For this photographer from San Diego, pushing herself “to the edge” led to a new goal: landscape photography.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have crippled her wedding photography business, but Allison Davis has found another outlet for her creativity: landscape photography.
For Davis, a Texan who had just forged ties and rebuilt her business in San Diego before the pandemic shut down all last year, the challenges were many. These challenges have led to something beautiful “revealed to the limit”.
“’Revealed at the Edge’ began as a personal creative project and has grown into my first book and a hopeful series of coastal collections and book journeys,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what I would remember after photographing the West Coast for 30 days, but as I photographed every day I could feel a book unfolding more than a handful of landscapes for an exhibition of beautiful- arts. “
She had tried to supplement her lost wedding income with real estate photography, but it made her hate her beloved art form, so she pivoted and leaned into her passion for travel and scenery. She spent 30 days driving along the West Coast, traveling over 3,000 miles of shore and camping in her Honda CR-V. She ultimately photographed 220 places, focusing on raw, natural and unspoiled places, culminating in “Revealed at the Edge,” her coffee table book on landscape photography. (The Kickstarter campaign for the book has currently raised over $ 32,000 in pledges, of a goal of $ 37,500.)
Davis, 37, lives in Ocean Beach and has spoken of her journey along the coast through wildfires, uncertainty, and the literal and figurative paths that brought her to this new place in her life.
Question: How did you get started in photography?
A: My love for photography started in college. I loved sports and wanted to be a Sports Illustrated photographer. But I was also the self-proclaimed historian of the lives of my family and friends. In high school, this led me to work as a directory editor and earn a college degree in journalism.
I only took one film photography course at university. My love for photography grew as a journalist who had to take pictures while on a mission. Then, in 2008, I photographed a wedding for a friend of a coworker, and I was hooked. I jumped head first into filming weddings and photographed 30 weddings that year while working full time in a church media department.
Question: What’s the difference between your approach to travel photography and that of your wedding?
A: I have discovered that the common theme of both is that I am a “witness to life and beauty”. For me, I do not create any scene. I don’t create the moments and connections on a wedding day, and I don’t create the landscape in front of me, but I can stand up and witness it. In both, I look for the story unfolding in front of me, I look for the beauty, I look for the raw truth, and I try to give an honest description of both, with a tendency to focus on the beauty.
Question: Tell us about “Revealed at the Edge”.
A: I knew I had to rely on my creativity and passions, and without the ability to photograph people during the pandemic, I leaned into my passion and love for travel and the coast. I saw a window of time on my calendar with 30 days between September and October, so I put that time aside and started to prepare.
I decided to drive camping for the duration of the trip to keep the logistics simple and inexpensive. I have a Honda CR-V, and although I’m 5’11 ”, I got it working for the trip. The goal of the project was to seek beauty in everyday life, to push myself to see what was at the limit, to spend time connecting with God and creation, to listen and to write, to create beautiful images. and captivating of what I could walk. to find and find beauty in the moment and not just in the best and most optimal circumstances, time and light. By creating for 30 days, I hoped to leave with magnificent landscapes to allow me to earn my living as an artist.
I didn’t necessarily know what I was going to find, but I did know that I had to push myself to discover, pursue beauty, and really see what was on the limit. When you hike along the coast there is so much to discover, but you miss most of it, unless you are ready to walk to the edge. The views are nice, but you miss the drama of the cliffs or cliffs if you stay at a comfortable distance. It is therefore a literal and metaphorical adventure to push us to see what is revealed on the edge.
What I like about Ocean Beach …
I like living a few steps from the beach, the original beauty of the neighborhood, humor, carefree and playfulness. I love that everyone plays here: they skate, surf, fly kite, are active and relish beach life. I have amazing neighbors who have become friends. I like restaurants and small businesses. I love the life that I am rebuilding here.
Question: In the video on your journey in creating this book, you always mention the search for light and sun, as a photographer; but when you got to the bay area the forest fires had started and you spent eight days with cloud cover, smoke and flames. What went through your mind at the time? And how did you adapt to these less than ideal circumstances?
A: On the second day of my trip, as I headed north to begin my trip, the extreme wildfire conditions caused me to panic. I am from Texas and have never experienced a wildfire season. Knowing that as a photographer I photograph the natural landscape, I had no idea of the conditions of my trip, but insisted because I had a specific time window.
Smoke played an interesting character in the book. It’s almost as if there was a theme of the landscape that was hidden and then uncovered and the smoke was rising, things just got clearer. Naming my project “Revealed at the Edge”, it was an interesting development that gave the images a different feel and a different story.
Honestly, the wildfires were also just one more thing that made 2020 the year it has been – a year of loss, suffering, and these less than ideal circumstances. I wanted to photograph the landscape as it was and find beauty in it, no matter the smoke, fog, rain or sun. A book of landscapes in perfect conditions is just lovely, but this book has a great depth of unique beauty and is a clear search for beauty in real conditions. To me, it looks like life: it’s not always perfect, but it can be beautiful.
Question: Are you getting into landscape photography? Does that mean more wedding photography?
A: I am pursuing fine art landscape photography at the moment because it is what inspires me and fills my mind as a believer and an artist. I have endless ideas for collections and what I want to photograph and write about and it’s just an overflow of my creativity and my heart. It’s hard to let go of something that is burning so passionately in me right now.
I am open to whatever God brings and to any direction. For now, I would continue to photograph weddings to recoup the lost income of the past two years, but if I can find artistic, spiritual and financial success in fine art landscape photography, this is where my heart and my intentions will go.
Question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: Two tips that I keep coming back to are: when you don’t know what to do, take the next step; taking one step at a time will move you forward. And, when things aren’t going well, go left. It always challenges me to think about what else I could do if things aren’t going well.
Question: What’s the one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: People might be surprised to learn that I had never been camping before taking this trip. I had never booked a camping trip, had never really spent time in national parks or national forests – much of this trip was a stretch for me. My decision to drive camping for most of the trip was a fun and adventurous part for me.
Question: Please describe your ideal weekend in San Diego.
A: My perfect weekend in San Diego would include an hour of beach in the morning with a latte or a homemade smoothie, a book, and a towel. A bit of surfing or kayaking, and lately my boyfriend and I have been exploring all the museums in Balboa Park and enjoying a patio somewhere with Tex-Mex and a nice cocktail. End the day admiring the sunset at Sunset Cliffs or OB, and a nice dinner at the restaurant.