Five Questions with James Talalay
Current Occupation: Freelance commercial producer. Photographer, mostly working on personal projects
Workshops: Project Sierra Leone
Instructors: Jamie Rose, Chris Anderson, Charlotte Kesl
1. What motivated you to take a workshop and why did you pick Momenta?
I live overseas, moving to a new international location every two, three years and I was looking for a way to use my photography skills in local places of need. I chose Momenta for two reasons: the workshop purpose of NGO work was applicable to what I planned to pursue and the specific workshop location (Sierra Leone) was attractive.
2. What surprised you most about the country you visited or the experience of working with a nonprofit?
I was most surprised how sometimes an NGO’s vision/purpose might not be clear, or, at least, not so easy to visually capture. I learned that one may need to develop ideas, scenarios to transfer an NGO’s mission into a visual story. I did more work developing the story than shooting the story. The time I spent on research and developing a relationship with the NGO yielded better images.
3. What was the best lesson you took away from your workshop?
How to shoot in a documentary style, which is not the way I normally go about my work. I learned to adjust my eye, to develop different reasons for taking photographs, to prioritize different visual information than I do in my own work. It’s definitely a conscious process, a learned process.
4. What was your favorite photograph from this workshop & why?
My favorite photograph from the workshop shows a teacher from an orphanage. It’s a portrait with a spiritual feel, showing her divine expression among the many details of the orphanage. A bit of serenity, hope among the chaos.
5. What would you tell a potential student to help them prepare for their experience with Momenta?
Come ready to work, not that it’s a surprise, the workshop isn’t a travel/camera club experience. Treat it like your full time job and you should see good results. The support is there, take advantage of the time. Try to contact your NGO ahead of time and get as far as you can in terms of figuring out what you want to do, what the NGO is like, who there can best help you. Once you start the workshop, you’ll be that much closer to starting to photograph.
James Talalay’s Biography:
James is a freelance commercial producer with 30 years of experience in production work on movies, TV shows, and commercial projects.
See James‘s work: