Free time is a concept that Sara Kiter isn’t too familiar with. Since she began at Marist, Sara has been involved in countless extracurricular activities. At Marist, the Oakland, New Jersey native is involved in Singers, Chamber Choir, and sirens. She describes Singers as a “crazy ride” for her. “I don’t read music, so I’m constantly trying to catch up with my peers,” Sara said. “That’s a challenge.” While she was taking the Vocal Skills course, she decided to sing a “beautiful” German aria. She does not speak German, but she wanted to do something “totally different.”
“Every rehearsal went flawlessly, but at the recital I blanked,” Sara said. “I was sitting in the audience just profusely sweating because I had forgotten the entire second verse, and I knew it. So I got on stage and literally made up a verse in a language I don’t know. My director was looking at me in complete confusion. No one noticed, and the sun came up the next day. That’s the real challenge--knowing that even if you make a mistake, the sun will always rise tomorrow.”
Her director, Sarah Williams, always reminds her of that--and now, Sara lives by it. She referred to Williams as someone who has helped give her a voice for the past four years, and for that, she is “endlessly grateful.”
Singing is not Sara’s only passion, however. Photography is her other love--something that she has known since she was 8 years old. “I always had an affinity for visual things--you know, paintings and drawings and movies, anything,” she explained. “I remember around that age, I went to Disney with my dad, and I went through about a dozen disposable cameras. Film was still a thing, and I made him develop all of them, every last one. I think I still have some of the photos.”
Sometime after that, Sara began stealing her mother’s digital camera until her mother eventually gave her one of her own. “It was a natural way for me to see the world,” she said. “I was just very drawn to it.”
Sara said that she always felt like she sees everything through a “specific” point of view. She describes herself as “very detail-oriented,” to the point where she often forgets to look at the picture. For her, photography is a way of communicating her point of view with the rest of the world.
Sara was 18 years old when she did her first “professional” gig. “I’m not trained in photography, so I’m constantly learning on the fly,” she said. “It’s always an adventure.” Her aunt was a photographer, so she spent many years watching and assisting her, particularly with middle school graduation photos, learning through observation. After her freshman year, Sara was approached by a colleague about taking headshots for some dancers and she agreed. She had so much fun that she decided to continue it.
Now, Sara serves as a part-time student at Marist, balancing school with interning in the city at Discovery Communications. She describes her position as the “right hand gal” to one of the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet’s digital associate producers. She is part of a team responsible for all online content.
Time management is one of the keys to her success.
“It takes a lot of planning to get everything done on time when you're spending 50% of your time on the thruway and ten plus hours a week in rehearsals,” Sara said. “That's all it is—organization and a true, pure love of what I'm doing.”
That is what motivates her as a photographer--she thrives off of the ability to serve people through photos. People are able to remember particular moments because she is able to take photos for them. “Sometimes the moments are small and inconsequential, and sometimes they’re momentous,” she said.
Recently, her high school best friend lost his childhood best friend. She and the childhood friend were only acquainted through their mutual friend, Colin, but since he was always around, Sara ended up taking a lot of photos of them together. When the childhood friend passed away, Colin thanked Sara for taking all of those photos and capturing their friendship. “None of us knew how important those photos would one day be.”
After college, she is hoping to work in advertising or design as soon as she graduates. She said that she has come to love working in the digital/social media realm, because it combines visuals with some copywriting.
“I’m not picky, I guess, as long as what I’m doing has some meaning to me,” Sara explained. “I used to think advertising was evil, but I’ve seen how it can be a positive force in society, too. I think you really can change the world through visual storytelling. When it’s done right, it’s so powerful.”