I Trained With National Geographic
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
Good Afternoon everyone!
Welcome to this Thursday's blog. This week has been...guess what? Busy! I'm loving it. As my regular's know, I start my blogs off with a little update with my life, so here it goes:
Black Dog closed this Sunday and we received great feedback! Some from the audience, and some from the adjudicators. I even got interviewed. My first acting interview! Wow it is scary speaking to a journalist on your feet like that after the rush of a show. Thank God for improv training.
Performing is such an adrenaline rush, it's like a drug. I can't wait for the opportunity to do that again, whether it be on stage or on screen. Getting so involved with your character that all you can see is the moment you're in right now... is a blessing. It's what every actor hopes to achieve, and luckily I have been able to achieve it every night. A sense of "blacking out" they may call it. The best way to describe it is the feeling of perhaps being blind and you receive all your senses by touch, by feeling. You have no idea where you've been, where you're going, but you don't feel lost. It's a euphoria. When you get out of your head and into your primal senses. There is no feeling of inhibition, however, true instincts.
This week I am happy to have six auditions so far completed, two more to go! I have been talking to two different agencies about potential representation, and I have been selected for a lottery audition. There is a lottery audition for eastern market actors (eastern US) and thousands of people can sign up, however only 132 get selected, and I happen to be one of them! In order to prepare for it, last night I went to a class in DC where I was coached along other selected actors. My audition is on Saturday! Eek! I will perform in front of dozens of casting directors representing local casting agencies, independent film, TV, commercial, voiceovers and theatres. I am pumped.
Something that happens in many auditions is the someone behind the table will say "Tell us About Yourself." And you've gotta have a little elevator pitch. Something that they can't find on your resume, and most likely something that doesn't have to do with acting. To them I normally talk about how at eight years old I started up my own photography business, then ended up traveling abroad and training with National Geographic. Because, perhaps, that was one of the coolest experiences of my life.
How It All Happened
Growing up, I was quite the audiodidact (still am) and I constantly need some type of stimulus, something to do. It was spring of 2008 when I asked my mom if I could borrow her Canon camera. She of course said no, being that I've never held one before. However, I pleaded until she finally said yes. For a few hours I went around photographing nature and my sister, and I came back with some pretty cool photos. My mom was super impressed. A few years later, she bought me my very first camera. Since then, I've loved taking pictures and I am constantly teaching myself new techniques. By high school, my technique was picking up, and I was saving a good amount of photography money for college. I was getting pretty serious about it, and started looking into art schools around the country. My junior year, my parents suggested I take some photography classes, since I was always self-taught.
I did extensive research to find some classes, or a program that will help me sharpen my skills. After clicking on too many websites to count, I came across National Geographic, and their student expeditions. I read into it and found out that I could travel abroad, and study among an elite group of hand-selected photographers, as I studied under one of the best photographers in the world. But, there was an admission process. I had to get recommendation letters among a whole array of questions in this huge application, I even had to write an essay. Hundreds of people applied every year, however only about twenty were accepted. Just going for it, I didn't think I'd be selected so I didn't bother to check the price. I think I even forgot I applied after a little while.
It was a snow day in February and I went out to IHOP with a group of friends. I received an email for the National Geographic Society saying I was one of the elite photographers to be accepted for this program. I couldn't believe it. I barely reacted at all. It was something way over my head. My first thought was, "How am I going to pay for this." It was a program neither I nor my parents could afford. I was hesitant to tell them I got accepted. Once I did, they expressed their congratulations for being admitted to such an amazing program, then they expressed their regret because they couldn't send me to participate. My oldest brother, an avid supporter of my photography, chimed in. Before I could say no, he sent me a check that covered the whole tuition. For him, and for all of my family, I am so grateful.
Heading to Barcelona
More than you can probably imagine, I was extremely excited.
I am someone that craves adventure, in any shape, way, size, or form.
I packed my bags for weeks, packing and unpacking, and repacking, just from mere excitement. Before this news, I had never really left the country, and here I was, going alone, as a sixteen-year old, to a place I've known no one to go, with a group of people I have never met. I was thrilled.
I brushed up on my Spanish for weeks, and my photography.
I arrived to JFK Airport with a suitcase in hand to be greeted by the American students of this trip. the first time I ever stepped foot on a 7-4-7. Arriving to Barcelona, I met my teacher, my mentor, and the international students. We were taken to our hostel (the first time I have ever that word), and given our rooms.
In the mornings, we were taught technique for hours, being taught by Tino Soriano. Reviewing photos from the days before, and addressing new techniques to be practiced in our long summer days. Tino Soriano, a Barcelona native, was one of the most generous, kind, and gifted people I have met to this day. Instead of a huge DSLR, he walked around with a little Leica M6, with a fixed lens, hanging around his neck. This allowed him to hide in the crowds of people, to get up close to subjects without them feeling threatened, to create art on a very vulnerable, personal level. Arriving to the program, I didn't think much of his photography, but once we started discussing art and the importance of colors, composition, and human nature, I was overwhelmed by Soriano's true gift and true humanity. My best way to describe Tino is to say that you can see God in him.
We didn't study how to take a picture, we studied how to spot art in real life, the comedic and beautiful timing of it, and to capture it.
I quickly learned that Barcelona was in the process of separating from Spain, so they didn't speak Spanish! I had a difficult time getting around. People could understand me, but I couldn't understand them! We either took very long bus rides or walked miles to reach a destination. Us as students in the National Geographic Society were immersed in culture and art. Tino always made sure we knew that.
We traveled many places by bus and foot, and met some amazing people along the way. They all greeted us with smiles and let us capture them on camera. Something very different than American culture... in Spain, strangers let you take their picture, in fact they invite you to! I befriended a great group of six girls, and we took on Barcelona together. Through the nights of no sleep, the strong heat of the July Barcelona sun, the funny people we met, and the beautiful sights we saw along the way... these friends meant so much to me, and we check up on each other every now and then. My first time being so far away from home, I was extremely home-sick, but these girls made it so much better.
Photography was no longer the art of capturing a cool photo, but the art of capturing life. It became a life-changing perspective for me. Something that many people don't find beautiful, does have beauty to it. To be a photographer is to truly have an "eye". Not an eye for "oh yeah this would look cool!" But an "eye" to know that everything is beautiful.
We traveled to the ends of Barcelona. From Cadaques, to Muntayna Russa and so many places afar and in between. It was two weeks with no disruption of a cell phone, or a tv show, or even a book. It was two weeks of extensive learning, and extensive living.
I had dreams of becoming a photographer for National Geographic. Everything about it seemed wonderful. Until Day 4 of the workshop kicked in and I realized I had about 8 days to capture amazing art through the depths of Barcelona. Art that wrapped up all that we had learned. Wow, was it stressful. The stress of trying to create art from people or places that maybe did not want to be art. Sure, we saw super cool places, but a lot of us in the expedition captured the same subjects. We all had to have different photographs to present for the gallery. Thus, it became competitive.
The gallery was a National Geographic Gallery on the streets of Barcelona, presented by us, the students, to showcase the breathtaking culture of Barcelona. It would represent the National Geographic Society as a whole, and for many of us, it would be our first accredited art gallery. Art for the realm of Barcelona and the National Geographic Society to see.
The whole workshop became a preparation for this gallery. A preparation to wait around for hours to capture the best shot we possibly could. This is when I realized, perhaps, I don't want to do this for a living. Your whole career can sometimes depend off of one shot. Once money and reputation were theoretically involved, it was no longer was fun to me. Until one day, I gave up.
I ditched the cool shot everyone else was getting and I decided to let go and have fun, and mess around for a little bit. Eyes always captured me. Someone's eyes. Eyes are the first thing I notice in people. I had a friend in the group who had striking orange hair and blue eyes. Complimentary colors! I decided to take a shot of her.
Later that night, us students went back into the studio to start editing today's photos. I decided I wanted to edit the eye photo, see what I could do with it. I was tired of stressing out, I just wanted to mess around with this picture until it was time to go to sleep.
When it came time to get our pictures reviewed, I thought the "Eye" picture would never cut it. It has nothing to do with Barcelona, I thought. I asked my mentor to review it just to see what he would say, not thinking anything of it. He fell in love with the photo. He asked me to use it for my gallery piece. I was puzzled since it went against his photography technique, why would he pick this photo? Being a photo filled with fun and love for the art, I said I'd use it.
The mentors decided my photo should be the gallery opener. The first piece.
Oftentimes, I look back on this trip. How it's affected my view of the world today. How it's informed my acting, my music, my photography, my faith, and so much more. Perhaps if everyone could see the beauty in the world just as Tino Soriano does, we'd all be walking examples of true humanity, true art.
Thank you all for reading.