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An Eye for Art: Photojournalist who created ‘Clinging to Keysville’ enjoys telling people’s stories

Photojournalist Camille DeSanto is pictured holding her book titled “Clinging to Keysville.”
Photojournalist Camille DeSanto is pictured holding her book titled “Clinging to Keysville.”

Camille DeSanto is an artist from Keymar.

“I always remember drawing and painting when I grew up. My mom called me doodle bug and carried crayons around for me. I ended up doing a lot of collages made from magazines,” she recalled.

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When she was 9, DeSanto made her own greeting card using stamps and scrapbook paper. She sold the cards and donated the proceeds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

When she was 13, DeSanto was drawn toward photography.

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“I did not have a camera but I was seeing things in pictures. I saw things that I wanted to take pictures of. My first camera was from Walmart,” she said.

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.

The practice made her inherently better.

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.

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“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.”

DeSanto reflected on her journey.

“I like meeting people though photography and telling their story," she said. "I can show people how interesting they are. People see themselves in a different light.”

Her goal is to work for a media outlet like a magazine or website. “I would also like to do freelancing. The industry is turning towards that,” she said.

Her website is CamileDeSanto.com.

Lyndi McNulty is the owner of Gizmo’s Art in Westminster. Her column, An Eye for Art, appears regularly in Life & Times.

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