By Julie Wood

Phone, keys, mask, camera. It’s a Saturday evening, and Zonía Moore has everything she needs to go out. She begins her adventure looking for scenes that catch her interest, noticing an abandoned building with its intricate architecture still intact. Lifting her Mirrorless Nikon Z Series camera, she carefully selects which lens to use to highlight this hidden gem. Does she want a close-up of the structure or a farther away shot? Would a wide-angle lens be best, or could that distort the straight lines of the building?

Much like her thought process for capturing a photo, Moore finds that patience and careful decision-making have benefited her as a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM).

Black Lives Matter protest

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to become a physician,” Moore says. “And then in high school, my love of photography was born.”

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Moore saw her mother, a physician, take calls and care for patients. Even in the first grade, when she was assigned to draw a picture of herself in her dream career, she depicted herself on green construction paper in a white coat with a stethoscope in hand and light on her head.

As a high school student, Moore discovered the art of photography when her father found his old camera in their basement. Together, they bought her first basic camera, then went out and took photos.

Now a medical student at Penn, Moore draws on the same observational skills she has honed through photography in her medical training. In photography, she wonders what story is being told through a photo based on her subject’s facial features and posture. Is the subject smiling and posing with their hand on their hip, exuding happiness and confidence? Are their eyebrows furrowed with their arms crossed, displaying a scene of anger? In medicine, Moore also spends time observing her patients, trying to understand how they’re feeling through their emotions and actions.

Man raising fist

“One patient told us she was experiencing stomach issues, but she had difficulty explaining what exactly those stomach issues were,” Moore says. “Through asking probing questions and watching the physician do the physical exam, I had to discern what sort of pain she was actually experiencing based off of how she was reacting. The patient held her breath but didn’t flinch when the physician pressed on the spot that hurt, indicating that her pain was dull and not sharp. She was able to walk with head held high, not nursing her stomach or doubled over in pain.”

Moore is also involved with PSOM’s student-run magazine apenndx. She writes both articles and poetry in addition to submitting photos that highlight life around her.

One photo features a little girl smiling and posing in front of a colorful wall with whimsical shapes and designs. The little girl saw her camera and immediately requested to have her photo taken, Moore explains. “Being in front of a camera was a way of expressing her confidence. I think the theme of building confidence in most individuals can happen through photography,” she says. “A lot of my photography focuses on things that you see every day, and not just necessarily like the beautiful travel photos that people like to dream about.”

Another series of photos depicts a protest for the Black Lives Matter movement in Pittsburgh in the spring of 2020 following the death of George Floyd. The powerful monochromatic images feature people with masks marching through the streets, carrying signs, and raising their fists in the air high above the crowd.

Zonia Moore smiling
For Zonía Moore, photography is much more than a hobby. It allows her to hone her observational skills — which are key as she pursues her medical training — and to share the beauty and power of everyday things and people.

“What the media has chosen to display is the sensationalist people — some people who aren’t even part of the movement, taking an opportunistic moment to engage in civil disobedience,” Moore says. “It’s very important to showcase at this stage how integrated the movement is. How people of all walks of life are out there being safe and wearing masks, because there’s a pandemic, but still supporting the idea that every single Black life matters.”

Moore plans on creating more photo series during her time at Penn, and she hopes to feature portraits of Black medical students to change the narrative of what a doctor can look like.

“I think that representation is fundamentally important, especially when talking to someone who is younger and still growing up,” Moore says. “If one can’t envision oneself in a particular spot in the future, one is not even going to go out and look for opportunities to build a path towards that direction. I like to use photography to show people what is possible.”

To view Moore’s collection of photo series and portraits, visit her portfolio:

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