Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Jun 25, 2020 at 10:00 am – Jun 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm

The Foundations of a Photographic Voice: Writing our Origins

Led by Alyssa Schukar

Please note: Due to COVID-19, UnionDocs workshops are being held remotely, over video conference.

We’ve restructured the experience to optimize this format, offering a functional rhythm and pace, while continuing the strong combination of theory, practice, expert feedback and community that participants love.

Photographs reveal a glimpse into the lives of others and have the potential to communicate the interconnectedness of our world. A successful image transcends the exact moment or composition captured, revealing universal themes and ideas with a clear voice. But how do photographers develop that clarity?

The photographer Rodney Smith said that a strong voice means the photographer has figured out a way to express their feelings, “talent, then, becomes not so much artistic talent, though that may be a good part of it, but rather emotional talent.”  In The Foundations of a Photographic Voice: Writing Our Origins, we will help participants find their unique vision by honoring what and how they see. Having a strong photographic vision isn’t seeing differently from others, rather, it’s tapping into the wells of our experiences and learning how to authentically express yourself. 

Lead instructor Alyssa Schukar, an award-winning Washington, D.C.-based photojournalist and frequent contributor to The New York Times, will share her process of internal reflection, her influences and inspirations, and practical skills on how she documents the lives of others with empathy and a visual sophistication. This workshop is geared toward participants, nascent or seasoned in photography, who are looking to improve their narrative documentary photography practice and fine-tune their photographic voice. While we are not able to meet in person, this workshop is designed to take advantage of our time at home, leading participants to reflect on what issues and themes matter to them and why. Stemming from written exercises, Writing Our Origins will guide participants in creating a photo story based on their daily lives, their family, and their origins. What feels significant? What do participants notice?

Through group discussions, exercises, and shared works-in-process, participants will clarify their voice by considering what perspectives and experiences influence their worldview. We’ll reflect on other photographers’ images, and how our own photographic efforts have affected how we understand our world. The workshop will feature a host of veteran photographers: Saiyna Bashir (The New York Times, NPR) who will drawing from her roots to capture demanding human rights issues from a place of understanding; Mexican-American visual journalist and digital producer Sebastian Hidalgo (ProPublica, Washington Post) who will speak to his use of photography to engage and explore many of today’s social and humanitarian issues affecting communities of color; Hannah Reyes Morales (National Geographic Explore, The Atlantic) whose work is focused on individuals mired in complex situations created by inequality, poverty, and impunity; and Idris Talib Solomon (The New York Times, Host of Black Shutter Podcast) looking to his own backyard for his photographic voice, and the ethics of capturing black and brown communities.


Intended for early- to mid-career photographers who want to develop their documentary approach and their ‘visual voice.’

Give us an idea of who you are and why you are coming. When you register you will be asked for a short statement of interest that should briefly describe your experience and a film project (it would be great if you have a project in progress that you would present to the group during the work-in-progress critique sessions), plus a bio. There’s a spot for a link to a work sample.

$295 early bird registration by June 22nd, 2020 at 5PM.

$350 regular registration.

The deposit is non-refundable. Should you need to cancel, you’ll receive half of your registration fee back until June 22nd. After June 22nd, the fee is non-refundable.

As this is an online workshop, participants must be fully proficient using and operating their computers.

To register for a workshop, students must pay in full via card, check, or cash . After the early bird registration deadline of June 22nd, course fees are not refundable or transferable and any withdrawals or deadlines will result in the full cost of the class being forfeit. There will be no exceptions. To withdraw from a course please email info-at-uniondocs.org.

In the event that a workshop does not receive sufficient enrollment, it may be canceled. Students will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the start of a cancelled workshop and will be refunded within 5 business days. If we reschedule a workshop to another date, students are also entitled to a full refund. UnionDocs reserves the right to change instructors without prior notification, and to change class location and meeting times by up to an hour with 48 hours prior notice.

Please note: Participants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.


Thursday, June 25, – 4:00p - 8:00p

Introduction & Welcome with Alyssa Schukar 

AM: Presentation and discussion with Alyssa Schukar 

PM: Participant Works-In-Progress

Friday, June 26 – 10:00a - 4:00p

AM: Presentation and Discussion with Hannah Reyes Morales

PM: Participant Exercise and Discussion

Saturday, June 27 – 10:00a - 4:00p

AM: Presentation and Discussion with Saiyna Bashir

PM: Presentation and Discussion with Idris Talib Solomon

Sunday, June 28 – 10:00a - 4:00p

AM: Presentation and Discussion with Sebastian Hidalgo

PM: Participant Exercise and Discussion

Each day follows this general structure, with some minor variations and substitutions:


Warm up, inspiring references, case study, eye training.


Presentation by guest speaker + individual work-in-progress critique




Share / Discussion / Exercise


Lunch (on your own)


Presentation by guest speaker + individual work-in-progress critique


Workshop Exercise + Critique


Wrap up!


Alyssa Schukar is a Washington, D.C.- and Chicago-based photojournalist and educator. In her personal work, she is most interested in documenting how the environment and public policies affect communities. Some of these images were honored with Cliff Edom’s “New America Award.”

Alyssa is a frequent contributor to the New York Times. Her images have also appeared in the National Geographic magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic and TIME magazine. National commercial clients include US Bank, UPS, Chase and Glenmorangie. She believes photojournalists advance and improve the industry by supporting each other. In 2019, Alyssa and two colleagues launched Prism Photo Workshop, which provides support and advocacy for young photographers of diverse backgrounds. Alyssa is a returning faculty member at the Missouri Photo Workshop and has taught at several universities. She has also taught photography workshops in New York City and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International and the National Press Photographers Association have honored her work. She was a still photography judge in 2019 for the NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism competition and the Perry Photo Challenge.

Alyssa is a native of the Great Plains and a proud graduate of the University of Nebraska. She has worked professionally in several countries outside of North America, including Afghanistan, India, Scotland, and France.

Saiyna Bashir is a Pakistani photojournalist currently based in Islamabad.  She works on international assignments for the New York Times, Thomson Reuters, The Telegraph, the Huffington Post, the Associated Press, NPR, Al-Jazeera English and others.  She also serves as a consultant to Unicef.  She has extensive training and workshop experience and is available for news, feature and portrait assignments in Pakistan and South Asia.

Sebastián Hidalgo is an independent visual journalist, writer, and digital producer. His work focus on a range of social and systemic issues affecting communities of color in the United States. In 2018, the New York Times published his first visual essay, The Quietest Form of Displacement in a Changing Barrio––a look into the social and cultural form of displacement in highly gentrified neighborhoods. The project went on to be a part of the National Museum of Mexican Fine Art’s permanent collection. Shortly after, he traveled around the United States in search of the meaning of ‘home’ after years of displacement in Pilsen. Hidalgo’s next project would take him to Salinas, California––one of the most expensive cities to live in the country––to collaborate with farmworking families on how to create ‘home’ amid the housing crisis. The story, Staying Close to Home, fostered collaborations between farm companies and community centers in an effort to bring more resources to Salinas.
Today, Hidalgo is a National Geographic Explorer. He continues to work amid the Pandemic of COVID-19.

Hannah Reyes Morales is a Filipina photographer and National Geographic Explorer whose work documents tenderness amidst adversity. Her photography, both visceral and intimate, takes a look at how resilience is embodied in daily life. Based in Manila, Reyes Morales’ work explores the universal themes of diaspora, survival, and the bonds that tie us together. Publications include: The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Geographic, Al Jazeera, The Southeast Asia Globe, Newsweek Japan, CNN Philippines, and The Atlantic.

Idris Talib Solomon is a photojournalist and portrait photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He tells stories that are often overlooked and lack representation; with a focus on long-form stories based on the African American community. In 2016, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to photograph Hip Hop culture in Ghana. Idris is also the creator and host of The Black Shutter Podcast,  a series of conversations with Black photographers, filmmakers, editors, and creative business folk.

+ Register


The numbers below include tickets for this event already in your cart. Clicking "Get Tickets" will allow you to edit any existing attendee information as well as change ticket quantities.
Tickets are no longer available


Jun 25, 2020 at 10:00 am
Jun 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm
$335.00 – $350.00


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States

Support UnionDocs’ next phase and new building by becoming a member

Peek in the window of our bustling building in NYC and tune into the ideas and energy bubbling up from the UNDO Center.

Tune into cutting-edge, powerful and poetic documentary programs and connect to conversations with the artists and thinkers passing through.

Now available at the Apple Store.



Unlimited access to all of our monthly offerings for the price of two espressos.



Keep it simple and save. Unlimited access to our sweet offerings for a reduced, annual fee and receive some added benefits.



In the neighborhood, a working artist, student or senior? This membership is for you. Fill out a quick form for a discount code to an annual membership.



Get all of the benefits of the Annual UNDO Membership plus an annual subscription to UnionDocs Editions, a set of publications, merchandise or special objects.

UnionDocs is grateful for support from:

UnionDocs is hiring. 

Join the UnionDocs team.

Pod Pod 2023 Group 02

Pod Pod is now accepting applications.
Apply today!

Calling all AUDIO MAKERS looking for a bit of motivation, peer support, collective production and a dose of inspiration for your personal project —  join us for 3 months this Fall!