Huge congratulations to November’s CMpro of the Month, the incredibly talented Allison McSorley! Let’s kick this month off with an interview with Allison!
november cmpro of the month | allison mcsorley
Hello, Allison! Congratulations on being this months CMPro! Can you start us off by telling everyone a little about who you are and how you got involved with photography?
Thank you, Lisa. It’s such an honor to be CMpro of the Month. I am originally from Massachusetts but have moved around a bit since marrying my military husband 8 years ago. I’ve spent the last 2 years living in Brooklyn, NY with him and our two small children who continue to amaze me every day with their curiosity, joy and candor. My photography journey began back in 2007 when my son was born. Like many new moms, I remember being consumed with recording every little detail of his growth. I felt this overwhelming need to document everything so as not to forget a single moment. My passion for photography grew from there and ultimately it became about more than just documenting my children. It became about documenting them in an artistic and creative fashion.
You are involved in a few personal projects: Letters to our Sons, How I View, It’s the Little Things, Faceless. Can you explain what they are and have the projects had any personal or photographical affect on you?
Besides pushing me to shoot on a regular basis, a couple of the online projects I’ve been involved with this past year have challenged me to find new and interesting ways to create images from my home and my city that I love. A blog circle challenge will often inspire me to get out of the house and go explore the amazing city that I currently call home. Then there are the Letters to Our Sons and Daughters projects, both of which are very close to my heart and have reinforced my commitment to keep a visual and written record of my children’s childhood.
Someone or something continually inspires us in our lifetime that influences our work. Can you tell us what inspires you?
At the very beginning of my journey my one and only inspiration was my two crazy kids but now that I’ve been shooting for several years, I‘ve discovered inspiration in places I never expected like, music, paintings, light and shadow, lines, symmetry, order, and any type of art that demonstrates strong emotional connections.
Can you share your current favorite image with us and why?
This is always a tough question to answer because I’m notorious for my indecisiveness. Just ask my husband! My all-time favorite image though is a shot of my son from the summer of 2010 (below), at the very beginning of my journey. In fact, it’s not even a dramatic light portrait! I knew nothing about using light to my advantage at that time. It’s a flatly lit shot taken in my garage but it perfectly captures the wide-eyed innocence of my then two and a half year old. I had just started shooting in RAW format and was still very new to manual exposure but the moment I took that shot I knew I was making progress. I fell instantly in love with that photograph and remember feeling so incredibly excited that I was able to put all the pieces together to create an image I was proud to hang on my wall.
I heard that you’re getting ready to launch a breakout session for Clickin Moms and I would love for you to give us a little teaser on what’s to come?
Yes! I’m so excited about sharing this very special project with the Clickin Moms community. My breakout is called CMpro Introspective: Finding Light Among the Shadows and it’s essentially about some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way. It wasn’t that long ago that I was new to photography. I remember wishing I could have a tiny glimpse into their journeys and the successes and failures that molded them into the masters they had become. This breakout does that by giving readers a behind-the scenes look at my journey and the lessons that have had a unique impact on my growth as a photographer. I share some very specific advice and information about my approach to dramatic and low light shooting. I also talk a lot about finding my artistic style and the significant influence that unexpected circumstances can have on the path to success. Through the lens of my own journey, I cover topics such as rising above unexpected challenges, finding your purpose, embracing authenticity, appreciating your own progress, and ultimately, giving back to others.
You have a gift with using light to create beautiful, dramatic and emotive photography. What is your ideal lighting situation?
This is another difficult question to answer. I’ve spent the better part of two years shooting in less than ideal conditions in a very dark and very tiny city apartment. But I’ve learned to adapt my shooting style to compensate for the lack of natural light in my home. And honestly, I wouldn’t be the photographer I am today if I hadn’t been forced to work with what I have. In a perfect world, I’d like to have a couple more windows and perhaps a garage at my disposal but overall, I’m fairly content with the results I get from my less-than-ideal environment.
Do you feel like the light you choose emphasizes the story that you are telling?
In many ways it’s not so much about the light I choose as it is about the light that is available in my home. I have so little light to work with in my tiny city apartment that my style has been significantly impacted by that factor. Over the past two years, I’ve found myself naturally gravitating toward moody, expressive portraiture, which compliments my dramatic light style very well. That being said, I am always mindful of the impact light can have on a shot. For example, I don’t shoot my happy, smiling children in deep shadows. Instead, I’ll opt for softer, less dramatic light to complement the overall feel of the shot. My ultimate goal is to create an image where light, mood, and expression all work together to contribute to the overall story.
What is some of the best advice that you have received and how has it affected your journey?
There have been so many great pieces of advice given to me along the way but one that I continue to come back to time and again, especially if I’m feeling uninspired or unimpressed with my own work, is a quote by public radio personality Ira Glass. I even printed it out and taped it to my computer so I am reminded of the meaning behind his words each time I sit down to work. In it he reminds us of the significance of determination and hard work, the importance of patience and the idea that we are all very much a work in progress:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?
I’m pretty happy with my lineup of lenses right now. There’s nothing that I absolutely need although I am interested in exploring macro photography and the Nikon 105mm has been at the top of my list since renting it earlier this year. I’m also interested in taking the leap into Lensbaby photography and will probably make one of those mine real soon.
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera…
I wish I had a more glamorous answer but the truth is I’d love to sneak into my kids’ classrooms and take pictures without them knowing – pictures of them interacting with their friends and teachers. I also often wish I could go unnoticed to take some pictures of them together. They are both at an age right now where they play fairly well with each other but the minute they spot the camera they run in the other direction!
Thank you Allison for the fantastic interview! Make sure you head over to Allison’s website, blog, facebook, and instagram to view the rest of her gorgeous work. If you have a question for Allison, you can ask in the comments below or in her ask the pros thread on the forum.