blood and gore during a surgery. It’s also completely ok to take some time to feel what needs to be felt. Sometimes a little emotion is exactly what a story needs.
What was your favorite photograph from this workshop and why?
There are so many! That fact alone is kind of funny because, like many photographers, I get tired of my own work after a short time. I’m always looking for the next image, so the ones I’ve already made hold less interest and appeal after a short time. Some of my work with the LA SPCA and Momenta remains my favorite, even years later.
In the foreground of this image a volunteer and a staff member in the LA SPCA’s high volume surgical center intubates a stray dog prior to surgery. In the background, another dog lays on his back after intubation, just prior to beginning his surgery. Also in the background, a tired surgeon rests briefly, perched on the only stool in the surgical center, catching a break in between patients.
This image is a favorite because it was encouragement from workshop mentor Eva Russo that prompted me to look for and to find more opportunities for images like this one that documented action, story and emotion all at once. This single shot reminds me of the controlled chaos, exacting precision and impressive speed with which the entire center operates, providing care to an astonishing number of animals each day.
What would you tell a potential student to help them prepare for their experience with Momenta?
I would advise potential students to embrace the new experiences with all their senses. Immerse yourself completely in the local culture and people. Don’t be afraid to hug and laugh, cry and enjoy. Expect to be challenged in ways you can’t anticipate. Try new things (photographically and personally) and get to know your fellow workshop participants. They are such a source of inspiration during and after your workshop!
And, I would (and have!) told other potential students to be sure to leave themselves a few days after the workshop to decompress. It’s absolutely ok to take some time for yourself after returning home from an intensive experience like this.
Here’s a link to a previous post I’ve written about the experience: http://www.katforder.com/2015/01/23/momenta-workshops/.
Kat Forder’s Biography:
Kat is a both a storyteller and a child at heart. She tells stories of life, love and make believe which allows her to be a pirate one day and a princess the next. Sometimes she’ll work with a team, who also appreciate the finer things in life; like a well-stocked dress-up box, goldfish crackers, and juice boxes.
Kat is a member of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), and she graduated with a certificate from Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts. She volunteers her camera and skills with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and Red Thread Sessions.
See Kat’s Work: