JRP: Alison Wright is an accomplished photojournalist whose work and life story I’ve come to know through her colorful website. I highly recommend you become acquainted with this talented photographer and survivor.
Thank you Alison for sharing a few moments with JRP Blog.
Alison Wright: Thank you for your interest.
JRP: Where do you call home Alison?
Alison Wright: I travel constantly, and although I’ve always lived in California and I’m still a California girl at heart, I recently have relocated to New York City.
JRP: What initially led you to photojournalism and do you have any formal training?
Alison Wright: Mr. Lee, my high school English teacher was the one who took me aside and encouraged me to get on the school yearbook and newspaper. He taught me how to use my first SLR camera and helped get me into the photojournalism program in college. He was also the one who told me I could actually make a living a doing this.
It was life changing for me. I was fifteen or sixteen when I discovered what I wanted to do with my life and I’ve never wavered.
I transferred from Malibu, California to get my Photojournalism degree at Syracuse University. I worked in the field for ten years before getting my Masters Degree in Visual anthropology from UC Berkeley, CA.
JRP: What would I find in your camera bag for a typical trip and shoot?
Alison Wright: A couple of Nikon D3s, a back-up Nikon D700, a number of lenses including an Nikon 80-200 mm, Nikon 28-70mm, Nikon 50mm 1.4, Nikon 28mm 1.4, a few others.
A Canon G9, just to keep in my pocket. Portable LaCie hard drives, Epson for down – loading, Mac computer, and endless array of cables, surge protector, adapters.
JRP: Is there one lens that you depend on or just can’t do without and why?
Alison Wright: I love just shooting with a plain old Nikon 50mm. 1.4 lens I like fixed lenses and shooting in low light.
JRP: Do you spend a lot of time processing images? Could you please describe your digital work flow and the software you use?
Alison Wright: We use Lightroom for numbering. I enter metadata in CS3, and then tweak in Photoshop. I consider myself a documentary photographer so I don¹t make a lot of changes to my images. Just clean them up, maybe a little cropping.
JRP: Do you make use of a lot of custom white balances when you shoot?
Alison Wright: When needed, mostly for cloudy days or fluorescent lights.
JRP: Image printing, how do you handle that?
Alison Wright: I make some print orders on my Epson printers, but if I’m exhibiting I send out to the labs as they really know what they are doing when it comes to printing.
JRP: What is the most critical moment in the capture of an image?
Alison Wright: Being prepared. Have your camera set and ready to capture the image. Use it everyday so you feel comfortable with your equipment and you¹re not fumbling around with it. A good image captivates your eye and makes you want to come back to it.
JRP: You have authored several books. How does one choose a theme for a book project?
Alison Wright: That¹s the tricky part. Every so often I revisit my bodies of work to see what is thematic and can be expanded on. They were long time dreams of mine to do a book on Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and children around the world.
JRP: Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
Alison Wright: I’d like to do a photo book of portraits, another on Buddhism around the world. I’ve been working on a long-term project on poverty in America, which sadly is a subject that few people seem interested in.
My first written book, a memoir chronicling a devastating bus accident that I survived while shooting in Laos, called “Learning to Breathe”, just came out last year. The paperback is coming out this year so I’m working on some additional material for that.
I’ve also started a foundation called “Faces of Hope”, which is about giving back to the communities in Asia and Afghanistan where I photograph.
I just returned from bringing six doctors and $10,000 worth of medication to a rural clinic in Laos that was instrumental in saving my life after my accident there. I’m trying to raise another $10,000 to buy them a much-needed x-ray machine.
I think photography can bring an awareness that can help change people’s lives for the better. That always gives me great satisfaction when I see that it does. I think it’s important to give back.
JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Alison Wright: Don’t ever become too professional. I think he meant that there are a lot of big egos in this business. You’re never above learning something new. Oh, and watch your backgrounds.
JRP: What advice would you share with photographers starting out?
Alison Wright: Follow your passion, it will show in your work. Don’t bog yourself down with what you think you should be doing. Besides, what I love about my line of work is that I’m always learning, always growing. Not a lot of people can say that about their dead-end jobs.
For that reason you must always pursue personal work and projects. Look at as many pictures as you possibly can, in galleries, magazines, the Internet. Find your own sense of style.
Take the initiative and be creative in how to make your business work. In this economy it is almost impossible today to make money just on magazine assignments.
Think in terms of creating pillars, selling stock, assignments, teaching workshops and tours, selling prints.
JRP: Thank you Alison for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been my pleasure talking with you. We wish you continued success.
Alison Wright: Thank you.
JRP: To view more of Alison Wright’s photography please follow these links: