In this new interview series, we learn more about our instructors’ journey as photographers and teachers.
Tell us about your journey as a photographer.
I got my first camera 25 years ago when my wife and I received a film SLR as a wedding present. Trained as a computer engineer with a masters in Computer Science, I spent the next 20 years as a high-tech entrepreneur while teaching myself photography on my free time using books and magazines.
In 2015, I finally decided to shift my career to photography. I studied photojournalism at Santa Monica College. The rapid success of my early work earned me invitations to the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop and the Missouri Photo Workshop and even an assignment with National Geographic.
Since then my photographs have been published by The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC News, and many other publications. In 2018, I published my first photobook with the great German publisher Kehrer Verlag: Venice Beach, the Last Days of a Bohemian Paradise.
Five-year-old Jackson watches a boa constrictor while another slithers toward his mom Jenna, relaxing nearby in the sand. A street performer entrusted the two locals with his large boas while taking a quick break from the bustle of the Venice Boardwalk. Around the boy and the two snakes, no one seems to pay attention to the unusual tableau.
Please share a story or highlight from your time on one of our workshops
There’s no single story or highlight since there are so many teachings I took with me from Momenta and now apply day in and day out in my work. “Can I come with you?” is a favorite Jamie Rose teaching I often use with my documentary subjects, for example.
Do you have a teaching pedagogy or a favorite teaching story?
It’s important to start by teaching photographers the basic ingredients to look for in order to craft a successful documentary image. Once they know what to look for, it’s much easier for them to identify the right opportunities, position themselves in the right spot, and press the shutter at the right moment. I’m also a big believer in giving lots of positive reinforcement to students when they do something right while remaining honest and specific with them as to what they can improve and how.
Can you tell us a bit about working with nonprofits as a photographer and an instructor for Momenta?
Nonprofits provide an unparalleled opportunity to Momenta’s students who instantly become documentary photographers with all the access, the thrill, and the drive to document a cause of a professional assignment. I’m always amazed at how students always rise up to the challenge and assemble a complete photo story in only a few days. As an instructor, it’s a magical experience to get to guide them on that journey, witness the difference it makes for their nonprofit and the pride students take in the result.
Eating a sandwich and talking to a dog while passing a joint to a mysterious hand already holding a cigarette… A lot is going on in this old van parked outside the Venice Beach dog park where the bohemian lifestyle is in full swing.
What stories or issues are you most passionate about covering?
I wish I had a more strategic approach to my work but I don’t tend to look at issues from the top down. I usually get curious about a social issue I can gain access to and then start pulling the thread.
Right now, my curiosity is piqued by the phenomenon of vehicle dwellers in Los Angeles: how does the housing crisis affect this movement? Who are the people who live that way? Do they choose to live this way or fall into it? What is it like for them on a day to day basis? How do they deal with the stigma? Etc.
Finally, would you please share a piece of advice or some wisdom with anyone interested in taking a Momenta workshop?
I have taken some of the most prestigious photojournalism workshops and Momenta is the only workshop I know that actually sends its students on a real assignment for a client organization. I can not emphasize enough how unique and transformational an experience that is.
About Dotan Saguy
Dotan Saguy was born in a small kibbutz five miles south of Israel’s Lebanese border. He grew up in a diverse working-class Parisian suburb, lived in Lower Manhattan during 9/11 and moved to Los Angeles in 2003.
After a successful career as a high-tech entrepreneur, Dotan shifted his focus to his lifelong passion for photography. He studied photojournalism at Santa Monica College. The instant success of his early street photography work earned him invitations to the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop and the Missouri Photo Workshop and even an assignment with National Geographic. Since then Dotan’s award-winning photographs have been published by The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC News, and many other publications.
Most recently, Dotan is a proud laureate of the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 and his first monograph about the endangered culture of Venice Beach, CA was just released by German publisher Kehrer Verlag.
Dotan is currently working on several ground-breaking long-term projects including a photo documentary about vehicle dwellers in Venice, CA. Dotan lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. His professional portfolio can be seen here.