A surprise for Sue


A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

A FEW WEEKS ago, a really nice woman came into the gallery. Well, I didn’t know how nice she was back then. All I knew was that she was from Baltimore (her answer to my query), and since I grew up there, we started talking about our shared home. She asked me if she could bring anything the next time she visits. I got shy (this doesn’t usually happen), and said “Oh no, that’s ok, so nice of you to ask.” She responded, “No, really – if you could have anything from Baltimore, what would it be?” Without hesitation, I answered “Berger cookies. I haven’t had one for years, and you can’t get them anywhere else.”

“Done,” she said, and her friend said “She means it, you know. She really means it.” So nice. And yet, in the flow of spring and early summer, I forgot all about it…

…until today. I was upstairs on a call with one of our Mentorship students, when Toby dropped off the package. For the poor folks who have never heard of Berger cookies, here they are:


Two boxes of deliciousness. They look like hockey pucks (or worse), but they taste fantastic. Apparently each one is iced by hand, chocolate fudge on top of a cakey cookie. It’s not about the cookie on the bottom – you eat these for the fudge on top. Just like you buy Lucky Charms for the little marshmallows.

In case this isn’t clear, I am now six years old, and in Baltimore heaven. Toby, you just made my day!


Oh, and while I have your attention, Alison’s annual opening at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury is this Sunday, from 5 to 7pm. Hope we see you there!

Introducing our two new workshop assistants


Wayne Smith’s photograph of a fisherman at Wasque, where blues are running like they were in the ’70s.

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

ALISON’S BEEN TEACHING week-long workshops on Martha’s Vineyard since the mid-1980s. They were first hosted by Atlanta’s Southeastern Center for the Arts (owner Neil Chaput then moved to Montana, where he founded Rocky Mountain School of Photography). Classes were held in a different place every year – even in Alison’s living room. Those were the days of shooting with film cameras, so Alison had an assistant who dropped off at least 50 rolls of film at the airport each morning, so they could be flown to Logan Airport, driven by courier to a lab in Boston, and rush-processed. He or she would pick up yesterday’s processed film – now slides – and bring them back to the group each day. No one knew for sure how their images would look, until they saw the slides. Students “bracketed” their shots, meaning that they shot multiple images of the same thing at different exposures, to increase the chances of getting a good one. When the slides came in, they’d be spread out on a light table, the best shots chosen, and loaded into a slide projector for group critiques.

Things are so different now. Classtime is held at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, in a gorgeous theater with cushy seats and a huge screen. We host a group dinner Friday night, in a local restaurant, and a final slideshow Saturday morning that’s open to the public. All students shoot with digital cameras, so daily critiques include images you shot just hours earlier. You can see your images in-camera right away, but the technological “bar” is a lot higher these days. There’s still a learning curve for shooting, but now there’s also the digital darkroom, which is a daunting thing for many photographers. You need to have an efficient workflow, and know how to process your images digitally.

We’re excited to announce that we’ll have two assistants for our workshops this year, so that we can meet the varied needs of our students. Wayne Smith, a local photographer and surfcaster (see today’s Vineyard Gazette story about his fishing success here), will offer his many years of expertise with shooting, and managing a photo studio in Boston. Jeff Bernier, a local photographer and retired tech teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, will teach what you need to know in Adobe Lightroom on our first morning together, and be available for tech questions the rest of the week. Long-time workshop alum and friend Jen Sayre will help with setup, errands, and all of your caffeinated beverage needs, as she’s done for several years. All of this added teaching and assistance will free Alison to do what she does best. Our team will support each student where they are, thus manifesting each student’s own best experience.

If you’ve been thinking of taking a workshop with Alison, this is a great year to do it. Grab your spot now – there’s a pdf you can download here, with details and registration info (look for the blue type).

Alison’s work appears in Sally Taylor’s TEDx talk

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

I’M ON James Taylor’s mailing list (huge fan, since I heard his album JT in high school – we now own every single one), and he just sent out a link to his daughter Sally’s TEDx talk, “The Beautiful Dilemma of our Separateness,” in Nashville. It’s definitely worth your time. Sally explains how she came up with the concept for her Consenses project, which uses some of Alison’s photos. If you’re interested, you can read my blog post from last summer, to get the whole story. Anyway, please watch Sally’s talk. I was so inspired by her insight.

What a ride…

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson


I THINK I’VE READ ten articles – online, and in local papers – mentioning how fast it’s felt, with Memorial Day weekend already here. New England had a rough winter, so perhaps we’re still reeling from that. I’m still drinking in the sounds and smells of the spring birds and flowers, marveling at the transformation. Or maybe it’s that the island is staying busier in the off-season, so we’re wondering if we’ll be able to fit all the summer visitors onto this rock. All I know is that the college kids are back, heavier traffic is making my errands take longer, and I gave out three of my homemade maps yesterday, showing tourists the way back to the center of town. The 2015 season has officially begun.

Our garden (at the gallery) already looks fantastic, thanks to the team at Working Earth. They’ve been here a few times this week, getting us ready for the big weekend. Our Advanced Mentorship show is up for one last day, and we’re psyched to see our group when they pick up their photos. Tonight we’ll hang Alison’s first show of new photographs, and get ready for our opening reception tomorrow (from 4 to 7pm).

We have a few changes this year, including a new premium option for framing. I found a gorgeous frame that we’re offering in eight finishes, with museum glass. Our largest prints (the 4’s, for our savvy customers) will all be framed in the premium style from now on. 2015 is also the year that our prices are going up. Our costs of doing business go up every year, but I only raise our prices every three years. Claire and I spent months looking at our costs, getting quotes from our vendors, and analyzing how we need to price for the next three years. It’s a painstaking process, but I need to know that we’ve been thoughtful about it. I’ve also changed the structure of our limited editions of 50, so that the price goes up at even increments, matching the structure of our editions of 20. The good news is that the prints people already own have just gone up in value (yay).

So we shift. There’s the weather shift, going from freezing cold and gray days to flowers and blue skies. There’s the seasonal shift on the island, going from 15,000 people to 115,000 at the peak (and all the cars those people bring). And there’s the shift we do in our business, where we constantly evaluate what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it. It’s a roller coaster that never stops (which is a good thing). And this is the day we buckle in, so we can enjoy the ride.

Alison appeared on local Boston tv show


CHECK OUT this clip from Chronicle, which aired last Friday night on Boston’s WCVB-tv. The show was about fine art photography, past and present, and they interviewed three photographers at the Focus Gallery in Cohasset. Alison did a great job, but the best part is at around the 6-minute mark. One of the anchors asked about that technique “Alice” uses, and the other, Anthony Everett, corrected the name and beautifully described Alison’s style.

Our first Advanced Mentorship show opens May 3rd

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson


THERE’S ONLY ONE reason we’d open our gallery three weeks early. I complain brag about never getting even one day off during our busy season, which starts every year on Memorial Day weekend. So there’s gotta be a really good reason for me to work nonstop open our doors three weeks ahead of schedule. Lots of island businesses are pulling up the window shades, dusting off their shelves, and putting out their “OPEN” signs now, but we always wait until the big holiday weekend. Until this year.

Our first Advanced Mentorship group is affectionately known as our “guinea pigs,” since they’ve been with us since the very beginning of our Mentorship program in 2013. The culmination of their Advanced year is a group show in our gallery, for three weeks in May. From choosing what to hang, to writing an artist statement, deciding how to present their work, and creating a catalog of their photographs, they’ve worked hard and learned a lot.

The opening reception is May 3rd, from 4 to 6pm, at our gallery. The nine Advanced Mentorship members are: Gwen Norton, Doug Burke, Diane Collins, Jean Schnell, Estelle Disch, Kate Griswold, Karla Bernstein, David Matthews, and Steven Koppel. They’ll be hanging the show on the 2nd, and will all attend the reception, so you can meet them. We’re honored to be hosting such a stunning, diverse selection of work, and to be working with such a lovely group. In case you’re wondering, it’s worth my May…

Alison on HGTV: her photos are in 2015 Dream House

A few months ago, we got a call from the designers at HGTV, asking to come by the gallery. They’d already bought two of Alison’s photos from the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury, and were interested in seeing more. We loved meeting them, and were thrilled when they bought two more pieces for the brand new 2015 HGTV Dream House in Katama, here on Martha’s Vineyard. The network produced an entire episode about the architect, builder, and designers who collaborated on the property, and the local artists whose work is exhibited within.

Right now, there’s so much snow out front, we’d forgotten what the lawn looks like!

Here are a few photos (below) they took of Alison’s artwork hanging in the house…





Speak French? Alison’s in this video about the Vineyard

alison on french tv

Alison appears from 1.30 to the 2.00-minute-mark in this video about Martha’s Vineyard. The producers were particularly interested in the celebrities here, including President Obama. Alison’s saying we pretty much leave them alone, which is one reason why it’s a great retreat for them. She’s pointing out the locations in People magazine where paparazzi have taken photos of celebrities – you really don’t see photos from the Vineyard in these mags. They told Alison that you’d never see this in France, where celebrities are followed constantly, and are never left to themselves.This is one more thing we love about our home. Click the link below, to see the video.

French video with Alison

Wonder what this photo means?

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson


AT THIS VERY MOMENT, our lives are changing. It’s a pivotal time, as you can see from this photo…. Well … I can see it.

Give up?

Leaning next to the card tower are our “OPEN” flags for the gallery, and I just brought them in for the last time this season. You won’t see them flying outside here until next May. Until then, this space will be a teaching space (for our mentorship retreats and VIP days), a storage space (it can get a little Sanford & Son in here sometimes), a disorganized space (see me at tax time, with my teetering Jenga-esque piles of receipts and papers all over), and an inspiration space for our business. Of course, I’m happy to open the gallery for you, if you’d like to stop by. But the next time you’ll see the flags will be our Advanced Mentorship student show next May.

All around the Island, businesses are packing it in for the season. Of course there are lots of year-round businesses, or those that go through December. But many see Columbus Day as the end of the season. You can get half-priced doughnuts in town today, discounts on clothes and other goods, and the most important commodity – a parking space. The air is cooler, leaves are falling from the trees – just like everywhere else in New England. But here on Martha’s Vineyard, things will slow down a lot. Renters who do the “seasonal swap” have moved to their winter rentals, traffic is manageable, we have stand-by lines for every ferry, and some stores put paper up in their windows, “thank you for a great season!” signs, and lock their doors until next spring.

I always have mixed feelings at this time of year. I’m pretty psyched about having a day off every once in awhile, which I don’t get from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October. Alison and Jesse watched some of the Patriots game this afternoon, and from now on, I can watch too. And I can visit our daughter Sarah at college (haven’t seen her since August), go to New York for Photo Expo in a couple of weeks, and even start back at the gym.

Alison’s been working even more than me, lately. In the last three+ weeks, she taught three workshops, flew to the Adirondacks for a shoot, bought a new camera, and began planning some VIP days. Last night, after the third workshop ended and the gallery closed, we went home and ate dinner in front of two awesome movies, and then slept for a decadent ten-hour stretch. Eli, our workshop assistant teacher, apparently slept a record FIFTEEN hours last night. We’re all exhausted. But it’s good tired. It’s been a fantastic season.

So. What are we going to do with all this flexibility?

Tomorrow we start the first of three VIP days this week. We’re continuing our work with Advanced Mentorship students. We’ll go to Photo Expo and our daughter’s college, as I mentioned above. We’ll start organizing our basement (I’ve actually been looking forward to this) and getting rid of stuff. And on November 3rd, our 6-month Mentorship begins. There are only 5 spaces left, and I’m starting calls and emails to my list tomorrow – over 50 people have expressed interest in those 5 spaces. Call me soon (this week) if you’re interested in joining us!

So thank you. Thanks for a great season. It’s a little bittersweet to bring those flags in.

Enough about us…

A guest blog: by Sue Dawson

WHAT ABOUT YOU? That’s what I keep thinking, as the 2014 gallery season is winding down. Alison’s on the Cape teaching her second of three workshops this fall. We’ve shifted our focus back to teaching, for the Vineyard off-season. Nine of our Mentorship students from last year are moving on to our Advanced Mentorship program, starting now. The last thing they did as Mentorship students was to send us a selection of their latest images, and a short bio or artist statement. We’ve added a new section to our website to highlight their accomplishments, and to tell you a little bit more about them. I highly recommend checking it out.

Our 2014-2015 Mentorship program starts in early November. I’ve got quite a list of people who’ve expressed interest in joining, and am about to start calling them back, to fill the 10 available spots. If your heart just leapt a bit, let’s talk.

That heart leap brings me back to my original question. What about you? If you take photographs yourself, what inspires you? If you’re more of an art viewer, my question is the same – what inspires you? We’re all looking for something within art, whether we’re producing it ourselves, or viewing art done by someone else. I’m just curious about that feeling you get when art really speaks to something inside of you. Think about when art resonates most deeply within, whether it’s visual, aural, experiential, emotional, spiritual, appreciation of a technique, or even fascination with the gear and mechanics of photos.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What inspires you?