We continue showcasing the new generation of female photographers with the talented Allegra Messina. The Seattle based artist tells you little stories with each image that spreads technical perfection and color-pristine radiance.
Which song people should listen to while reading this interview?
What moment made you fall in love with photography?
It’s funny, I’ve always loved art and photographing landscapes, but I didn’t really fall in love till I did a shoot with my sister. It was just for fun, super silly – we shot it all outside our house – but I realized that day that the missing link was that I needed to be photographing people. Ever since, I can’t stop thinking about it! I always say I’m going to take a break, and then I just get sucked right back in within a day.
Whose work has influenced you most?
It’s kind of an eclectic mix of people, from Annie Leibowitz to Petra Collins to my grandparents’ slides I used to always see. I really love on-location portraits that tell some kind of narrative.
What is the essence of a good image?
I think the best photography conveys two things: some kind of message or storyline, and how the shoot felt behind the scenes. The best photographs not only carry a story in the photo but the weight of it comes from the whole rest of the process. I think that’s why I so often feel a disconnect between high fashion shoots, since they’re so regimented behind the scenes. You can tell when the overall experience is a good one for all parties involved in photos, I think. Teams make good images, not just the photographer.
“Almost everything inspires me! I’ve always been slightly ADHD, so I tend to notice a lot of things all at once, and am drawn to details.”
What do you love about taking photos of people?
I love taking photos of people because you can tell how people act by how they interact with the camera. The more I’ve been shooting, the more I realize that my favorite models bring their distinct, crazy personalities to our shoots. All of my favorite photos have a story attached, predominantly because of the women I work with being such amazing people!
Where do you find the inspiration for your photographs?
Almost everything inspires me! I’ve always been slightly ADHD, so I tend to notice a lot of things all at once, and am drawn to details. I get ideas from walking down the street more often than I do off going on Instagram. (That being said, I follow over 4,000 people because I tend to be inspired by a huge range of photographers, models and other artists.) I love being outdoors and exploring so that tends to drive my locations – any place where you can arrive and suddenly feel how beautiful the world is tends to make inspiration for my favorite photos.
“I think that the happiness in my photos comes more out of a sense of relief and social connectedness I get while working. I very deeply love people.”
Your images transmit so much sereneness and happiness – what makes you happy?
It’s funny, because I am categorically not a happy person. I work so often to distract myself from the fact that I’m going through a hard time emotionally. Photography has kind of saved me, in a way. I think that the happiness in my photos comes more out of a sense of relief and social connectedness I get while working. I very deeply love people. I want to have wild experiences exploring abandoned buildings and Alabama Hills and hidden alleys in Chinatown with people who are very different than me. That’s what makes me happy.
What advice would you give a another photographer?
Have confidence and know the value of your work. You are the only one who can ascribe a value to what you do, so never under-sell yourself. If you love what you do, it’ll show, and people will respect that. Half the time, it won’t feel like work, but you may see parts of this industry you don’t like – work to change them! You have a voice, regardless of what stage you’re at as a photographer. I see problems with racism, sexual assault, and body shaming in this industry and I feel like it’s a responsibility we have as photographers to say something. That’s part of knowing our value, too.
“Half the time, it won’t feel like work, but you may see parts of this industry you don’t like – work to change them! You have a voice, regardless of what stage you’re at as a photographer.”
How important are friends for you?
Friends are incredibly important to me. Most of my friends actually aren’t in the industry, since I’m also a full time student at Occidental College – they’re studying economics, critical theory and social justice, music, and an insane variety of other “liberal arts” coursework. Yet they constantly push me as an artist and I’m incredibly grateful for that. It can be really tricky to find a balance between work and spending time with friends, but I’m trying to keep better organized and see them more.
What do you expect from life?
Oof, who knows! I’ve had crazy things happen within my family that made me realize that you never know what to expect, but you need to just keep pushing forward and learning from what does happen. I’m hoping to ultimately create photographs that are meaningful to more than just me, and have broader social implications. I’m going to do some more feminist work that expresses how I feel as a woman and an artist, but even with that I don’t know what to expect and where it’ll go!