Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • MFA Photography Alumnus’ Fashion Work Featured in Elléments Magazine

    michael ilobaSeptember was a triumphant month for MFA Photography alumnus Michael Iloba. If you happen to have read the fashion and beauty magazine Elléments, you would have come across Iloba’s fashion photography work, which covered New York’s Fashion Week. Additionally, he was interviewed by Voyage LA magazine, an online fashion, beauty and general interest magazine in Los Angeles, where Iloba is currently based.

    Recently, we had a chance to catch up with the photography grad to see what else he’s up to and how his love for photography came about.

    How did you fall into photography? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

    Photography, for me, began as a hobby. I began taking pictures towards the end of my undergraduate program in economics in South West Nigeria. At that time, photography wasn’t in my plan as a career choice. With time, however, my interest grew and nothing else gave me the type of satisfaction I got from practicing photography.

    What made you decide to attend the New York Film Academy?

    What sold NYFA to me was the extensive curriculum offered in the Masters in Fine Arts [MFA] in Photography program. It was very detailed and covered the very things I wanted to learn and improve on. Of all the schools in Europe and America I came across, on the net, during my search for that institution that will give me the best formal training in photography, NYFA clearly stood out. It is important to state here that before now, everything I knew prior to NYFA, I learned online — from YouTube, blogs etc. I needed to gain more technical and artistic knowledge, which NYFA provided most adequately and beyond expectation.


    photos by Michael Iloba from Elléments Magazine

    What is your most memorable moment and what is one of the best lessons/skills you have learned?

    My most memorable moment occurred in the first few weeks of school, in getting to know my colleagues and instructors. I remember we had to present our portfolios. The goal was to have each person critique it. Of course we all had good things to say about each other’s work, but not the instructors. In my journey to becoming a professional photographer, it was the first time I had received a different but professional and academic opinion on my work, and it didn’t sound good to me. I was defensive, trying to give reasons/excuses for everything wrong that was pointed out to me. It wasn’t a good day for me, even though memorable. But what I got out of it was clarity. I had to learn to detach myself from my work emotionally, come with an open and expectant mindset, to learn and understand what was being taught. That was the highlight for me and now I like my work getting critiqued.

    Other highlights of my time at NYFA were the ambience of the school for academics, the awesome professional quality of teaching and academic staff, access to a studio with cutting-edge equipment/technology, and the trip to Hawaii with my colleagues to unwind after a tough academic session.

    My overall experience was more than I had hoped for. I feel and have a sense of satisfaction. I came to NYFA with certain expectations, but I ended up with something better and more profound. I consider myself privileged to have attended NYFA and I am very grateful for the opportunity. I tell people it would have taken me way longer to know the things I now know, if I had to learn by experience only.

    photos by Michael Iloba from Elléments Magazine

    photos by Michael Iloba from Elléments Magazine

    Is there any aspect of photography that you’re most passionate about?

    In my journey as a photographer, I had tried out most of the different genres but was able, thanks to NYFA, to narrow it down to fashion and portraits, which I am very passionate about n

    Can you tell us about some of the work you’ve done in fashion and portrait photography?

    I have been freelancing, creating more work for my portfolio, and also assisting other established photographers, in order to gain more on-set/industry experience. Recently I shot an editorial titled “Sand Fire,” which was published in Elléments Magazine, an iconic New York based fashion magazine, in its September 2016, “Fashion Week” edition. It also happens to be my first international publication. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have my works viewed worldwide.

    Also, last month, September 2016, I was interviewed by Voyage LA magazine. It is a great feeling to know that many in the US and beyond are noticing / viewing my work.

What are you currently working on and what do you hope to work on in the near future?

    I am in the preproduction stage of a new editorial with some amazing creatives. I can’t wait to put it out soon. I look forward to bigger things for the future; more features in magazines and hopefully a cover photo for a renowned magazine. I can’t wait for the opportunity. As my father will always tells me, “wake up, dress up and show up.” I have since taken that to heart.

    October 11, 2016 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1618

  • NYFA Australia Alum’s “Ice Cold” Wins Best Foreign Short at Action on Film Festival

    Jonathan G wins awardWriter, Director, Producer and Editor Jonathan Gesthuizen’s short film “Ice Cold,” which he produced while attending the New York Film Academy Australia, Gold Coast, officially won Best Foreign Short Film at the 2016 Action on Film (AOF) International Film Festival Los Angeles.

    “It was great to be recognized by the judges and our film peers,” said Gesthuizen. “The competition was fierce, and I enjoyed watching some really great films. The atmosphere was surreal, prestigious, exciting and intimidating all at the same time.”

    A glitzy red carpet formal awards evening concluded the festival last month in Hollywood, where Gesthuizen was awarded his prize.

    “I feel honored and excited about winning this award and how it will assist us in gaining the traction we need for the making of the feature, which has recently been written with help of co-writer Paul Gough,” added Gesthuizen. “Most people associate a film’s success with the budget the producer and director have to work with, but this is not always the case, as a $70,000 film won an award at the festival in the same category over another with a $20 million budget. It’s all about getting the story across and how well you can engage your audience with the characters.”

    Gesthuizen aims to have a feature version of “Ice Cold” completed and entered into next years AOF.

    He will begin casting in late October in both New Zealand and Australia. Filming will begin shortly after that with a release date set for late July 2017.

    If you would like to support this project please check out their Facebook page “Ice Cold” for further information.

    October 7, 2016 • Entertainment Australia, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1544

  • Alexender Simoes Covers New York Fashion Week


    photo by Alexender Simoes

    Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Alexender Simoes came to the New York Film Academy to not only familiarize himself with the craft of photography, but also to learn how to effectively communicate with others in the industry.

    With the New York Fashion Week being the perfect outlet for the photography student to explore his passion, Simoes hit the streets and went to many shows in order to, as he says it, “breathe in all the fashion air, studying people how they pose and why they wear.” After hustling the whole week to attend and photograph a variety of shows, he was able to cover the Taoray Wang show, which showcased the designer’s sophisticated silhouettes and luxurious fabrics.

    “Fashion photography became a passion because of its attitude of expressing oneself,” said Simoes. “I had such a hard time finding my voice as a photographer until NYFA helped me hone my calling. It’s fun, it’s fast paced, elegant, and fierce. Photography is meant to learn the rules and also break them once you know what you’re doing.”

    Simoes is currently working on his portfolio and looking to expand more of his work in the fashion industry by continuing to network with individuals and hustling day-by-day.

    “It has been a humbling opportunity to meet amazing people, and I owe it to NYFA for helping me break out from my shell,” said Simoes. “Whatever passion you have I encourage NYFA to help you get there.”

    photos by Alexender Simoes

    September 30, 2016 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2176

  • NYFA Students & Alumni Crew Up for TIFF’s “After the Storm”

    “After the Storm,” a film from first-time writer and director Jessica Oyelowo, recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Jessica’s husband, David Oyelowo, known for his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King in the award-winning film “Selma,” was a producer on the project.
    on set of "After the Storm"

    on set of “After the Storm”

    Shot in only four days at Oyelowo’s home in Tarzana, the production included a number of New York Film Academy students and alumni in its crew. Giulia Governo, a NYFA alumna from the Cinematography program, was the 1st AC on the shoot; David Hebrero, a NYFA alumnus from the Filmmaking program, was the gaffer; Konstantin Frolov, a NYFA alumnus from the Cinematography program, was the boom operator; Vince GE, a student from the Filmmaking program, was a Production Assistant; and Joann Wong, a student in the Filmmaking program, was in the swing department.
    after the storm

    on set of “After the Storm”

    Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Belle,” “Beyond the Lights”), Chiké Okonkwo (“The Birth of a Nation”) and newcomer Caleb Oyelowo (Jessica’s son) star in the film about the emotional journey of an African American family in the wake of tragedy.
    after the storm

    on set of “After the Storm”

    “I became interested in what it’s like for the families of those out on the front lines,” said director, Jessica Oyelowo. “What happens to relationships when things go wrong, change doesn’t come, or loved ones are away or taken away?”

    “The movie has a bit of a surreal tone, as it deals with how tragedy can affect a family in ways they may not be fully aware of,” said NYFA Instructor Craig Ross.

    The film recently screened at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City. For more information, visit their Facebook page at

  • NYFA Student Stars in Iceland’s Oscar Nom for Best Foreign Film

    “Sparrows,” an Icelandic film that stars current New York Film Academy student Atli Oskar Fjalarsson, has been chosen by the Icelandic Film & TV Academy as Iceland’s submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the San Sebastian Film Festival.


    The dramatic film is a very delicate, anthropic coming of age story about a 16 year-old boy who is forced to move away from his mother in the comforts of the city, to a tiny secluded fishing village in the middle of nowhere. There he must live with his father and try to fit into a rugged society of skewed social norms.

    Ari is an innocent choir boy from the city. His life is turned upside down when he’s forced to leave his home and move to his father that he barely knows, in a place that he left behind a long time ago. It’s hard for him to find footing in this new environment where no one seems to understand or relate to him. Through a series of events, Ari is forced to grow up fast and make decisions that will shape his character forever.

    “Rúnar Rúnarsson, the director, is an old friend of mine,” said Fjalarsson. “We did a short together when I was 14 years-old called “Two Birds” that went on to become a critically acclaimed festival gem, and to this date is one of the most awarded shorts ever made.”
    A few years later, Fjalarsson reconnected with the director and the two began chatting about upcoming projects. It was at that time that Rúnarsson mentioned his film, “Sparrows,” which he was in the middle of casting for. At the time, Rúnarsson was having trouble filling some of the teenage roles.

    “A few months later I did a commercial with Rúnar’s wife, where I shaved my beard clean and cut my hair,” recalled Fjalarsson. “Then the idea first came to light. He called me in for a meeting and took some pictures. He sent the pictures to his producers in Denmark and that was it. I got the part.”
    Fjalarsson hopes the film will take people on a journey and show them a glimpse of a world that is unknown to them while still remaining completely relatable.
    In addition to “Sparrows,”Fjalarsson is currently signed on for two features that are in development; one of them is French and the other one is American.

    September 27, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2197

  • Gabriele Fabbro’s “Two Steps Away” Wins Best Comedy / Dramedy Short Student Film

    two steps awayNew York Film Academy student Gabriele Fabbro has spring boarded his POV project into an award-winning short. He won Best Comedy/ Dramedy Short Student Film at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival, and the Direct Monthly Online Film Festival. He is a finalist for the All-American Drive-In and a semi-finalist for the Los Angeles CineFest.

    The original goal of the assignment is to have the same scene and show it from two different points of view. Gabriel credits his teacher, Gareth Dunnet Alcocer, with helping him grow. His previous assignment didn’t live up to his standard. Fabbro’s main objective was to, “…not make the same mistakes this time.” He wrote many, many different versions of the story, but they were all too heavy. “It wasn’t the right story to tell.” A week before he was set to film he wrote “Two Steps Away.” “Everyone was surprised how well we did because it was the most rushed project in the class.”

    Fabbro’s background is in photography. He says when he first got here he knew nothing about cinematography. Making the switch from still images to 24 frames per second has pushed him to be a better filmmaker. He said his fellow creatives Director of Photography Mark Cekham, actors Ydalie Turk and Connor Williams, as well as his sound department Luis Alberto Quijano and Karissa Ketelhut were the only reason he was able to survive the shoot.

    Fabbro pitched “Two Steps Away” as two students, on break, who are trying desperately to get the others attention without being noticed. He was nervous screening the film for the first time. “I’m always like nervous a lot when the film starts up, before and during. It’s terrifying. When they were screening it, I was afraid because they were laughing at parts I didn’t expect to laugh at; but at the end, they laughed…” right where they were supposed to.

    Knowing he had made a good film it was time to begin the submission process. There were numerous sites checked, but Fabbro’s favorite was FilmFreeway. “It’s easier. Faster,” Fabbro said of the service, “The main point is they give you updates. Whether you’re accepted or your not, you get a notification.”

    If you would like to see more of Fabbro please check out his work on Facebook, YouTube, and his IMDb Page.

    “Two Steps Away” has two upcoming festival screenings at the Glendale International Film Festival (September 29) and the Los Angeles International Film Festival (October 15).

    September 22, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2118

  • Getting Personal with NYFA Photography Alumnus John Tona

    As a New York Film Academy Photography alumnus, who currently teaches at the school, John Tona, a New York native, noticed he was surrounded by a very diverse student body. After meeting and interacting with men and women from countries all over the world, Tona became fascinated and inspired to create his “(A)Typical Typology” project. Shot on film, each photo is identical in its approach.

    photos from John Tona’s (A)Typical Typology

    Through this photography series, Tona aims to capture a man and woman from 193 different countries, completely stripped of all their possessions. Each individual is without cultural elements such as clothing, jewelry, or other man-made products, leaving only the individual as the unique identifier. As a result, the lines of race and culture are de-emphasized, leaving us to consider the subjects more simply, as members of the human race.

    His Typology project went on display in South Korea at both the Jeonju International Photo Festival and Art Space Artion.

    Tona says he has captured individuals, many of whom were students at NYFA, from 39 countries thus far and plans to continue until he reaches his goal of 193.

    art basel

    photo by John Tona from “The Vacant Self”

    Getting more personal, the photographer’s “The Vacant Self” project is, as Tona says, “a disenchanted look at emotional chaos and sexual dependency in an effort to come to terms with and coalesce a fragmented consciousness under the precarious frame of pictorial narrative.”

    john tona

    photo by John Tona from “The Vacant Self”

    Though you may not know it, the work in this series captures a very personal chapter in Tona’s life, which he was able to express through his models and photography. One particular piece from this collection was on display in Art Basel, while another is currently being displayed at Brooklyn’s Photoville.

    The Intimates

    photo by John Tona from “The Intimates”

    Tona says that while he’s closed the book on this chapter of his life, he’s currently moving forward with another personal series called “The Intimates.”

    Be sure to check out Photoville, which is currently being held in Brooklyn from now until Sept. 25, where Tona and nineteen other NYFA Photography alumni photographs will be on display.

    September 22, 2016 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2510

  • NYFA Alumni and Faculty Team Up for “Karate Tortoise”

    karate tortoiseFor those of you who grew up on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Super Mario Bros,” “Looney Tunes,” and superhero cartoons — basically if you grew up in the 90s — be on the lookout for an upcoming comical web-series that combines all of your favorite stereotypes into one Adult-Swim-esque parody called “Karate Tortoise.”

    From a team that consists of New York Film Academy alumni and faculty, director Mike Diaz aims to deliver his audience what they’ve all been waiting for — a crazy cast of human-animal hybrids, aliens, and anthropomorphic reptiles that come to life through puppeteers, animators, sculptors, and builders. In fact, playing one of the super-villain hybrids, Rat Bastard, is actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried (“Aladdin,” “Problem Child”), who is sure to deliver a dose of 90s nostalgia.

    “‘Karate Tortoise’ was born out of this simple question: Why, oh why, of all the eligible creatures on this planet, would you choose a turtle to be a mutant ninja?” says Diaz. “The story, aesthetic, and characters of each eight minute episode will make older viewers nostalgic for their childhood, while also capitalizing on the Snapchat addled attention spans of younger audiences.”

    Diaz hopes ‘Karate Tortoise’ will eventually find a home on Adult Swim, IFC, or Comedy Central.

    In order to raise the production budget for the series, the team turned to the crowdfunding site “Seed and Spark,” with the hopes of raising $30,000. With under a month to go on the fundraising, the team has already amassed over $12,000, and promises to deliver some pretty interesting prizes to fans who can fork out a few bucks of support. In fact, for the right price, Diaz and his producing partner Billy Hiller will get “Karate Tortoise” tattoos on their inner thigh.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the project or would like to donate your support, visit their crowdfunding site by clicking HERE.

    September 21, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 543

  • NYFA Los Angeles Grad’s “Bornless Ones” Screens at the DTLA FIlm Festival

    Bornless OnesCongratulations to the New York Film Academy MA Filmmaking graduate, Alexander Babaev, whose horror feature debut, “Bornless Ones,” premieres at the DTLA Film Festival in LA on Sept. 22 at 9:30pm.

    “Bornless Ones” tells the story of Emily (Margaret Judson), her fiancé (Devin Goodsell), and two friends, who move into a remote house with Emily’s crippled brother, Zach (Michael Johnston). After spending a single night in the house, Zach begins to heal, but in turn reveals a force that creates the most horrific night anyone could ever face.

    “We shot ‘Bornless Ones’ right after I graduated from New York Film Academy,” said Babaev. “The way it happened was sort of a miracle. I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about filmmaking as I am.”

    Directed by Alexander Babaev, produced by NYFA alumna Mariietta Volynska, and shot by NYFA MFA Cinematography Grad, Egor Povolotskiy, “Bornless Ones” became, for the three of them, the beginning of a solid professional friendship.

    “Even though we all knew that feature film was our next step, this next step felt painfully far away from the point we were all at until someone said, ‘Hey, my friend has a house where we could potentially shoot. Why don’t we write something?’ And I did. I wrote a script. We lost the house, but we found funds and got another house.”

    Soon after “Bornless Ones” was shot, Babaev, Volynska and Povolotskiy were invited, as a team, to work on a new feature, Culture of Fear. The premier is scheduled for 2017.

    “I think the biggest thing NYFA gave me was the courage to believe in myself, to believe that everyone can make a film no matter who you are or where you came from,” said Babaev. “I’m very proud of this film and I believe that the new wave of filmmakers — people like me and hundreds and thousands of other young filmmakers — are the future!”

    Don’t miss the “Bornless Ones” screening. If you have friends who love horror, or enemies that hate horror, invite them! Tickets available at –

    September 21, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1806

  • NYFA Alumni to Showcase Photography Work at Brooklyn’s Photoville

    UPDATE: Photoville was a tremendous success, with thousands of photography enthusiasts on-hand for the five days of exhibitions. Be sure to check out the photos from our event, HERE.


    Brooklyn’s waterfront photography exhibition, Photoville, which is free and open to the public, will be returning for its fifth year. The event will take place between September 21-25 and will include an exhibition of artwork from New York Film Academy Photography alumni, representing a variety of countries and cultural identities from all around the world.


    The alumni’s work will not only occupy a unique space in culture and time, but will also testify to the expansive range of approaches to photographic expression that NYFA students explore — from fine art to commercial photography (not forgetting the fine line in between).

    NYFA’s faculty actively works with the students to develop and broaden their diverse interests, preparing them to emerge as contemporary image-makers in a rapidly changing and ever-expanding field. With the support of the faculty and their peers, our students have created a public art exhibit of exceptional freshness, quality, and breadth.

    Alongside traditional treatments of portraiture and still life, this group of artists has also experimented with abstraction, digital manipulation, staged photography, and a host of other possibilities. These experiences enrich their dexterity and vision as they work to discover their unique voices within the world of photography.

    ana paula tizzi

    “Open Doors” by Ana Paula Tizzi

    “My project is called ‘Open Doors,'” said NYFA alumna, Ana Paula Tizzi. “Early in 2015 I spent three days driving around the Dominican Republic in order to get to know about the people and their life. While I was exploring the area, I realized how open they were with me — even though many of them had never even seen a camera before. This project is about how beautiful life can be; it only depends how you see it. ‘Open Doors’ taught me to put colors in my life, even when everything seems to be black and white.”

    sana abedi

    “Abstraction in Isolation #5” by Sana Abedi

    Another photograph that will be on display is Sana Abedi’s “Abstraction in Isolation #5,” a photographic exploration through abstraction of bridges. “Bridges represent balance, structure and connectivity,” says the former NYFA photography student, Sana Abedi. “The project draws a simile between the bridge and social norms. The bridge is synonymous with rigid social structures. From a certain perspective both seem daunting and imposing. However, an examination of both from more intimate perspective reveals intricacies.”

    The photograph ‘Abstract in Isolation 5’ is schematic, inviting viewers to enter a space of speculation. The immense scale and physicality of the bridge is fractured into smaller constituent fragments. The visual narrative is structured through the formal element of texture, line, color and shape.

    tatyana prisco

    “Elements” by Tatyana Prisco

    NYFA alumna Tatyana Prisco’s “Elements” piece was taken within a mall, which she recalls at the point in time where she knew she wanted to become an Architectural Photographer. Prisco now owns a photography business in Colorado.

    Below are all of the photographs that will be on display:


    Alexandra Schaede

    Amina Al Huqail

    Amina Al Huqail

    Andreas Poupoutsis- Hidden Identities

    Andreas Poutpoutsis


    Ana Paula Tizzi


    Becca Howland

    Becca Howland


    Copy of _VIK8981-Edit

    Viktor Klimenko

    Copy of c-Zjiang-13

    Zhuoqun Jiang

    Copy of Copy of Brown_S_Andaz_01

    Sean Brown


    Copy of Kimico Chen

    Kimico Chan


    Copy of Meza_A_Thesis_002

    Arturo Meza


    Daniel Muccigrossi_a

    Daniel Muccigrossi


    Hanna Cowart 2

    Hanna Cowart



    John Tona


    Joohee Han-3

    Joohee Han



    Lotta Lemetti



    Lotta Lemetti



    Maciej Stachowicz


    Mark_Brennan copy

    Mark Brennan


    Meng Meng_Lu

    Meng Meng Lu


    Polina_Krasovicka copy

    Polina Krasovicka


    Sana_Abedi3 copy

    Sana Abedi


    Sayana Cairo


    Tatyana Prisco


    Zhuoqun Jiang

    Internationally renowned photographer Ralph Gibson, Chair of NYFA Department of Contemporary Photography, will be making a special appearance on Friday evening from 6pm-8pm and on Saturday from 12pm-4pm!

    Join us and celebrate our students’ work at Photoville, Brooklyn Bridge Plaza, from Wednesday, Sept. 21 to Sunday, Sept. 25!

    September 20, 2016 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1520