1. What motivated you to take a workshop and why did you pick Momenta?
The journey to becoming a photojournalist can be a lonely one. In school, it can be hard to get the attention of your teachers as they deal with hundreds of other students and you maintain your rigorous schedule of school and work. In the professional world, people whom you admire or might like to get advice from are often barely keeping up with their own lives between assignments, much less sparing time to give advice to someone up and coming.
I first discovered Momenta on Facebook in a photography group. The idea of getting time to focus exclusively on one project, engaging in one-on-one edits and listening to lectures on how to pay your very real bills with your very real dream was intoxicating!
2. What surprised you most about the country you visited or the experience of working with a nonprofit?
Nonprofits face a lot of obstacles. Managing relationships with employees, donors, clients, and volunteers while keeping substantially low overhead can cause any organization fatigue and burnout.
My nonprofit, Project Angel Food of Los Angeles, however, was an absolute dream to work with. Before my arrival, I made sure we had a shared vision of how I would tell their story, releases were signed, and everyone welcomed me with open arms. Even volunteers that were only working a single day for class credit were smiling and chatty. I try to prepare myself mentally for any obstacles, but instead I was treated to one of the best work environments I’ve ever been in and I left with a full heart. That was a pleasant surprise!
3. What was the best lesson you took away from your workshop?
A word I wrote down and circled on the first night of our lectures stayed with me the entire trip: intentionality. Photographers are not exempt from hitting a plateau and falling into a formulaic way of making images. It’s important to revisit the fundamentals to refresh yourself, and ultimately, your work. Each day, I would meditate on that word, contemplating what it meant in the situation I was walking into, and it transformed an “assignment” into an experience.
4. What was your favorite photograph from this workshop & why?
Attend any lecture a photographer gives on a photo story and someone will inevitably ask, “How did you get access?” The answer is usually some variation of, “I just asked.”
Part of my work with Project Angel Food involved a ride-along with a driver delivering meals to clients. I’m a little bit shy, so “just asking” can be somewhat of a monumental task. This is especially true when you’re at a person’s home and you aren’t familiar with, but want to be sensitive to, what obstacles they face which have placed them in the path of the organization.
The gentleman pictured wasn’t even planning on letting us in his house, but met us at the dock instead. The dock… as in, he has a house boat. As in, can we pretty please check out your house boat? He said, “Sure!” and, as I snapped away, he told me about all his favorite foods and the pros and cons of his unique space. This moment taught me to snap out of it (no pun intended) and not let my own insecurities get in the way.
5. What would you tell a potential student to help them prepare for their experience with Momenta?
Seize every opportunity. (You could say #SeizetheMomenta but we won’t even go there!) For me, Project Los Angeles was 3,000 miles from my comfort zone of Washington, D.C. Any image I was going to make, I absolutely had to do so during the workshop because a second chance was not going to come around any time soon.
In addition to three full days of shooting with my nonprofit, I went out with other students after the lectures were over each night and I got even more questions answered and forged new friendships. I hiked to the Hollywood sign at sunrise. I even got into an accident in my rental car and the guy who rear ended me cheerfully pointed me in the direction of a really cool record store.
After all was said and done, I made one last excursion to stick my toes in the ocean at Venice Beach before getting on the plane to return to a cold and gray February. I have no regrets about a single minute of my trip and my wish is for every student to have that same experience.
Laura Lyon’s Biography:
Laura Lyon is a visual journalist based in the Washington, D.C area. She earned a degree in journalism with an emphasis in photography from American University, and since then her zest for visual storytelling has brought her from New York to Los Angeles (and beyond!), covering a variety of movers, shakers and every day heroes.
Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including People Magazine, The Smithsonian’s E-Torch, The Chattanoogan, Dig Different Magazine, and Luxury Listings NYC.
She is the recipient of Momenta Workshops’ Patrick West Award and the Envision Kindness Student Photography & Film Contest in the category of Documentary Single Image. When not behind the camera, she is a photo editor for several photographers in the D.C area, believing that we all create better together.