Allie Mullin is a young photographer from Durham, NC concentrating in a wide range of themes including portraits, documentary, and modern abstract photography. We discovered Allie’s work during an open art show at The Makery in Durham and immediately reached out to her regarding her unique style. The truth is, we rarely see this kind of diversity in one show from one photographer. Her portraits are warm and intimate–each as unique as the subject she captures. Allie has the ability to produce crisp, commercial shots and she also has an eye for unique candid moments that are often glossed over during important events. Although she mainly markets herself as a wedding photographer, her talent for documentary has opened many doors for her business including: prints of graduations, theatre productions, workshops, and athletic events. We anticipate an active and successful future for this particular photographer, and so we thought we would pick her brain to see how growing up in Durham has influenced her work and to learn more about her unique perspectives.
GTH: Allie, let’s start with where you are from. You have established yourself as a Durham, NC artist. Did you grow up here? Did you hone your photography talent in Durham?
AM: I grew up in Durham but never expected to come back here after graduation. I studied Photo-Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill and really honed my skills there. I was photo editor of the school paper, The Daily Tar Heel, and at that point photography was consuming my life and was more of a stressor than a joy. I rediscovered my love of photography by wandering around with my cameras and by photographing weddings and portraits on the side, which then turned into my full-time business, Allie Mullin Photography.
Durham is a fantastic city for artists. It has changed so much over the last few years, and the folks here are incredibly supportive. There are a lot of opportunities here to connect and explore, and there is more of a sense of community rather than competition.
GTH: Community rather than competition. I like that.
AM: Yeah! It completely subverts this assumed hierarchy that’s inherent in American culture. We need to support each other! I wouldn’t get anything out of undercutting another photographer, except maybe bad karma.
GTH: You cover several genres of photography in your work including: documentary, family sessions, portraits, and abstract art. Do you have a preferred or favorite genre?
AM: I don’t have a favorite genre of photography. I like exploring different kinds to learn new techniques and approaches, and to see with fresh eyes.
GTH: So, what kind of approach are you playing with now? Is there something “fresh” you have recently discovered or perhaps a unique approach that you can share with us?
AM: My approach now is to be completely in the moment. Instead of spending time thinking about photographs I could make if I had perfect lighting and whatnot, I see what is actually in front of me and go from there. I sense and use the emotions of my subjects-I am so lucky to photograph so much love! It’s a zen approach to photography and has made my process so joyful.
GTH: One of the most interesting forms of documentary you have completed is documenting theatre. What are some of the shows you have photographed and what are some of the challenges and benefits to documenting theatre productions?
AM: I work with a theatre group in the area called Haymaker that does devised works. I do their promotional images, so we’re in a studio setting for half of the things we shoot, and in the theatre during rehearsals for the other half. It’s a challenge to work in a group setting with costume designers, actors, and directors. It’s also a physical challenge: Haymaker puts me in some unique situations. In the Haymaker image (attached) I was on the hood of the truck, and in another shoot I’ve fought with an actor (play-acting, but it was intense!). The benefit is that I’m pushed to my creative edge, and I’ve also made some really great friends and creative partners.
GTH: Wow. You literally got involved in the play-acting? That is intense. Does it help that theatre groups are conscious of technical details such as lighting and makeup?
AM: Yep! I am so glad I do yoga in my spare time. It makes me flexible enough to play while I’m working! Theatre groups are so great about the details! The amount of time that we put into planning-creating timelines, costume and prop lists, creating vision boards-keeps the shoots from being too stressful and chaotic.
GTH: Let’s switch over for a second. You have also photographed sports events. Do you have any advice for photographers interested in focusing on live action/sports events?
AM: For any photographers who shoot live action and sports, shoot often! It also takes a lot of practice to capture sports moments because they move so fast. Watch a lot of games, learn about how the games work. If you don’t understand baseball, it’s going to be hard to shoot. Ask to get access to spaces that are a little nontraditional if you’re looking to make interesting portraits-sometimes you can get permission to follow players around.
GTH: What is an example of a nontraditional space for sports photography? Say, in baseball?
AM: Nontraditional spaces could be an area like the press box, or the dugout, or the locker room (be tasteful about it, though). It helps tell the whole story of the game. I like to document the experience for the players and the audience, not just the game-winning plays.
GTH: You also create amazing portraits. One thing I admire, in particular, about your portrait sessions is that you produce non-traditional photographs. In one photograph, you feature a girl from just above the lip upwards wearing a stark white beanie. Your works also present several different angles that are unique for portrait sessions. What do you seek to communicate through your original style?
AM: Thanks! I made that photo in my first studio class. I seek to communicate many things, but my style has been refined over the years to express the emotion and magic in everyday moments. A kind of ethereal reality, I suppose? That sounds really pretentious, but I mean it.
GTH: Ethereal. You mean airy, in a way? Like slightly supernatural? Free-flowing? Care-free?
AM: Totally! I think there’s something special about the ordinary, something that we often don’t appreciate. I think a quiet night at home is just as incredible and beautiful as an epic wedding.
GTH: Do you mind if I ask you an aesthetic question? As a photographer, what, in your opinion, determines whether a photo is best communicated in black and white or in color? Is it determined on a pic-by-pic basis? Or do you think there is a different message that accompanies the absence of color?
AM: I choose color or black and white on a picture-by-picture basis. Typically I use black and white to emphasize shape and texture or to stress the romanticism of moments.
GTH: What do you think is emphasized by the use of color in a photo?
AM: Hmmm, well, I immediately thought shape and texture, but I said that for black-and-white! I think color stresses the vivaciousness of a subject or moment. I do rely on my intuition for a lot of my editing decisions.
GTH: Allie, thank you so much for giving us a sneak-peak behind Allie Mullin Photography. Your work truly has its own flare, and we wish you much success in the near future!
AM: Thank YOU! I’m so happy to share my work with The Glory Tree Herald.
Learn more about Allie Mullin Photography prints and services at alliemullin.com.
Keep up with events and activities from Allie Mullen Photography on Facebook.
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