Current Occupation: Freelance Photographer Workshops: Project Puerto Rico 2018 Instructors: Jamie Rose, Gabi Perez
1. What motivated you to take a workshop and why did you pick Momenta?
Momenta offers a unique opportunity to learn how documentary photography work translates into the nonprofit sector, combining my passion for photography and social impact work.
I joined Project Puerto Rico because it allowed me to work closely with vulnerable subjects in potentially difficult circumstances, while navigating the influence of a different culture and language, as well as a myriad of unforeseen challenges.
In essence, I knew Momenta would push me out of my comfort zone and help me continue to grow as a visual storyteller while also having the opportunity to give back to the citizens of Puerto Rico.
2. What surprised you most about the location you visited or the experience of working with a nonprofit?
I was constantly amazed by the kindness and and generosity of the people I met in Puerto Rico. I photographed with Mujeres Ayudando Madres (MAM), a nonprofit organization that provides holistic education and support for families during pregnancy and childbirth. I was welcomed into the homes and clinic visits of women during a vulnerable time in their lives throughout my time in Puerto Rico. To be given access to photograph these moments was a privilege and I was so grateful for the generosity of the women and their families when they allowed me to do so.
3. What was the best lesson you took away from your workshop?
In day-to-day life, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle. The experience working with my instructors in Puerto Rico was an opportunity to pause. It helped me take steps toward developing confidence in who I am photographer now and think about who I want to be and what I want to do going forward. Walking away from the experience, I’m beginning to trust in myself as a photographer a bit more. I’m starting to think more about what I want to say instead of worrying about what everyone else will think.
4. What was your favorite photograph from this workshop & why?
My favorite photograph was taken when midwives Yariana Feliciana Chico and Michele Perez Chiques made a prenatal visit with Luisa Vazquez and Gabriel Cabrera to their home near San Juan. Luisa was just a few weeks away from her due date and a planned home delivery, so the midwives spent much time making final preparations before going about the routine procedures of measuring for growth and listening to the baby’s heart rate. In this photograph, I loved the beautiful, soft light and the moment-the nervousness and excitement when everyone pauses to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
5. What would you tell a potential student to help them prepare for their experience with Momenta?
Learn as much as you can about the issues behind the work your nonprofit is doing as well as the services they offer, before you arrive. If a nonprofit has not worked with a documentary photographer in the past, it’s important to talk with them and explain to them what you’re doing, how you need to work to achieve the images you’re hoping to capture, and why you’re doing it. Many people associate photography with posed portraits so if you can have these conversations before your workshop starts, so you can hit the ground running when you arrive.
During the workshop, constant communication with the nonprofit staff is key. Make sure you have a solid understanding of the flow of events during your time with a nonprofit so you can anticipate what is coming next and best capture the moments, rather than “catching up” to what is happening. Establishing trust, rapport, and having good communication with your subjects and nonprofit staff is a pivotal part of creating strong images.
On the flip side, expect the unexpected. You may think you have a solid schedule and understanding of what is going to happen, but you have to be flexible as last minute changes are inevitable. Someone won’t show up for an appointment. You’ll get caught in a rainstorm if you have an outdoor activity planned. It’s a balancing act between solid preparation and total flexibility when you shooting. Know this is part of the process and try to embrace the inherent unpredictability of this kind of work.
Join Project Puerto Rico 2019 today and use your photography as a force of change. Full info here.
Sarah is a freelance documentary photographer based in the Washington, DC area. Her work focuses on partnering with nonprofits, NGOs, and social enterprises to create visual stories to raise awareness and inspire action. Sarah’s background working with families as a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist fuels her passion to explore work that centers on education and health.