“Be prepared for the unexpected”

Diana Markosian is a documentary photographer and writer. She holds a master’s from Columbia Journalism School, where she was introduced to photography. Since her graduation in 2010, her work has appeared in the New York Times, Time.com, NPR, Le Monde, The Sunday Times, Marie Claire, Global Post, amongst others.

We spoke with her about how she turned her passion for visual journalism into a full-time job.

CV: How did you make the leap from being a student to professional?

DM: I knew I wanted to be a photographer. I didn’t necessarily know what that meant or how to get there, but I figured moving overseas would give me some sort of an adventure. I had about 10 images in my portfolio (all shot within a few months of finishing grad school). Once I moved to Moscow, I met with photo editors and showed the images I had in my portfolio. It wasn’t anything impressive, but I knew I needed more time to build an actual portfolio. I started to work with some of the wire services, newspapers while also pursuing personal projects.

CV: Do you remember how and when you got your first big photo assignment?

DM: Of course. I don’t know if it is was ‘big,’ but it meant a lot to me. I was in Russia, documenting heroin addicts in the outskirts of Moscow. I had shown a few of the images to an editor at Reuters. A few weeks later, he called me and asked if I could pass along my contacts to his writer. He followed up by asking me to shoot the feature for them. It felt pretty special. I knew he had a handful of staff photographers he could have used, but he took a chance on me.

CV: What was the biggest hurdle when you started? How did you overcome it?

DM: Photography, whether we like to admit it or not, is, by and large, a male-dominated field. It is sometimes hard to be taken seriously. Not sure if this is something you really overcome. I think there’s a lot I’ve had to prove – both to myself and to others.

CV: What are some of the tricks that help you when you are in the field?

DM: Travel light. Be prepared for the unexpected.  Learn to slow down and be able to reflect on what you experience. Oftentimes I find that writing clarifies in my own mind how I feel about something. This is part of developing as an artist. You have to step out of your life to see where you are going.

CV: What advice would you give to someone that is starting a career in photojournalism?

DM: Go make shit. The people who I admire – painters, writers, and other photojournalists- are able to do something with nothing. They’re seeing the world differently.

 

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