Allison Day

Dance

“For me it’s all about that connection,” says Allison Day of the allure of portrait photography.  “It’s finding the thing that makes [someone] interesting and beautiful and really making that bold in the photograph.”  Her business, Allie Skylar Photography, is just shy of five years old and attracts a steady clientele of families, couples, and brides from Pennsylvania’s Delaware County and beyond.  Her portfolio holds a variety of images that capture a moment at it’s crest.  It’s all in the perspective.  “There’s something really special in understanding that everything is beautiful when you look at it the right way,” says Day, who isn’t afraid to shoot in an unlikely location.  Some images are set perfectly in places that are overlooked.  “I’ve shot engagement sessions next to dumpsters,” she says, but you won’t be able to tell.  Those very images are among the array of photos that appeal to Day’s clientele.

Newborn

Day, also a kindergarten teacher, studied education at Eastern University.  Her first job post-graduation put her in a harrowing situation, one where she had to report an adult to the police for child abuse.  Day moved home to Bloomsburg to re-group emotionally, and worked long hours at multiple, passionless retail jobs.  Seeking a creative outlet, she picked up a camera that she hadn’t really used before.  “I put all my extra energy, thought, and passion into learning how to use it,” and, she says, that the camera translated her inner world.  “I quickly discovered that things that I saw in my head I could get out in the camera.”

Using the camera for her personal renewal led to Day taking part in someone else’s story.  The subject of her first portrait session was a former classmate from high school.  “This girl had been through a really rough time,” says Day.  “She was getting her life back together and she was engaged.”  Drawn to the story, Day offered to take engagement photos for the woman and her fiancé.  This session led to Day also shooting their wedding photos.  Over the next year, other couples hired Day based on those images and, at just 22, she needed to start an LLC.  She was working out of her bedroom in her parent’s house as her outlet became her new career.

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While Day took to photography quickly, challenge takes many forms.  Learning about running a business was one step among many.  Time spent finding her style, and growing to feel comfortable with infants, is what opened Day up to her range of portraits, from infant and family to weddings and boudoir.  In each session, engaging the subject in their uniqueness is Day’s professional goal.  When Day is asked why she chooses to specialize in portraiture, she says, “I love that moment in the camera where you can tell that somebody is finally comfortable with you and comfortable with themselves.”  It can take time for a client to relax, and Day tailors her approach to each session.  With families, she finds that it’s best to let children’s personality shine through and get a family laughing together.  For more formal sessions Day has taken workshops on how to pose people in ways that are the most flattering for them.

One photo shoot last fall was a challenge emotionally.  Day was approached by a client who didn’t want to take family portraits after her third child was stillborn.  Nearly two years later, she felt ready to take holiday photos with her husband and two sons.  Day worked with the family to capture them and find creative ways to honor all three of their children.  Being a part of their step toward healing was intense.  “I was hard on myself,” says Day.  She felt that she had to “give them something to help them have a little bit of closure.”  Day captured the family’s smiles and few shots of dad horsing around with the kids, but it is the images of the balloon release, and a portrait of the family’s hands holding charms with each child’s name, that capture the narrative.

The shoot was more than twice the length of the average family session and Day says “I felt very heavy afterwards emotionally…it was a different kind of intensity.”  When the family received the finalized images, they were more than pleased with how the session turned out.  Their relatives reached out to Day to express their gratitude for seeing images of a happy family that also told their story.

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Juggling two careers with equal zeal is a challenge, but Day finds that they balance each other out.  Photography can be a lonely occupation when the shoot is over and the ensuing days of editing photos require solitude and concentration.  Teaching half-day kindergarten is a welcome break and a genuinely enjoyable time.  These days, Day is working on furthering her videography skills and getting ready for the wedding season to pick up again, while working on her weekly self-portrait project.  For now, she’s enjoying the winter calm before the wedding season starts while keeping up the social media side of her business.

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When asked about why the camera is her medium of choice, Day says that photography has, “changed my outlook and how I see things.”  It has opened her up to the unexpected.  Spending the last four years looking at the world through new lens has helped her search for the beauty in what others might think is unpleasant or ordinary.  She says, “I appreciate what it has done for me in that way.”

allieskylarphotography.com

alllieskylarphotography.gmail.com

 

self

self-portrait

Victor Atkins

Saving Grace Victor Atkins

Saving Grace

When he was growing up in New York, Victor Atkins didn’t imagine that he would become an artist.  During the 1960s, there was a rise in drug related deaths in the Rockaway Beach, Queens community, a scene he didn’t want to become part of.  “People were either overdosing or jumping off of buildings,” says Atkins, “and I didn’t want to do either of those things.”  He pursed art school at the suggestion of a friend who was, “somebody who was doing something positive and creative away from all the death.”  Art became a bright spot in that darkness, but only for a time.

While he hadn’t pictured himself becoming a painter, Atkins found success into his second year at School of the Arts. “It started very early,” he says of the gallery shows and recognition, “and I wish it didn’t.”  Atkins chose to leave art school and focus on getting his work shown in more galleries.  In later years, he would find that he had to work harder to make up for what he lacked in technical training.  Still, his success rose.

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In 1969 Atkins would be awarded the Illustrator Award from the Society of Illustrators for designing the cover of Miles Davis’ “Miles in the Sky” LP. In the 70s,  Atkins showed at galleries throughout New York City. He would paint until he faced some inner turmoil. With no spiritual anchor in his life, he says, “the thing that I saw in my spirit – I couldn’t come near it.  It was too painful, too frustrating.”  There was some distance between his vision and the canvas. “I could see something that I wanted to paint, and I couldn’t make it happen.” Atkins cites Jackson Pollock as an example of an artist “who saw something in himself that he couldn’t get out on canvas,” an experience that led Pollack to his death.

Atkins felt that there was no place where he could take his pain. He soon found himself drifting away from art. Painting began to feel like designing wallpaper. Prospective buyers seemed to go from purchasing his pieces as they were, to requesting reproductions with changes that would suit their taste. What was once freedom in painting turned into something else.

PS100 Victor Atkins

PS100

A group show at at Louis Meisel Gallery in 1978 would be Atkins last for more than twenty years. After a brief stint as a screen writer, he got married, opened a high-end bicycle shop, and lived a life based around the sport. Around 2000, he and his wife Diana would search for a fresh perspective by relocating to West Chester, Pennsylvania. They lived on wooded property, then moved around various counties while still running the bicycle business. Through a spiritual awakening, Atkins would find a bridge between himself and the inner struggle that distanced him from painting. As a Christian, Atkins was struck one night with a deep understanding that painting was what he needed to do. In this epiphany he felt that he needed to paint portraits, which he had never done. He resisted the strength of this message for months by hanging onto the reasons in front of him: their house was too small. There was no space for him to create his large works. He did not paint portraits. What would he do with the paintings? Overall, he really did not want to do it. Atkins would eventually share this experience with people who attended his church, and one of them would offer their well-lit spare room as a studio space.

In 2008 Atkins painted the series “Portraits of the Saints,” capturing images of people who were significant in he and Diana’s journey of faith. Diana insisted that portraits of people they knew would not sell. After the show at Providence Church in West Chester, Atkins chose to keep the portrait of her while all the others found new homes.

The Catch Victor Atkins

The Catch

Interest started to grow in Atkins’ work, and the couple relocated to Philadelphia. The loft spaces in the city were large enough for Atkins to paint. He found his way back to his creative voice through collage, photography, and painting in a way that was both fun and challenging. He showed at Cairn University, White Stone Gallery among other group and solo exhibitions throughout the city. Their current home in Kensington is Atkins’ primary inspiration. The series “Angels Over Kensington” premiered at Legends Gallery in Fall of 2015. The images are of somewhat primitive patterns in bold colors, celestial shapes, suggestions of human figures, and various objects. Atkins wanted to represent the desire that he feels for spiritual awakening to enter a community where he sees desperation and destructive escapism.

“You can’t help but become affected by your environment. It becomes part of your DNA, it becomes what you think about, it becomes part of your body language,” says Atkins of the perceptive quality of a creative person’s existence. Atkins’ current series represents existing in the light of belief amongst darkness.

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Come Sing Hallelujah

Atkins invites spectators into a sense of playfulness and joy in his large works. Each piece is around 70×90 inches and, in person, draws you into the colors and shapes. Symbols create sweeping gestures of emotion. In “Come, Sing Hallelujah, figures have their arms raised, crossing over each other to create a sense of connection. Behind them, a circular shape the color of a golden morning sunrise seems to impart its hue on the spectrum of colors throughout the image.

Being There Victor Atkins

Being There

“Being There” layers blues and purples with bright yellow and orange. A blue spiral in the center is surrounded by two figures arching toward each other. They are framed by the curving shapes of a ladder and a door. Woven into the chaotic red, yellow, and green lines, the spiral and shades of blue throughout are a calm settling over and inside the frenzy.

It seems that Atkins has returned to the darkness that he witnessed at Rockaway Beach, and art is again a light. This time it isn’t an escape born from his own abilities, but a conscious decision to let the inspiration of spiritual wholeness fill his canvases. He sees the spiritual communion of painting as, “committing beauty back to the source of beauty.”

He is currently experimenting with the idea of creating an interactive installation using sound and sculpture also inspired by Kensington. While Atkins isn’t sure about what shape these ideas will take, he is ambitious and, most of all, inspired. He says that the spiritual engagement in his approach to art allows “things that I think I’m not capable of doing happen.”

victor-atkins.com