Alison Shaw has been a photographer all of her life, and has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for most of that time. She grew up in the DC area, but she was a “summer kid” on the Vineyard, visiting her grandparents in Edgartown every summer. After graduating from Smith College in 1975, she came to the Island “just for the summer,” and never left. She got a job with the Vineyard Gazette as an inserter, and worked her way up over the years to Design Director. She put in 60-hour weeks doing layout and production work, and also shot photos for the paper as a free-lancer for $7 per published photo (not terribly glamorous, but she says it was well worth it).
Alison shot exclusively black & white photos for the Gazette, and began showing those photos at art galleries in the early 80s. She developed quite a following, with Gazette readers looking forward to seeing her photos in the paper every week. Limited by the small size of the island, Alison had to constantly see the Vineyard with new eyes, photographing the same locations over and over again, in new light, from different perspectives.
In 2000 Alison left the Gazette, and put all of her energy into Alison Shaw Photography, which is now a multi-layered enterprise that doesn’t give her much time to shoot photos – still long work weeks, but again, well worth it.
Her work has evolved from documentary to abstract, and now she’s fascinated by abstracting the scenes she’d always shot in the early years, using her camera to literally paint with light. Whether it's her series of square seascapes, panoramic seascapes, shooting from the window of a moving car in New Zealand, or the teenagers in her daughter’s swim team, the movement of her camera creates gorgeous, evocative swaths of color. Another popular series of Alison’s work is the artist’s studios series – details of the studios and tools used by artists, many of whom live and work on the Cape and Islands.
Over 8000 of Alison’s original fine art prints are in public and private collections. There are 19 books of her work so far, including the book she wrote about photographing Martha’s Vineyard, and five cookbooks. She teaches photography workshops on the Vineyard every fall (since 1988), in Maine every July, and a number of international locations since 1995.
Alison works with her long-time partner Sue Dawson, who is co-owner of Alison Shaw Photography, and director of Alison Shaw Gallery. Claire Cain manages the upstairs studio and does Alison’s fine art printing. Alison Shaw Photography and Gallery is located in an old single-engine firehouse at 88 Dukes County Avenue in the heart of the Oak Bluffs Arts District. Alison and Sue, their two teenagers, and two cats, live on the shores of a pond in Oak Bluffs.