Safe choices are not always the best choices, but we can learn from them. For Allison Harper, her safe choice was turning down an offer to study photography while living in New York because of her finances and visa status concerns while there. She would instead go on to work for design and architectural firms in London. But it wasn’t until an encounter with a friend who was a life coach that she decided to again pick up a camera. “He asked me if there was any little ember that I wished I had blown on. I told him that I’d always regretted not studying photography,” says Harper. Believing that it is never too late to start something, Harper applied to do the photo imaging course at Melbourne Polytechnic, and graduated with a diploma in 2016.
© Allison Harper
Working with people soon became her forte with projects such as her ongoing series on identical twins. “I began the project because my sisters and uncles are identical twins and I am interested in exploring twins’ relationships with each other, and with the world,” she says. But her background in design also influenced her photographic interests and she would go on to photograph built environments and streetscapes. “I am instinctively drawn to the graphic nature of things,” she says.
Harper’s consulting background also gave her the business skills she needed to work as a photographer. “My previous experience has been invaluable in terms of taking a client brief and delivering in a timely and cost-effective manner. Understanding how a business works is just as important as a good eye and a passion for your craft; you also need a good dose of optimism and self-belief.”
Within a year of her graduation, Harper has been named 2017 VIC AIPP Emerging Photographer of the Year and was a semi-finalist for the Head On Portrait Prize. While working as a freelance, commercial photographer, she is also working on material for a solo exhibition and book.