DeSanto got her first “real” camera her sophomore year of high school. She got a Cannon Rebel E3I. At first, she took photographs of her yard, flowers and pets.
“I did not take my first good photograph until I was 15” she said. “I took a photo of a wine glass at sunset. I was so excited that people liked my photograph that it encouraged me to do more.”
She began to take photographs of people that she describes as more journalistic or documentary in style. DeSanto was prioritizing the moment and what was in the camera frame. That became more important to her than the aesthetic of the photograph. As an example, “I took a picture of a man playing a guitar on the street. He had his guitar case laid open for tips. There was a dog laying in the case. So, she took a photo of the dog in the case,” DeSanto explained.
In high school, DeSanto took the yearbook class in her junior and senior years at Francis Scott Key. As a senior, she was editor and chief of the yearbook. She learned a lot working on the yearbook and grew as a photographer.
“I learned how to make people comfortable when taking their picture. Also, I learned how to approach people and get them to say yes to having their photograph taken,” she said.
DeSanto went to Rockport, Maine to participate in a workshop at the Maine Media Workshops and College (maidmedia.edu). She took a two-week advanced photography program. Students have attended classes there for more than four decades and have come from 44 countries. Many successful photographers have studied there. The school offers photography, film and media courses. Well-known local photographer, author and retired McDaniel College professor Sue Bloom teaches at the college every year.
That program changed everything for DeSanto. She learned how to operate her camera fully manually. Before she just used it set on the automatic feature. She also learned how to edit in Photoshop.
“I learned different ways to see and compose pictures that are visually interesting. The rule of thirds was instilled in the photography class in high school. It means that you need to have everything on a 3 x 3 grid. It was a restrictive way of thinking. I learned that the photograph can be however you want it to be and you can loosen up,” DeSanto said.
Currently, DeSanto is majoring in photojournalism as a junior at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She is studying to get a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and minoring in “Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship" (innovation.gwu.edu).
According to DeSanto, her photojournalism studio classes at GWU have been the most impactful in her artistic journey.
“I have learned how to make a narrative with pictures and how to tell a story. I also learned what elements you need to tell a story,” DeSanto said.
DeSanto created a book titled “Clinging to Keysville,” which is a photographic essay about life and the people in Keysville.
“I made sure that I presented a good understanding of what the area looked like,” she said. “The book opens with photographs of local landscapes that provide the context of where the people of Keysville live and work. Then the book focuses on the people living there. It is about life and death. It is about how people live in rural America. It shows what remains of rural American through Keysville.”