Interview with Allison Markova

With a refined feel for colour, elegance and authentic imagery style, Allison Markova intrigued us so much so that we could’t help but find out about her own position towards photography, and how she incorporates it in her life - working in a science institution. We are always proud to have so many great minds in our Squaremuse community! Keep on reading to discover a talented photographer, and check her recently launched wonderful website which was build with our Miró Design Kit.

Interview with Allison Markova

Do you remember the first time you picked up a camera in your hands? When and where it was?

My first camera was a Canon point & shoot. I thought I was pretty fancy because it allowed me to select one colour to leave in images and make the rest black and white. I am pretty sure I have an entire album of vacation photos I took with this setting...

My parents gave me my first entry-level DSLR & kit zoom lens before I studied abroad in Tanzania. I had no idea what I was doing and had it on Auto most of the time. At that point I knew I liked taking photos but had never really considered learning more about it. It wasn't until a few years later that I really started learning more about it and became brave enough to shoot in Manual. It still pains me to think about the experiences we had on that trip and what I could have captured had I only known what I was doing!

"Power of an image" - what does it mean to you? Describe the philosophy behind your photography.

A powerful image makes you feel - and this is driven by the story behind it. Whether its a collective message or feeling, or something unique to each person that views it. Our challenge as photographers is to convey a message or tell a story with our images.  

Your background is in environmental science. Tell us your way from science to photography.

I've always been a creative person. I went into environmental science because I had a passion for conservation and a curiosity about the natural world - growing up I wanted to be Jane Goodall. Although I liked science, I knew I wasn't the type that wanted to stay in school through a PhD- I wanted to get out and experience things (after all, one of the things I loved most about Jane Goodall is her nontraditional route to making her mark). It took me a really long time to figure out that I could incorporate both creativity & science into a career. I currently work full-time (in addition to photography) at an oceanographic research institution in marketing & communications. Down the road, I would really like to work in storytelling for mission-driven and nonprofit organizations whether that be in photography or creative direction. Communicating stories, discoveries, & innovation effectively can really determine their impact. But really, who knows where life will take me!

Where are you from and which countries you dream to visit? What does adventure mean to you?

I am from the United States - the little state of Rhode Island. It's hard to think of a place I DON'T want to visit but at the top of my list at the moment are: Morocco, Norway, French Polynesia, Borneo, the Faroe Islands, more of the US National Parks, I would really love to see gorillas in Rwanda, and my ultimate dream is to make it to Gombe National Park. 

Adventure to me is discovering something new. There is really no better feeling than seeing a new place or discovering a different culture for the first time. Something I would really like to work on is spending less time researching destinations before I go there. I think there is something missing from modern day travel in that we see so many photos and read so many reviews and stories before visiting. I would much rather approach a destination with no expectations, an open mind, and a schedule that leaves room for spontaneous adventures.

Your portfolio has one vibe/style, no matter if it's editorial or couple shootings. How did you find your own photography style? 

I am still finding my style - and it is constantly changing. It's really hard to be consistent from editorial to travel to couples. I like to think the consistency lies in my eye - and not so much in the editing style as this is difficult to keep consistent across genres. There are certain styles that inspire me and I think that plays into all areas - but in different ways. I've always been really drawn to what it is about a photo that makes you feel something. I try not to get pegged into a particular style because it really starts to limit you creatively. It may sell to have a certain aesthetic throughout your Instagram feed, for example, but it stifles creativity and what I love most about photography. 

Could you share the most recent favourite shoot of yours? Tell us the story of this shooting (share a few images) Why is it special?

Other than photos from recent travel, which always hold the most meaning for me, I recently did an editorial shoot in Arizona that was just for fun. I guess that's why I enjoyed it so much. There were really no limitations or expectations.

How would like to develop your photography moving forward?

I am constantly learning something new - and in terms of hard skills - have SO much left to learn. Something I am trying to do more - especially when it comes to travel photography is to get out of my comfort zone and be less shy. I am an observer and typically very quiet- something that works well for me in photography - but in order to be able to tell a complete story, and to be respectful of your subjects & their culture, I think you need to talk to people, get to know them.

How does social media and online presence influence your brand? Why did you decide to update your website, which by the way looks amazing.

I have really struggled in creating my online presence because marketing for weddings is very different than marketing for any other type of photography and it's hard to market for all of it well. I've contemplated creating multiple sites, multiple social accounts etc. I finally decided to redesign my site and include it all. I am POSITIVE that there is a better way to market for each of these individually but I think to show only one facet of my work to particular audiences is not giving them a well-rounded impression of me as an artist. I liked Squaremuse because it was easy to customize- I started with a particular theme and then changed it to work for me. I am hoping in the future to incorporate more of my conservation interests into the site and potentially blog more often about environmental topics. The site I have now is really just a starting place and I will be building on it in the year to come.  

Couple of pieces of advice from Allison to those, who are just starting their photography journey. 

First, don't be intimidated. When you get started - there is SO much out there in terms of software, equipment, and what you may think are required skills. Just pick up your camera and start slow- it will come with time. You don't need to know it all. I get asked often what gear I use - and yes your toolkit allows you to create what you envision- but a photographer is not made by their equipment. Trust in your unique point of view, and how you see the world - this is what makes you an artist. 

Second, be true to yourself. There is so much out there on social media etc. in terms of others work- it can be tempting to copy or emulate an artist who's successful or whose work/style you admire. Don't be sucked into the social media "celebrity" of other photographers. Stop worrying how you look on social media - or how many followers you have and just create. People will recognize your unique vision. 

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Creatively yours,
Squaremuse Team!