Johnny Milano still recalls the exact week at St. Joseph’s College when he decided he would follow a career path that blended his passions for political science and photography.
The 2011 SJC Long Island graduate was halfway through his senior year and on one of the school’s Nicaragua Project trips came to the realization. Milano, a political science major at St. Joseph’s, said his future career path clicked for him when he and his classmates ran a photography workshop for the residents of Nicaragua.
“It kind of just fell into my lap,” said Milano, a freelance photographer who has worked for The New York Times, Newsday, Al Jazeera America, Wall Street Journal, VICE, CNN and other media outlets. “I definitely did not expect to be where I am.”
Today, Milano is an independent photographer, traveling often and capturing political events through the lens of his Nikon.
Recently, Milano has spent much of his time in Arizona, near the Mexican border, talking to and photographing members of the Arizona Border Recon, or AZBR – a non-government organization that patrols the border. The group is made up of citizens – mainly former military, law enforcement and private security workers – who pass information they gather about smuggling activities at the border to the U.S. Customs and Border Control.
The other major project Milano is working on tells the stories of white nationalists, including the Klu Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis.
“It’s an appropriate way to be using my degree,” Milano said.
When Milano is out on assignment, he often uses the tools he acquired at St. Joseph’s. He explained that his deep understanding of the inner workings of politics that he learned at the College helps him navigate the political world with his camera. If he lacked that knowledge, Milano said many of his projects would likely miss the point of the story they are telling.
“Without that, it would have made my projects fail,” he said.
Milano credits the Nicaragua trip he took with fellow St. Joseph’s students and staff for leading him to study photojournalism and documentary photography at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan after graduation.
Milano said his photography career, which allows him to get face-to-face with current news events, is already exceeding his expectations.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Milano said. “There are a lot of preconceptions that I had about some organizations before. It’s different experiencing it for yourself.”