Five Questions with Marc Alter
Current Occupation: Teacher/Instructional coach
Workshops: Project New Orleans
Instructors: Jamie Rose, Eva Russo, Marianna Hawkins Sabrier, Annie Flanagan, Nicholas Pinto, Emanuel Echeverri
1. What motivated you to take a workshop and why did you pick Momenta?
I felt a need to push myself out of my photographic comfort zone. For me, this meant becoming better at making photos of people, and ideally photos of people in candid/documentary style. I was also searching for a way to do something positive with my photographic skills. Learning to take photos that support the mission of nonprofit agencies seemed like a perfect way to meet my combined goals.
The deciding factor in my choice of Momenta was Jamie Rose. She spent a lot of time answering my questions and discussing my goals with me through email and phone calls. I could just tell it was going to be a good fit.
2. What surprised you most about the country you visited or the experience of working with a nonprofit?
I’m not a professional photographer so I was surprised how quickly I fell into the role of being a photographer while onsite. It was sort of watching myself and saying “who is this guy?”. I gained an entirely different and surprising perspective of myself and my abilities.
3. What was the best lesson you took away from your workshop?
You have to be dialed into the job at hand at all times. Keep shooting even when you think you are done shooting. Keep moving, seeing, and listening. Get closer and closer still. Watch for moments and be ready to capture them.
4. What was your favorite photograph from this workshop & why?
I accompanied a group of teachers and students from Grow Dat Youth Farm to the community of Diamond in Norco. Diamond is adjacent to a Shell Oil refinery where major explosions occurred in 1973 and 1988. During the visit, we met with a woman who lived in Diamond most of her life and she described how both disasters continue to negatively impact the health and economy of its residents to this day. After the group left I stayed behind to talk to the woman and to hear more of her story. I took photos the entire time that we spoke. Interestingly enough my favorite photo isn’t the best from the series. From a technical standpoint it has some problems, but to me, it captures a turning point in my confidence, sense of storytelling, and ability to deeply connect with the person in front of my lens.
5. What would you tell a potential student to help them prepare for their experience with Momenta?
Get to know as much as possible about your nonprofit before you go to work with them. Communicate with them in advance. Understand their mission. Study the photos and media they are currently using. It also helped me to look at similar nonprofits to see how they market their work.
Approach your time in the workshop as though you are a blank slate. Be open to absorbing all of the knowledge and experience you will gain from your time with Momenta, no matter how much experience you already have.
After the workshop, commit to a project. Don’t wait! Do it while you have the momentum. I actually started writing email inquiries to local nonprofits on my flight home. Create opportunities to practice and apply everything you learned so you will continue to grow.
Marc Alter’s Biography:
Marc is a teacher who lives in Columbus, Ohio. Photography has been a part of his life since he was a young child. His parents helped him turn my bedroom closet into a darkroom and he has been hooked ever since. In addition to being a creative outlet, photography is one of the many ways he enjoys connecting with the world. It always offers new challenges and fascinating possibilities.
See Marc’s work: