Guestagrammer of the Week: Meghan Dhaliwal
Momenta welcomes this week’s guestagrammer, Meghan Dhaliwal!
Current job: Freelance Photojournalist
Current location: Mexico City, Mexico
Connection to Momenta: Professional Panelist for The Business of Nonprofit Photography: Washington D.C. 2014
Tell us about your journey as an image-maker and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always loved pictures–making pictures, looking at pictures, talking about pictures. But more than that I love stories, and I’m interested in people. I knew these things about myself from about high school age and so I pursued a journalism career with a photojournalism track at Boston University. My junior year, the Pulitzer Center added BU to their campus consortium program and my senior year I applied to be the BU student fellow. I got the gig, got paired up with an awesome student from the School of Public Health, and we went to Haiti and did a project on cholera becoming endemic in the country. I could go on a tangent here about cholera in Haiti but I won’t…(it is so hard not to)….but definitely check out the reporting. The work I did was certainly not the best I’ve ever done, but it was an eye-opening experience in a lot of ways. When I got back from the trip, I worked as an intern for a few months and then got hired full-time as the Pulitzer Center’s multimedia projects coordinator. I did a lot of things in that role, including curating exhibitions, editing videos, designing e-books and doing education workshops. I loved my job and adored the staff at Pulitzer, but I always knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to work as a journalist full-time. In December 2014, I left DC and in February 2015 moved to Mexico City to pursue a freelance career. It has been an insane few months. I’m learning Spanish and learning how to live in a very new place, I’m shooting more, I’m doing research (which I love) for other photographers as an extra income flow, and I’m sorting it out. It is a slow process and sometimes I get so impatient and frustrated because I just want to have it all figured out. However, as everyone here in Mexico reminds me (and I often have to remind myself): poco a poco. Little by little.
What stories or issues are you most passionate about covering?
I think the stories that I find myself drawn to telling are stories of people dealing with the consequences of natural disasters or conflict. I think I’m especially drawn to stories about public health issues because they’re so often invisible to the naked eye, which makes them hard to tell photographically.
Where do you look for inspiration for your work: books, movies, authors, photographers, art, certain people?
This is my favorite question and the hardest one to answer because my list feels endless.
For authors: I just finished reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of short stories, “Interpreter of Maladies” and am feeling really inspired by the power of succinct storytelling. I also adore Teju Cole, whose work I came across when he tweeted his “drone short stories” a few years ago.
For art: I love Mexican folk art, and often find myself on an idle afternoon strolling in to the Museo de Arte Popular to look at the Alebrijes, or making the pilgrimage to see Frida Kahlo’s house in Coyoacan. I love the bold ways themes get tackled in Mexican art–especially death and love. My other favorite art form is dance, and strangely the way I’m most exposed to dance now is via Instagram. I love following my favorite dancers and companies–I find the way they move and (weirdly?) the way they construct their formations to be really inspiring compositionally.
As far as photographers, I have too many favorites to name. I’m inspired by people who tell great stories and find ways to show the world an issue with empathy and prowess.
What social media or news feeds do you follow regularly?
I’m an avid reader of The New York Times and the Washington Post, and as of late the English-language news site Mexico News Daily. I also love following what Pulitzer Center journalists are doing (subscribe to their newsletter!) because you get to see longer-form storytelling about issues that don’t often make the front pages.
What is one passion you have outside of photography that might come as a surprise to our readers?
I actually grew up riding horses and have always loved being around those animals. Since moving to Mexico I’ve been able to go riding a number of times and am always trying to make more opportunities for myself to be in the saddle. There is something about communicating and working with an 1,100 lb animal that helps put the world in perspective–sometimes you’re gonna have a great time and other times you’re gonna end up on your ass.
What can we expect to see next week from your “guestagramming” on our Momenta Instagram account?
I spent two weeks in Afghanistan in the summer of 2014 for a newspaper assignment with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through the Pulitzer Center. The story we were working on was about the drawdown–how do you pack up America’s longest war? When I wasn’t working on the daily newspaper assignments, I was working on the series I’ll be guestagramming: an attempt illustrate what the packing up of a war actually looks like. I had never been on a military base abroad before this trip, and was fascinated by the fact that this very alien environment seemed to be shrinking around me. The images I’m going to instagram are unpublished outside of my personal website, and a VERY small slice of the drawdown effort.
#seizethemomenta, and follow @momentaworkshops on Instagram August 2 – 8 to see Meghan’s thoughtful work!
About the author…
Manuela Marin Salcedo
Manuela Marin Salcedo is a research and development team member and content developer at Momenta Workshops. Her expertise is in visual communications and social media.