Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech’s journey to a career as a photojournalist has taken her from her hometown of Lexington, Ky., to Smith College in Massachusetts, to a couple of years freelancing in Mexico.
“I went to Mexico because I was always really interested in Mexican history and the relationship between Mexico and the United States,” Alejandra, 28, said. “I’ve always been really interested in reporting from Latin America and I didn’t have a huge amount of money, but I wanted something different and it was something I could afford.”
But freelancing was hard and eventually led her back to school. Three years ago, Alejandra moved to New York to study international reporting at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, where she discovered a “real love” for photography and journalism and graduated with a master’s degree in the fall of 2017. She said that every professor she learned from at CUNY motivated her, and she singled out Jennifer Altman, who she said taught her to tell stories by thinking visually. “There are different ways to really move people through journalism that isn’t writing,” Alejandra said. “It’s very inspiring.”
This month she joined the intense, two-week program of The New York Times Student Journalism Institute. “I don’t know that there was one particular moment where I realized my love for journalism, I think it was something I grew into gradually,” she said. “As I got older I became a little less scared of actually trying it.”
Alejandra said she hopes to take her storytelling skills beyond America’s borders in a full-time career as a photojournalist.
Clara Cardelle works as an outreach worker at the Corner Project in Washington Heights, which seeks to reduce overdose deaths. The organization helped save her life, and she now saves others battling addiction.