Shooting the World

Maureen (Mo) Costello, 27, is the epitome of a free spirit.
Through her challenges, successes and passion, she has learned the importance of adventure, social interaction and how to be an approachable and personable photographer.

It’s a message she gets across to her Maymester students on the university’s Costa Rican campus at San Luis.
She grew up in Seattle, Washington, she said, and started her travels early in life since both of her parents, who were teachers, spent many summers in Mexico or Alaska.
Costello had very close group of friends from the age of 10 to 14, who sought exploration, needed adventure and were not afraid to break the rules. She said they thought of themselves as the cast of the movie Stand By Me.

Mo Costello, left, setting up a shot in Costa Rica
Mo Costello, left, setting up a shot in Costa Rica

Photography opened up a new world of adventurous opportunities for Costello when, at the age of 15, she received her first Nikon film camera for her birthday.

“I just went crazy with it,” she said, “I started taking photos of everything.”

Costello had no idea that she was going to spend the rest of her life behind the camera.
After she graduated high school, she moved to the Dominican Republic for a few months to travel, take pictures and meet new people everyday. She said she enjoyed herself but decided it was time to go back to school.
While attending Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, she studied art. She moved to Mexico for an art program run by the university, at the age of 20, which was a very vulnerable time in her life.
Costello said she had to learn how to be social in any situation. With all that time away from home, she said, she learned the importance of surrounding herself with loved ones.

Costuming with natural materials.
Costuming with natural materials.

After many years of school and teaching, she now teaches at the University of Georgia and she said she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“Not knowing when I’m going to have to pick everything up and move again has always been the hardest part – that’s why I couldn’t have been happier when UGA offered me a more permanent position,” she said.
Costello has earned a reputation for being encouraging.

Students of Costello prepare for photo shoot.
Students of Costello prepare for photo shoot.

Anna Baldwin is a photography student under Costello’s direction.

“She believes so much in her students to the point where no matter what our ideas are, she has faith that we’ll execute them,” Baldwin said.
While teaching photography, Costello said, she has advanced in her own practice. She said she would spend the whole day walking around, taking pictures and meeting more people if she could.
Although it’s not easy constantly interacting with new people and strangers, she said she couldn’t imagine devoting herself to anything else.

“It’s not easy work,” she said. “There are times in your life when you may feel physically safe, but not psychologically safe – but at this point in my life, I feel both. I’m good.”
She said she doesn’t think of art as a career, rather, she wakes up everyday with the intention to produce the best work that she can: to make art, read and write. It is the only way to be in the world.
Her students love her approach to art.

Student with face painting.
Student with face painting.

Savannah Rabin, another photography student at the university’s San Luis campus this Maymester, said Costello sees in a way that normal people don’t.

“She finds beauty in our accidents,” Rabin said.  “In her mind, nothing is accidental.”


Costello has a free spirited approach to life. She is willing to face any opportunity or challenge presented to her. She shared her life motto,

“If I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is smarter than you,” she said.  “Whatever rises, say yes!”


Story and photos by Stephanie Ventura, Journalism and Art student

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