If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, then a good photography teacher must be worth a million books.
Donna Cosentino teaches photojournalism at Palomar, and after 30 years, she is retiring. As her last few weeks at the college draw to an end, she recalled all she had done over her career.
She began at a newspaper in Escondido called The Times Advocate, where she worked taking pictures for eight years. However, throughout her career, Cosentino always had teaching on her mind.
“Street photography and photojournalism has always been my passion from the time I started photography classes back in the 70s,” Cosentino said. “I thought it would be natural for me to teach the class.”
Cosentino attended Palomar in the 70s and remarked that it was the sense of family the photo program at Palomar has that brought her to teaching at the college, and it is what brings her back every day. “I love my students, I love my fellow teachers, I love what we do.”
Although Cosentino has enjoyed her time as a professor, she has big plans as she looks forward to for retirement. She plans to open her own gallery and dark room, and she would like to have the opportunity to travel.
“I want to photograph, it’s hard to get out and do what you love when you’re here all the time,” she said. ”I’m here often 12 hours a day so it’ll be good for me to get out of those obligations and be able to take care of myself.”
Cosentino’s long career as a photojournalism professor has left a large impression on her students — not only on how to photograph, but what it means to be a photographer.
“Her wisdom is so difficult to put into words, just because she teaches you even on a daily basis,” said Savhanna Vargas, a student of Cosentino. “I mean she is a mom, and that’s really how she treats her students, like they’re her kids … it really is a family, that’s how she’s made Palomar feel.”
Not only has Cosentino made an impression on her students, but her co-workers as well.
Amy Caterina, a digital photography and digital dark room professor, described Cosentino as empowering. She remarked that Cosentino had helped encourage her growth as a professor.
“I love Donna, I mean I adore that woman,” Caterina said. “In 2015 I got my dream job and dream coworker, and even though she is retiring I do not feel she will be any less of a positive, kind, and loving presence in my life.”
In addition to teaching photojournalism Cosentino has also taught classes in landscape and alternative processing, which is non-traditional ways of printing photos and other creative classes, which she said had helpedexpand her experience exponentially.
“Part of the reason anyone teaches is because they not only enjoy teaching, they enjoy learning,” Cosentino said. “You learn from your peers, you learn from your students and it’s bigger than photography, it’s about life.”
Although Cosentino is retiring she’s not completely disappearing. She is setting up a $500 documentary photography scholarship called the Donna Cosentino Scholarship. It reads that documentary photography “can inform, inspire change, and chronicle both the quotidian and the extraordinary.” It is a subject the Cosentino is passionate about and holds dear.