Not only does Megan Snedden have an awesome first name, but she’s one of the most inspirational people I’ve met here in New York…and that’s saying something. I recently took a photography workshop she was teaching and learned not only how to take better pictures, but I learned more about Megan as a person. Read below for her full story.
Megan, when did you first discover your love for travel and photography?
I first discovered my love for travel and photography after college. I thought I was destined to become a writer, but then my parents gave me a camera on graduation day and I was like, “but what is this!?!” In that moment, church bells started clanging, then the ocean parted to open a new career avenue just for me. It wasn’t exactly that easy, though. I did start working at a photography school where I took occasional workshops and continued to read National Geographic as if it were my job. Just when I started to make plans for my first real, unofficial photography trip abroad, I suddenly went blind.
Five years prior, I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy, which basically means I have a strange kind of arthritis that causes inflammation in my eyes, as well as other parts of my body. The flare up, as doctors called it, was debilitating. My life coach at the time told me to start writing and day dreaming about how I wished to see the world, even though I couldn’t even see the pages in my journal. I spent a lot of time in my imagination, which gave me hope and made me feel happy. When my sight came back, I dedicated my photography practice to capturing optimism, hope, and laughter because this is the way I’d like to see the world: as a place that transcends suffering.
Photography has always been a healing practice to me. Years later, after the loss of my father, it helped me feel like I was carrying on the memory of his spirit through our shared passion. He also used to love photography. This has become the best way I can honor his memory and make it through grief by continuing to focus on the light.
Where are you from? Has your hometown and/or travel influenced your work?
Riverside, California. I suppose it’s one of those towns you spend your life trying to get out of, so travel was a natural conduit for that. It’s very comfortable, but I was always curious about “what’s out there?”
Where do you find inspiration for your photography?
Everywhere, but mostly in day-to-day conversation. The notes section of my iPhone is over-flowing because I’m always writing down ideas I happen to grab on to whenever someone says something that ignites one of my neurons. I also follow my intuition.
What are three pieces of advice you can offer for budding photojournalists?
It is beyond okay to start learning on a basic camera. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles when you’re learning, so go for something within your price range that helps you grow comfortable with aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO. Keep in mind that you have to find out if you even like photography, then you can upgrade.
Fear is a life-long element of photography, as it is with all acts of exploration. So if it feels scary to go somewhere new alone for captivating shots, or if it feels scary to approach someone in the street and ask to take a photo of them, do it any way. For me, I feel worse long-term about the regret of not doing something than I do about short-term nervousness. Once you get into your element, you’ll forget that you’re afraid.
Also, buy a polarizing filter. They are affordable and can really make the colors in your photos pop.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“Just do it.” – Nike.
What is your favorite destination and why?
Ubud, Bali. It’s a zen paradise filled with wholehearted people, and the food is healthy and delicious. It’s really tough to put your camera down there, but when you do, massages are under $10. You can feel good about relieving those sore shoulders of their usual heavy-equipment-carrying duties.
What is your favorite destination to photograph and why?
Argentina. The people there are so passionate about everything: their country, food, love. It makes for great photos.
What are your three favorite places in New York City?
Apotheke Cocktail Bar. It’s a speakeasy in Chinatown where the bartenders wear lab coats and there’s live jazz on most Monday nights.
The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. It’s probably one of the most magical spots in the city: you can sip a glass of rosé, spot fireflies, and watch Venetian-style gondolas float by on the lake.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I just love hipster neighborhoods, plus you can get a picture-perfect view of the Manhattan skyline at sunset.
What inspires your photography? Tell me in the comments below!
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