By Sarah Scopio
Terri Griffin ’21 MFA was recently awarded a $10,000 Nikon Storytellers Scholarship for her documentary about photographer Al Fennar. She is in the master’s in film, television and photography program. Her emphasis is on documentary film.
You were a professional photographer before entering the master’s program. Why did you decide to study filmmaking?
I’ve had so many different experiences as a photographer: I’ve worked at Caltech in the black and white lab, splicing images together that telescopes would record of the sun. I worked at JPL as a photo lab tech, working with images that spacecraft would send back. And I’ve traveled the world taking pictures for different ministries. I love capturing a moment that is never going to happen again. But documentaries will allow me to tell stories that haven’t been told, and take my storytelling to a new level.
Congratulations on winning the Nikon Storytellers award! Tell me about your film.
The contest was two-part: I had to submit my resume and a 500-word essay on “Capturing Tomorrow.” Once I was chosen as a semi-finalist, I submitted my documentary about Al Fennar that I made for my Cinema Production II class. He was an African American photographer in the 1960s. A lot of people have heard of Gordon Parks, but I felt like the generations of tomorrow should know about this man, too.
After graduation, my heart’s desire is to make more documentaries and enter festivals. I’d love to go to Cannes. And since I’ll have my masters, I also want to teach at the college or high school level. I once had a college teacher tell me that I shouldn’t continue as a photographer, I think because I was a black woman. And I thank God every day I didn’t listen to him. But through that experience, I felt like the Lord told me that once I did learn, I should teach kids in communities where they are not exposed to arts. Last summer, I taught for Creative Now, an organization that teaches art in underserved communities, and I’ll continue to do more of that.
What makes you unstoppable?
What makes me unstoppable is the fact that nothing is impossible with God, and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Why did you choose to attend Mount Saint Mary’s?
I personally align with the mission of the Mount. It’s very important to me as a black woman, considering the many challenges I encountered being a photographer. I love that it is a Christian-based institution. And I love that it encourages diversity, encourages giving back to the community, and encourages women to be great in whatever career they are pursuing.