Director, Photography Department
Regularly taking them upstate to photograph farmers in the declining dairy industry or even inviting them to work with him at the North and South Poles, Scott Sternbach uses every opportunity to push his students out of their comfort zone. “I know it’s changed the way they operate and the way they think in this world,” he says about his method of teaching.As director of the Photography Program at LaGuardia, he uses his passion to inspire his students and open doors for them as well. He has developed a study abroad program in Chile aimed at transforming his students and the communities they visit by documenting social and environmental issues brought on by an industrial revolution. “Students will be there to talk to people about these issues, photograph these issues and make people aware of them,” Sternbach says. “It’s a really enriching experience.” The New Jersey native has been a photographer since childhood, winning a photography contest at age eight for his photo of a gorilla at the Bronx Zoo. “How ironic that it was on a field trip,” he says, “because that’s what I like to do with my students now.”After high school, Sternbach studied under master photographers Arnold Gassan at Ohio University and Lisette Model at The New School for Social Research. Working on the floor at a jazz club in the West Village, Sternbach began photographing the musicians. His work was soon published in The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Daily News, The NY Post and international publications. “I just had really good luck,” he says. “At the time I was just following my heart.” But beyond luck, Sternbach put in years of hard work running his own studio, traveling and doing corporate photography. He joined LaGuardia as an adjunct instructor in 1996. His vast experiences and passion for the craft made him a natural instructor, and four years later he became director of the Department.Sternbach has received grants to work in Antarctica and Alaska, exhibited his work at the American Museum of Natural History and the National Geographic Museum, and is working on a book of his images.