Archive for the ‘interviews with Alison’ Category

Better late than never

by Sue Dawson

SO MANY people have been coming into the gallery and mentioning how glad they are to see Alison on Instagram, that I thought I’d ask her a few questions about joining into the social media craze. Just to give you a little background, Alison has a Twitter account, tweets very occasionally, and never follows anyone else. To be honest, she doesn’t get the allure of Twitter – perhaps because she’s not a movie star, politician, musician, or under 35. She had a personal Facebook page, but again, didn’t really use it. People kept friending her, she kept saying yes, and when she got to thousands of “friends,” she realized it felt too weird to post personal things to people she didn’t even really know. Not her thing to snap a photo of the pretty swirl in her morning latte, or pass along the latest political rant (actually, that’s more me). We switched her over to a business page (which we both monitor) and that works much better. 

Bottom line, Alison isn’t much of a social media type. But Instagram kept coming up. Everyone was encouraging her to jump in – friends, family, colleagues, students, gallery customers. She did sign up for an account, but never posted anything on it. People even started following her, with zero posts. Nada. So in April, I updated my “Marketing and Social Media” training for our Mentorship students, and found examples of prominent photographers’ pages on various social media outlets. I wanted the group to look at what’s out there, and I talked about each platform. And amongst the professional photographers’ pages, in all its glory, I surprised them all with Alison’s proud Instagram page…

instagram alison
We all laughed. Then this past June, Alison jumped into action. Seems like a great place to start our interview…

SUE: What did you think when I showed that empty page?
ALISON: Haha (sighs and leans back a bit). I think I said “Here’s a great example of ‘Do as we say, not as we do.’ ” 

Did it light a fire under you at all?
It really wasn’t until we were promoting our first show of my new SHORELINE series, that I thought, ‘what could be so hard about Instagram… If they can all do it, I can do it.”

Did you just start posting, or did you have a plan?
My plan was to do regular posts on that one subject, the SHORELINE series. I started at the end of June, a week before the show opened, putting out one new image each day. I actually amazed myself that I could keep up the pace and be consistent about it. It was easy, and fun.

And what’s been the response so far?
I’m now over 500 followers, growing each day, and I love seeing “likes” on my posts. And what’s so fun in terms of being a teacher, is that I’m keeping up with what my students are doing. The people I’m following are primarily either photographers whose work I admire, other photography professionals, and our students. I’m really using it professionally, not personally. I don’t even follow my own kids (sorry, guys). 

Do you think this will get you to shoot more?
I think it’s going to be motivating for me. With SHORELINE, I tried to do all new images. But I’m not taking a worthy new image every day – certainly not in the busy season. So I’m now dipping into my archives, and most of those are a new look at my lesser-known images. In the long run I think it will motivate me to get out with my camera, because eventually the archives will run dry. Over the course of the next month, I’m looking to dig back into my b&w Vineyard Gazette archives, to promote a show at Featherstone this September. One of our Advanced Mentorship students has just started on Instagram, and is promoting her future show by posting an image every day. She’s already sold two prints, just from promoting the show ahead of time.

Why is Instagram resonating more than the other social media?
It’s purely image-driven, and is super easy to use. I don’t need to be sitting at my computer – I can do it all from my iPhone. It’s clean, simple, and even I can understand it. No operator errors. I don’t have to be asking you every day to dig me out of a social media mess 😉

I’ve noticed that you’re regularly cropping horizontal images to square. Why is that?
I think the horizontal display makes the image too small, and the square is more interesting, classier, more concise. I find that 90% of my images survive the square crop. With verticals, I’m leaving them as a vertical, to keep the larger display. 

Interestingly, you’ve posted one personal image.
Not really. I’ve been posting in anticipation of events, and one of them was the Ag Fair. So I was able to sneak in a picture of Sarah (our daughter) and her blue-ribbon-winning pie, from well over ten years ago. I was being a proud mom when I took that photo, but it nudges over the line to a professional shot in this case. 


Are you gonna post through the winter? 
I hope so. That’s my plan. I hope we have an interesting winter, so I’ve got something to photograph. 

Any parting wisdom about jumping into Instagram?
Just do it.

SUE again: And thank you to everyone who pushed her to do just that! Here’s the link if you want to follow Alison’s Instagram.

Behind the shot: “Rock Harbor II 2014”

by Sue Dawson


I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Rock Harbor II 2014. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our third show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s such a stunning, painterly image, I’ll have to convince people that this is a photograph. This is one I’d like to hang in our own house. Here’s what she said:

“I took this shot last fall, right before teaching a workshop for the South Shore Camera Club on the Cape. I had just done tests comparing the new Nikon D810 and my old D700. Being the picky, in-search-of-high-quality person that I am, I test all of the new equipment that comes along. I’m really frugal, but whenever I find something worth the leap, I’ll be first in line with my credit card at B&H. As soon as I ascertained that the 810 produced images with much higher quality, I ordered it. My new toy arrived the day before I left for the Cape – I was like a kid in a candy shop.

In doing last-minute scouting for the workshop, I hit all of my favorite places along the Brewster flats. These days, I’m drawn to shoot images that are either all neutral, or predominantly neutral with flashes of color. So I was looking for low tide, and flat, uninteresting light – that’s the neutral backdrop. Fall is my favorite time, because the plants in the marsh have interesting, often warm-toned flashes of color. In the summer it’s all green, but in the fall, there are gorgeous color variations.

For me, this shot really tactilely feels like I loaded a paintbrush with some cadmium yellow and a little burnt sienna, and applied those brushstrokes. That’s what it looks like on the finished print, but it’s also what it felt like when I was shooting. My technique really feels like painting. I’m carefully composing the shot, and then going on instinct as I create the “camera stroke.” As with my other painterly images, the effect is entirely done in-camera. There’s no post-processing that creates the painterly feel. The D810 enables me to print larger, with amazing resolution, and captures the nuances of color that drew me to the shot.”

Our opening reception is tomorrow (Saturday, August 8th), from 5 to 7:30pm. 

Behind the shot: “Oak Bluffs 2015”

by Sue Dawson


I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Oak Bluffs 2015. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our second show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s mesmerizing – it looks like it’s just floating on the wall. Here’s what she said:

“That’s the direction I’m going in now – a more muted palette, fewer primary colors. It doesn’t have to be dawn or dusk for me anymore. I used to look for a stronger color palette, which you’ll find early or late in the day. But now I’m watching for the really subtle things that are happening. Quiet things, like the two different flat calms going on in the water in this shot. I love the height of the tide – almost covering the rocks, with just a few of them poking through. If you could see all of the rocks, it’d be really seaweedy, really messy-looking. This just gives you a hint of the rocks.

It’s a location that’s so subtle, you’d never stop and take a touristy picture there. It’d never be subject matter that you’d hear, “Oh, honey, let’s stop and take a picture.” I feel like what I’m looking for now is something that’s evocative, but understated – something I think is beautiful, but not in an obvious way. A scene where a little change of light, wind direction, wind velocity, the tide, will make me screech to the side of the road, get out my camera, and ignore my appointments for a half hour.

I drive by this spot every day, and pay attention to what the tide’s doing, what the water’s doing, what the light’s doing. I stop there once a month and take pictures. But this particular day was unique. The sky was almost white, and the water took on two distinct tones. In the distance was flat calm, and up close, the water was moving over the rocks. So you really have this gradation from the whitish sky up top, to a sliver of the most distant water that’s moving, to flat calm water reflecting the sky, and into the moving water in the foreground. Beyond the end of the jetty, that flat calm is like a mirror, reflecting the sky. And nearest to me, the water was choppy, so I used a long exposure to make the moving water look soft and smoothed out over the rocks.

The centered one-point perspective draws you into the photo. And I kind of love the fact that the thing in the middle of the jetty is completely practical – not picturesque – and yet becomes the center of interest in the shot. It’s totally mundane – not like the fishing pier, which is beautiful unto itself.

I love the concept of the contrast between extreme sharpness and extreme softness in the same picture. And I already mentioned the two types of water – the flat calm, and the choppy waves I smoothed out in the foreground. There’s a duality throughout, really – a complexity that you see, the longer you look into the picture. At first it’s simple, calming, deep. But as you’re drawn in, there’s so much more to see, so much more to feel.”

Please come by tomorrow – Saturday, July 11th – and see it in person. Our reception is from 4 to 7pm, and this show will be here through August 7th. 

Doing it scared…

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

ALISON LOVES what she does. Her favorite part of her job is getting out and shooting in a variety of locations and conditions, and working with lots of new people. She also loves showing her work in galleries, and meeting people who come to her shows. It can feel like pressure to put a show together, but in the end it’s all very exciting, and validating. All great. But early on, there was one aspect of her work that felt overwhelming…

Read More…

My to-do list

Towing the completed whatleboat to Mystic, early Thursday morning

A guest blog, sort of: by Sue Dawson

I MENTIONED TO ALISON that it’s already been over a month since her last blog entry, knowing that she’s way too busy to write one at this point. So I suggested that I just interview her about what she’s doing – kind of an inside view of her life as a photographer, entrepreneur, wife, mom, and, very busy person. Here’s what she said:

“Off the top of my head… I’m working on three books for Jan (Vineyard Stories publishing) – one’s for Morning Glory Farm, one’s for the Harbor View Hotel, and one’s a series of essays by summer Vineyarder Joan Bowman. Plus there are potential cookbooks in the wings – we’re just waiting for the go-ahead for those. For Morning Glory, I’m running around after tractors, coming home with my clothes covered with strawberry stains. That was from the “emergency” photo shoot of the last crop – I got a call yesterday that I had to drop everything and run right out to the fields. The last of the asparagus was already picked and in the bin, but there was just one more round of strawberry picking to be done, and they wanted me to be there to capture it. (I asked if she ate any, and she laughed – she snuck a few and they were amazing).

Read More…

Setting sight on harbor lights

Sankaty Head Light, Nantucket

KATIE RUPPEL did such a nice interview of me for the Vineyard Gazette, on my photographs of lighthouses on the Cape and Islands. It’s been a fantastic project that culminated in my book To the Harbor Light.

Click here to see the story

Chilmark Book Festival interview

YOOJIN CHO INTERVIEWS me about my books Schooner and Photographing Martha’s Vineyard. I’m not loving how I look in the above still shot though!

Interview on The Vineyard View

ANN BASSETT OF MVTV interviews me about my early years, career, and newest work.

Click here to watch the interview.

Discussion of Schooner on NPR’s The Point

Schooner Rebecca

BOAT DESIGNER Nat Benjamin discusses the creation of “Rebecca,” the boat that inspired our book Schooner. Writer Tom Dunlop and I talk about our work documenting the building of this amazing boat, and the labor of love this project was – from drawings to launch for Nat, and from film and reams of notes to a book we’re very proud of.

Listen to the audio here.

My “Pathway to Success”

IN THIS INTERVIEW with Natalie Dickerson, I share how I came to be a fine art photographer, for the MVTV series Pathway to Success.

Click here to watch the interview.