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Alumna in Action, December 2011: Emily Anne Epstein '07

Emily Anne Epstein ’07 doesn’t do things by the book. As a student at Ramapo High School in Rockland County, she applied on a whim to Hackley, a private school in the area, and got in. “Months after the application deadline, [the principal] called me for an interview. My parents were flabbergasted. They had no idea I even applied!” she recalls.

A similar impulse landed Epstein at Barnard. After a year at Binghampton University, she decided it was just too cold. She made a pact with her hall-mate Susie Bedikian: if they both got into Barnard, they would both go.

“We both got in, we both transferred and we’ve been friends ever since,” says Epstein.

Once here, Epstein found everything she’d been looking for and much more. “I don’t know how I had time to study,” she says, listing RA work, The Columbia Daily Spectator and Barnard Bulletin, and psychological research among her many gigs. She planned on majoring in chemistry, but ended up with a degree in film and English. (By now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.)

When Epstein graduated, the economy had all but tanked, and after awhile she finally found work as a waitress for two months. A month in India, a trip back to New York, and a photo agency internship later, she landed a photojournalist job at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City.

“I think it took me to December to find a job I really liked, but a lot of my classmates were looking for over a year. It was a really depressing time. I think I only ate rice and hot sauce for all of 2008,” she says. Her aspirations to become an international photojournalist led her to move to Argentina for the next year, where she shot photos for Getty Images, wrote stories, and learned how to manage her own business.

When she returned from Argentina last year, Epstein was a frequent contributor to The New York Times and Newsday. Then she began working at Metro, where she is a writer and chief photographer. She also runs a volunteer organization, Our Eyes, Our Lives, which empowers people in underserved communities through photojournalism classes.

“I taught photojournalism at a homeless shelter and put on a benefit gallery show. We ended up selling a couple of the photographs, but the real reward was seeing the students walk into a real art gallery to see their photographs ... I’d love to take the program I developed around the world,” she says.

Epstein is unsure where exactly the future will lead her. But she won’t stay put for long. She says. “As a fourth generation New Yorker, I’d love the chance to find my own way. Hopefully journalism will take me around the world, sooner rather than later.”

Still, her ultimate goal is a simple one. “I want to be happy at work and happy at home, and I’m not afraid to work very, very hard for it.” —A. Abrahamian