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When I was little, my family had two point-and-shoot cameras. I loved taking photos of things that caught my eye, which others were not looking at. Eventually, in middle school, I joined the camera club. This was not a popular club, but for me, going to historical sites and taking photos was more exciting than joining the movie club.
I studied art history in college in Texas. We had to take a black-and-white film class and I loved working in the darkroom. One day, my instructor showed me a James Nachtwey documentary, with a warning about the graphic violence. The film played a huge role in my motivation to make a career out of photojournalism. After graduating from college in 2013, I moved to New York and studied documentary photojournalism at the International Center of Photography. At the time, I didn’t know anything about aperture, shutter speed or other photography techniques. But over time, I learned, and to this day, I am still learning new techniques to improve my photography.
Initially, I wanted to become an art conservator, who restored paintings and sculptures. During my studies, I learned about 19th-century Impressionism, where painters often featured working-class subjects going about their daily lives. These painters and their subjects inspired me so much that when I discovered photography in my third year of university, I felt compelled to document similar everyday situations.
My first assignment was for a New York paper—a portrait of a man who was acquitted in a 2012 murder after serving two years at Rikers Island prison. He hadn’t admitted guilt throughout, which contributed to his release. I was extremely nervous throughout the interview at the office of the man’s lawyers and photographed everything in the office. The paper ran one photo: a group shot of the man and his two lawyers. It was a photo I hadn’t thought much of and when I saw it in print, I was determined to take better photos moving forward, so I immersed myself in news articles each day to gain inspiration from the photos that ran with them. I’ve grown a lot as a photographer since that day.
I covered the Harvey Weinstein trial from beginning to end. It was especially memorable doing so as a woman and seeing how the story gained global attention. Court coverage is not easy. Everything moves quickly, and you have to navigate the situation smartly. Things are unpredictable and you never know what’s going to happen. Interestingly, at the beginning of the trial, I was one of the only females covering it. But by the last day, more women were covering it—a testament to the journalism world recognising the need for greater representation.
Covering parades and breaking news excites me the most. There’s amazing energy during parades. People are happy and show that happiness in many ways. You can bask in the atmosphere and find just the right moments to capture that happiness. There’s a lot of chaos in breaking news, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the most moving, impactful moments to capture in the middle of it all. That is the beauty of photojournalism.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in photography is to just keep photographing and to be patient. Make meeting people and listening to their stories the priority and the photos will come. And, as one of my mentors once told me, approach every assignment like it’ll be your last.
My mom and my sister are the people I respect most. My mom raised three girls by herself, which was very tough. By her example, I learned to appreciate and value independent women. My sister is one of my best friends. She encourages me and gives me support to keep moving forward in my career.