When I found, Allison’s work I could tell the level of attention of detail and focus that shines in her travel and wedding photographs. To manage for work-life balance, Allison only takes on a few weddings a year to give them their full attention. In this interview, Allison discusses the passion and drive behind shooting couples on their special day and long-term goals of pursuing conservation photography in the future.
What place do you call home?
I currently live in Newport, Rhode Island and have been there for the past year. I am from Rhode Island and my husband is from Bulgaria. We lived there for a bit before deciding to settle in the states. Eventually we would like to spend part of the year in each place. I tend to get antsy when I am in one place too long and think about moving someplace new almost daily.
When did you start photographing?
Not until college. I got my first entry level DSLR before I studied abroad in Tanzania and had no idea how to use it on anything other than Auto. When I started traveling more, I wanted to be able to do the people and places justice that I was visiting – it pushed me to learn more and finally move into manual.
I’m self-taught so learned mostly through trial and error, reading, and lots of YouTube, of course. I always loved the art of photography but was intimidated by the gear. I’m not one for instruction manuals so I didn’t think I would have the patience to learn and really know my gear. Once I started to see what I could create, the more I wanted to learn. I’m continuously learning.
How did you get into shooting weddings?
I was looking for a creative outlet and I thought I had something different to offer in the industry. I take a limited number of weddings per year and it offers me the opportunity to really make sure it’s a good fit before saying yes! I don’t take lightly that clients are trusting me to capture such an important event in their lives and I want them to love the way their story is told. As I tell my couples, we get to witness a lot of love, and I consider that a privilege.
Who inspires you the most?
There are many people that inspire me in different ways. I’m lucky to have a circle of family and loved ones that inspire me each in their own way, every day.
In terms of a role model - there’s one person I have looked up to my entire life and that is Jane Goodall. Go on and laugh but I love that woman! She made science accessible to people – she brought a park in Tanzania into people’s homes, she let them get to know the animals that lived there, animals they may never see in person in their lifetime, made them care about them. Her approach to science and environmental education is so different than what you typically see in the scientific community. There is no elitism there – and that is what I love about her and her work. I think many don’t realize the sacrifices you make when you dedicate your life to a cause like that – because we only see the good stuff. She’s smart, courageous, driven, and incredibly passionate about what she does.
Beyond that, I admire the way she just… did her own thing. In life we get a lot of unsolicited advice on how we should live, what determines success, and face pressure to constantly fit in. Whether it’s in terms of a career, buying a house, starting a family – there is a way things are done and if you stray from that – you are typically judged or feel some level of anxiety for it. The people that just say screw it and do their own thing – they inspire me. It gets you thinking of all the things you could do with your life if you truly stopped caring what anyone else thought about it.
What is your favorite thing (besides your camera) that you love to bring with you?
Well #1 would be my husband. We are lucky that we get to do most shoots together. He will literally come to shoots just to hold my bag and hand me lenses. He’s a saint. We also just have a lot of fun together and enjoy spending time with one another – so it makes traveling for weddings and shoots a really fun adventure.
What has been your favorite trip this year? Where are you traveling to next?
My favorite trip this year was our Arizona roadtrip. I was traveling for business and then ended up scheduling a shoot while there – we thought it would be the perfect time to do a roadtrip to some sites and parks in Arizona. We didn’t have long but we made it work and we were able to hit Scottsdale, Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Monument Valley. I have a love for roadtrips and this was one I had been wanting to take for a while. It made me want to see all the national parks immediately!
Tell me about your background in environmental science and love for animal conservation.
I went to school for Environmental Science because I’ve always had a fascination with nature and animals. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – potentially work for a conservation nonprofit. I’ve always felt a pull from both worlds the academic/intellectual and the artistic and I think I’ve found a way to put those two together in an effective way. I was never meant for a lab and the rigors of science – but I give people A LOT of credit who are. I currently work for an Oceanographic Research Institution in science and innovation marketing & communications. I like keeping one foot in that world while still pursuing my creative projects. I hope to eventually work in photography for similar organizations full-time.
How do you recover after a long day of shooting?
It’s hard to describe how tired you feel after shooting a wedding if someone hasn’t experienced it. I grew up an athlete and spent a lot of time outside- I’ve challenged myself physically – but I have never felt that kind of tired before. You feel a bit like you got hit by a bus the day after a wedding (I promise I am not just being dramatic). I think it’s the combo of being on your feet all day- running around, squatting, crawling (anything for the right angle) – and all the anxiety/stress that comes with the pressure of shooting a wedding. You don’t get a redo on wedding days. You have to be on your game all day. When you get to the point in the reception where you covered all your major shots – you can finally start to relax.
The day after weddings, if I have nothing scheduled, I like to just hang out at home. I import and backup all my images and usually start sorting through them. Sometimes I am really excited about a certain image and have to get to it before I go to sleep the night before. Since I work full-time in addition to photography, I don’t get many days off. I try to leave the day after long weddings open and it’s kind of my recovery, lounge, and if you watch Parks and Rec, TREAT YO SELF day.
What’s your favorite travel memory?
This is a tough one because I love them all for different reasons….
I’ve been really lucky to get to not only visit certain places but live in them for a bit and get to know them on a deeper level – and I would say those are my most meaningful travel memories.
My first trip overseas sticks out to me because it was the first time I traveled alone and I think it had the biggest impact on who I am as a person. I studied abroad in Zanzibar, Tanzania for 5 months during college – living with homestay families, learning Swahili, and doing environmental field research. It truly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had a few moments in the first few weeks where I questioned if I had made a terrible decision. I am a very shy and quiet person naturally so living with another family was probably the hardest part but it also led to some of my favorite memories. A lot of times when we travel we see a place on the surface. Forming relationships with my homestay family, particularly my family on Pemba, was incredibly meaningful for me.
If I had to pick one particular experience – it would be my first safari. It was a moment I had dreamed about for … a very long time. I was both proud that I had made it happen and in awe of pretty much everything we saw. Tanzania is an incredible country and I would recommend to anyone experiencing it at least once in your life.
What are some of your long term creative goals?
Oh where to begin…..
To keep it short, my long term goal is to move into conservation photography. It’s something I am passionate about. I think art and creativity have a unique advantage in not only promoting a cause, but relaying the beauty and importance of the natural world. It’s about more than just taking a pretty photo of an animal or place – we as a society are used to beautiful imagery at this point – a photo with impact needs to convey a deeper message – and there lies the challenge. Science and research as well could benefit immensely from a focus on creative communications tools.
And - someday, I want to see an image of mine in Nat Geo. I could die happy.