Featured Guestagrammer: Sara May
Momenta welcomes featured guestagrammer,
Current job: Documentary Photographer, Emergency Physician
Current location: Seattle, Washington
Connection to Momenta: I first learned of Momenta when I saw their workshop “Photography for Non-Profits” in Sierra Leone on the Leica Akademie website back in 2014. I signed up immediately, and that experience with Momenta galvanized me as a photographer—to work harder, stop fearing failure, learn more in the process, and relish every minute of the journey. I’ve been a very grateful member of the #MomentaFamily ever since!
Tell us about your journey as an image-maker and how you got to where you are today.
My father was passionate about photography, and as a result I have always had a camera in my back pocket since childhood. However, for reasons I still don’t understand, I never pursued formal training or considered photography as a career option. That changed a few years ago, when I was deployed as a physician on a disaster relief trip to the Philippines, and fortuitously ended up serving as the official team photographer in addition to my medical duties. That experience was a turning point for me—I was lucky to have some of my photos published, but more importantly, I realized that while working as a physician was rewarding in that I could help people in need on the ground, what resonated with me most was the opportunity to capture images that told a story of human experience and resilience in the face of adversity that people could relate to universally. Since then, I’ve pursued stories as both a photojournalist and documentary photographer exploring that same theme in a variety of contexts.
What stories or issues are you most passionate about covering?
I love Joel Meyerowitz’s quote, “I want the experience that I am sensitive to to pass back into the world, fixed by chemistry and light to be reexamined.” The stories that I continue to find myself “sensitive to” relate to the theme of people facing challenges, and the universality of human resilience in the face of adversity. Under that umbrella, my stories have ranged from examining the challenges faced by children orphaned by Ebola in Sierra Leone to the formidable obstacles and dangers faced by migrants deported by US Customs & Immigration when they are returned to Mexico.
Where do you look for inspiration for your work: books, movies, authors, photographers, art, certain people?
Place: Annenberg Center for Photography, Los Angeles, CA. When I lived in LA, I came here several times a month. The space is so immersive, you can just bury yourself for hours on end taking in the incredible breadth and quality of work by contemporary photographers on display.
Books: Ansel Adams: The Negative. This book lets you stand on the shoulders of one of the giants of photography and not only see what he saw but most importantly how he saw it. Though written before the advent of digital photography, his discussion of light, exposure, and the zone system are as applicable now as ever. Other books: “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher” (a biography of Edward S. Curtis); just starting to read “Group f.64: Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogene Cunningham, and the Community of Artists Who Revolutionized American Photography.”
Movies: any movie in the Dogme 95 Collective
Fan Ho…Early work, his use of composition and light…
Steve McCurry…Recent hullaballoo aside, his use of shadows in portraiture inspires me to push the envelope of the zone system and exposure in ways I wouldn’t have thought “acceptable.”
Vivian Maier…Because she just f#@&ing went out there and DID it!!
Imogen Cunningham…Her landscapes, botanicals, and dancers series I think are permanently embedded in my subconsious.
What social media or news feeds do you follow regularly?
I am ashamed to admit I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to social media. I love the NY Times Lens Blog…I have my Instagram feeds that I follow…
What is one passion you have outside of photography that might come as a surprise to our readers?
Anything involving water…I love to surf. On the best days, you are propelled by a force of nature and stand on water. On the worst days, I will sit out in the line-up, not catch a single wave and still paddle in euphoric.
What can we expect to see from your “guestagramming” on our Momenta Instagram account?
I’m looking forward to posting some photos from a project that I started during Momenta’s Sierra Leone Momenta Workshop, following children who were orphaned by Ebola, trying to move forward with their lives in new homes and continue their educations. Both the adoptive families and the children themselves are now living in extreme poverty, and each child is on the cusp of losing access to his or her education…I may add a photo or two from my most recent Momenta Workshop in New Orleans, following a student who was training her first service dog for the organization Canine Companions for Independence…During the last few days of my guestagram, I’ll be driving from Seattle to Jackson Hole, WY with a hopeful detour through Glacier National Park, so a few landscape or travel shots just MIGHT sneak in there…
#seizethemomenta, and follow @momentaworkshops on Instagram to see Sara’s work
About the author…
Jen May Pastores
Jen May Pastores is a research and development team member and content developer at Momenta Workshops. Her expertise is in visual communications and social media.