My Journey Towards Becoming a Well-Rounded Individual by Kedwein Valdez

Alicia Hansen - Friday, February 14, 2014

by Kedwein Valdez
In college, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in schoolwork, jobs, internships, etc. Sometimes you forget to take a step back and remember where you came from and how you got there. There’s a special program that I hold close to my heart that I want to dedicate this post to. NYC SALT, “ a non-profit photography program serving inner city teenagers. Through professionally led instruction, we seek to engage, inspire and empower kids to have a voice in their world and become all that they are created to be.” To the public this might seem like a well-crafted mission statement used to appeal to the masses. Looking at this statement now, I know all too well how accurate these words are. SALT was so much more than just an after school program to me, it was a home away from home. 

As a kid I was always interested in photography, which is what first brought me to their front door. Little did I know I would learn so much more then just photography skills. They taught that sometimes things don’t come automatically; every skill requires you to keep working on it week by week; each time improving just a little more. They taught me to always be open to criticism, because every critic is a new opportunity to learn. At SALT, I learned to look deeper into things and find different meanings. 

I remember when our assignment was to shoot clutter; I took a picture of my grandmother’s room. At the time, I just saw a messy room; although now, after my grandmother has passed away, I see so much more in my own picture. I see so much of whom she was and what she believed in, (things I wouldn’t normally see in glammed up pictures of her). SALT was more than just a photography class. They took the time to help whenever we needed them. When it came to inquiring about scholarships, or just looking over college essays they were always there. So I just wanted to give a big THANK YOU to everyone at SALT, although I don’t show it enough, I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me. You’ve helped shape who I am today.

Soon to be College Freshman....Heriberto Altieri

Alicia Hansen - Friday, June 08, 2012
SALT student for 1 year 
Currently a student at St. John's University
Recipient of the Moth Scholarship 

Written in 2012, the summer before going to college. 

My name is Heriberto Altieri, and I am soon to be a freshman in college, attending Suny Delhi to study Marketing. I joined NYC SALT the beginning of my senior year of high school, and I feel that since I joined NYC SALT doors have been open for me. Photography has become more than taking a photo to me, it has become a way to tell stories and strike emotions without using words. 

My interest in journalism comes from writing and always wanting to be able to document important events that occur in my life or in anyone else’s life as well. I also took a school trip to Columbia University and sat in a seminar discussing journalism majors in college. The reaction I got from my peers when they saw my photos, was an eye opener because I thought I was the only person who understood the emotions I put in my pictures but the power of imagery showed me people can connect with me through my work. 

As I grow as a young man in New York City, I am inspired to become a diverse journalist. In the near future I plan on having a popular website in which I will include different videos and photos, based on different topics on a consistent schedule. In order to fulfill this dream, I have to become a skilled journalist and photographer/videographer. In college, I will take advantage of all the classes that will teach me the skills and techniques, to reach the goals I want to exceed in journalism. NYC SALT will help me be a proficient journalist and an expert with imagery. After NYC SALT I expect to use what I learned and take creativity to a level that I cannot grasp at this point in my life with photography.

Ydalmi Estrella Testimonial

Alicia Hansen - Thursday, May 10, 2012
SALT Student for 3 years. 
Student at Stockton Community College

My name is Ydalmi Argentina Estrella, and I am seventeen years old. I have been studying photography for about three years. It all began when I went on a website called Model Mayhem. Before photography, I wanted to pursue a career in modeling. I would try to set up photo shoots so I could build a portfolio, but I was not successful. On this website, I was inspired by the pictures some of the photographers captured, and thought to myself, "photography might be my calling". 

I decided that I wanted to go from being in front of the lens to behind the lens where I have an opportunity to capture wonderful occurrences in life. After that day, I picked up an old Minolta film camera I had lying around my house, and began shooting. It was a great camera, but after a while, developing the photos became costly. I decided to go online and look for a good camera I could buy that wasn't too expensive. I found a Nikon D40 for $450, and by saving some money every week from my two jobs I managed to buy the camera. Ever since that day, I have been carrying that camera with me everywhere I go. 

Before photography, I felt lost. I did not know what I wanted to do in life. Everyone would always ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", and I’d give a blank stare. With my camera, I've gotten the opportunity to capture pictures that I’d never thought I’d be capable of. I was able to prove to everybody that I could actually be good at something. 

I enjoy taking pictures of open spaces, scenery, abstract nature, and rising models. I could be just about anywhere and take captivating photographs. I consider myself an amateur in photography simply because of the fact that I have so much more to learn. However, I am very proud of my work, and very confident that it can take me far. 

In my NYC Salt program, I’ve gotten the opportunity to gain the confidence in myself I never knew existed. I’ve sold my work and have become rather comfortable speaking in front of a large audience. I am extremely proud and grateful to be a part of such an amazing program. Not only have I developed my photography skills because of this program, but I have also learned how to lose the fear of approaching strangers, learned valuable lessons on how to be professional, learned how to work in a team, and so much more. This program has exposed me to so many great things such as getting scholarships to participate in a photography program at my dream school. 

This previous summer I was given the opportunity to attend the SPI Advanced photography program at Syracuse University. In the limited time I was there, I met some amazing people and experienced many wonderful moments. Our photography teacher for the week, James Kenney, taught me a valuable lesson that I carry with me to this very day. Kenney taught me that not everyone is going to like my work, but despite this, to never give up. This program allowed me to expand my horizon on the various types of photography out there and just go for anything I set my mind to. This program also gave me a gist of what the college life was like, and I loved every single minute of it.

"My Internship With DVF" by Devin Osorio

adam chinitz - Monday, August 01, 2011
SALT student for 8 years 
Student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, majoring in Textiles 
$50,000 in art scholarships 

This is Devin’s essay about the internship he had with Diane Von Furstenberg through a connection one of our photographers had with the company. 

Living the life of a fashion designer is not all about the high fashion glamour and paparazzi annoyance.  It also includes my favorite part, the nitty gritty background work. Work that can be spent sewing beads to nude organza, or photo copying pattern pieces in order to create “the dress”. Interning for the world renown fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, not only taught me this, but let me experience it hands on. 

I started in the beginning of July as a design intern. I created samples for designers to integrate into catwalk pieces. Not only did I learn very helpful and useful sewing techniques, I developed a new way of seeing design.  Before this summer my mind was limited to garments made of only fabric. Now a garment can incorporate just about anything; cork, beads, or even chicken wire! I also learned about life by interacting with the other interns. I learned to enjoy more and to open my horizons! 

Most of the interns are foreign, which is amazing. They they are also older which forced me to mature the more I spoke to them. They spent all their time going out and experiencing New York. They saw and did things I’ve never done in my own city. They inspired me to do the same..... someday. 

I now have friends in London, Israel, San Francisco, France, and the Ukraine! 
Here are a few UK lingo tips I picked up: 
a. Naf, something which is tacky. 
b. Skanky, something which is cheap. 
c. Cheers, used instead of thank you 
d. Fancy, used when you really like someone or something/ used when you have a crush on someone 
e. Fit, someone whom is more than “hot” but “sexually arising” 
f. “You Alright?”, casually asking how someone’s day is going, not in a concerned context. 

We spoke about colleges, since I have to apply soon. I heard their experiences in applying, their expectations and if they were fulfilled. Now I can say truthfully that Central Saint Martins in London is my number one choice! 

The time I spend with these new friends created a “DVF family” and rekindled a dream of mine.... A life of independence, responsibility, and the challenge of living in a new country.... Developing new friends, a new home, and perhaps another “new family”. A family made up of  of roommates and neighbors. Meeting Neil Gilks was very important to me. Neil is the intern king, he runs the program and is an AMAZING human being. I see him as a role model. Not only his successes, but the graceful way he handles them. 

I may love the background work, but I will admit the glamour is fun.  There was always something going on! In the second week Gossip Girl was shooting in the showroom and I got to see some of the stars! There are lots of movies that are filmed near the DVF Showroom, and I have spotted Joseph Gordon-Levitt many times! I was given a singed copy of Diane’s biography. In it she wrote, “enjoy it all + go for it.” After this summer, that is exactly what I plan to do! Now my motto is, “want it, go for it.” The worse “they” can say is “no!”

Danny Martinez Testimonial

Alicia Hansen - Saturday, January 15, 2011

Growing up in the Bronx molded me to be the individual I am today. People associate The Bronx with gangs and violence and it’s universally considered to be a place you would not like to grow up. But the way I look at it, there is beauty in everything. 

I grew up pretty fast, both because of my neighborhood and my four older brothers. Boys being boys, there would often be a “royal rumble” in my room, so I started to take photos of it with an old Polaroid camera my Dad got me. My father was into photography, but when I was around four or five years old, he was in jail for a year. My mom and I would go visit him on a long bus ride. She told me: “This is where your Dad works”. I guess she knew I wouldn’t understand the concept of jail at such a young age. 

I would always bring my Dad some of my photos. Most of them were of my brothers wrestling, some were of the family dog. They always made him happy. I thought it was cool that a simple photo could make somebody smile and laugh. I realized at a young age that images evoke emotion. As I got older and experimented with photography, I began to make other people smile as well. Telling stories without a single word is one of the most appealing things to me. No matter how complex your vision, it can always be translated into a photograph. 

Photography helps me see different perspectives. Having a quiet personality, it has helped me feel more comfortable talking with people: telling them about my work, letting them know why I made a certain photo or simply describing the point I had tried to capture. I love reactions to my photos; it’s the best feeling when somebody smiles or just stares, clueless, trying to figure out technically, how I made it. 

My Dad passed away from cancer when I was 16 years old and that really changed things for me. It made me appreciate life more and recognize that our time here is limited. Being exposed to the danger and poverty of my neighborhood also made me appreciate the basic things in life. It encouraged me to not waste my talent and to try to take up Gandhi’s challenge: “Be the change you want to see in this world”. 

Teenagers are faced with a harsh reality nowadays. I want to make a change, starting in my community. I want to give teenagers a resource besides school where they can focus their talents. My goal is to create an after school program for teenagers who are interested in art: Drawing, Photography, Cinematography, Sculpting, and more. I want to help kids who are less fortunate than I was. Whether it’s with one kid or one hundred kids, I’m determined to have an impact. 

 In this world I feel everybody is an artist, they just have to find their medium.


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