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Documentary Photography: Creating a Life in Storytelling

Lesson 11 of 13

Defining Your Pillars


Documentary Photography: Creating a Life in Storytelling

Lesson 11 of 13

Defining Your Pillars


Lesson Info

Defining Your Pillars

So, after I left the White House, a friend and colleague of mine said, "You know, you need to do, "there's gonna be a lot of opportunities coming, "and you need to figure out what's important to you. "What are your pillars?" And I was like, "What do you mean, what are my pillars?" It's like, you know, what's holding up this foundation, what are your pillars, what's important to you? By defining that, you'll be able to see what aligns with your goals. It also allowed me permission that when things didn't align with my goals, to be able to say no to them. My pillars. These are different for everyone, right? My pillars, which are authentic to my own story, is creating connection through impactful storytelling. Cultivating creativity born from resilience. Empowering women and girls, and bringing arts into underserved communities. And so this, this is my work and my priorities are constantly evolving, and like I mentioned earlier, that currently I'm working on the pilot arts program in the ...

juvenile detention centers, so first I started out bringing arts into schools, and I believe that everyone should have access to arts, and so, you know, just like many of you who, you might not know what's coming next, I'm in the same boat with you, but I have my pillars to help me figure it out. So, you know, in our action items and for people who are online, you can work through these in your workbook, but challenging us, and you might have some that come right to your mind, and it might be something that you have to think about for a while, and it might be something that changes and you have another pillar and then one drops off, and then you have more pillars, you know that's okay, there's no right or wrong with this, but what is important to you? And are you finding these themes in your work? I'm willing to bet you might be. They might be in your work. Because these are things that are important to us, so these are things that we're interested in, and so maybe by having pillars, also helps us find what stories we wanna tell. Does your pillars have to do anything with dogs? (laughs) You'll have 23 pillars now, I'm just kidding. (laughs) So, I'm, does anyone, something come to mind? Yeah? I, this is my third year that I'm an art docent in a school which does not have art for some reason, and I found my path through that, volunteering and teaching children art, and children that didn't touch a brush ever, like painting, never. At the end of the year, they all were so empowered, and felt they are creative, I actually made, I had a lot of workshops through the year, but the last one also incorporated my passion which is photography, and I called that project I am creative, and I printed them, it's a long story of what the project is, but we, I printed them out old photos, and everyone got to bring home a work that was a photo that I took of them and their art piece, and I put it together in Photoshop, and it had the words I am creative. Wow. That is a passion of mine, and I understand that it's also a thing that I want to do, a dream job, to go and give these workshops in different communities, I can make it for any age, any given time that I have, I was thinking of going to hospitals. Mm hm, absolutely. You know, bringing it to children that need it the most, that might not have the opportunity. What you just said, wow, yes, it's a pillar of mine to bring, to motivate children and bring photography and art into their world, enriching it. Thank you. Yeah, because we all deserve that, right, and I think we're all creative. Everyone is creative, doesn't matter whether you consider yourself an artist, but like, just the act of thinking or figuring things out, parenting, like there is creativity in everything that we do, or there could be, you know, and everyone should have access to that and that should be nurtured, right, and for some reason in some places, that's not nurtured, and I feel like that's not fair. And I also feel like that sometimes there are financial restraints because, to be a photographer, it can be expensive. Does anybody have a piece of paper that I can have? You know, but, the project that you mentioned, bring in an old photo, thank you. And having a call and response happen, I mean, you could also say find things in your neighborhood, or in your backyard, that represents your community. It could be things people find on the ground, like, there's ways to be creative with what we have access to. So again, like I said, when I go into schools, I just say, does everybody have a piece of paper, does everyone have access to a piece of paper, right? And then I say fold your paper in half, and then fold your paper again, and find, this is really important to say, find where all the points meet (laughs) and the flaps are here. And you just rip a little square, one line down and one line across, and all of a sudden, you have your very own camera. Right? And you wanna put on your tight lens, work on details, and you wanna get a wide shot, and you wanna get low, and you wanna get high, and what does this look like from the back? And it's so exciting to see the way kids light up with their camera, and they're like walking out of the class and they're like (makes camera shutter sound) "Can I make this into a video camera?" Yeah! (audience laughs) "Can I put buttons on mine?" Yeah! You know, and so this is creativity. This is imagination, this is accessible. And we can just use our own creativity if we wanna go into these spaces, and see what the challenges are, find some solutions, and keep trying things. So thank you for the work that you're doing, it's very important.

Class Description


  • Identify what stories you’re drawn to photograph
  • Trust your instincts when documenting real-world scenarios
  • Approach subjects creatively when capturing a story
  • Understand how to pursue a career in documentary photography
  • See all sides of a situation through empathy to improve your photos


Documentary photography allows you to tell a story and give an inside look at a variety of situations. If it’s to serve as a memory for a family, or to inform the public- it is a powerful medium used by photographers daily. Former Official White House Photographer, Amanda Lucidon, inspires and guides a beginning audience into a career as a documentarian.

Utilizing her untraditional path and experiences, Amanda will discuss how to improve your photography through creative storytelling and how to grow professionally.

As one of only a few female White House Photographers, Amanda will talk through how creativity, resilience, and community helped her land a role documenting President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama from 2013-2017.


  • Photojournalist
  • Documentary photographers
  • Beginner and Intermediate


Amanda Lucidon is an award-winning documentarian, filmmaker, teaching artist, public speaker and New York Times best-selling author. Lucidon served as an Official White House Photographer responsible for documenting First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. She is one of only a few female White House Photographers in history. Lucidon is the author of Chasing Light and Reach Higher. In 2018, the John F. Kennedy Center appointed Lucidon as a Turnaround Artist, highlighting the importance of the arts in underserved schools. Currently, Lucidon is working with her husband Alan Spearman and a team of artists on implementing a pilot program that introduces arts and mindfulness practices to at-risk youth in Memphis, Tennessee. Amanda’s work has been honored by Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism, and the White House News Photographers Association, among others.



I feel the class was a great honor to witness through Amanda’s eyes, as the journey of one of the most beautiful First Ladies of our time and to be able to capture the most personal moments of stillness. the class was so inspiring and I think it will be future lifetimes to come before we realize how important the Obamas were To our growth as a nation and evolution of humanity! thank you Amanda for your vision to capture the moments of stillness and sharing with us I loved this class In Gratitude ROBIN

a Creativelive Student

Amanda is an inspiration. Her hard work, dedication to her craft and in all the ways she pays it forward. This class will help you get beyond your creative blocks, see and create your own opportunities. All the while being reminded to BE KIND to yourself. With stunning images and fabulous stories, you'll learn from this class each time you watch it!


Thanks Amanda and CreativeLive. Great class. I'm studying photography and just finding my feet as a documentary photographer at 58yo. It's a wonderful thing to be able to record those moments. I may never be a White House tog, but thank you for the inspiration. ☺