Professional artist and photographer Allison Daniell brought her creative vision to the Pikes Peak region from her native Tennessee during a summer break in college. As she drove west on U.S. Highway 24 toward Woodland Park and a job at Eagle Lake Camp, she fell in love with the area.
Fast forward a few years with plans to work full-time at the camp, she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree from Austin Peay State University, packed her car and drove west. Instead of getting the full-time camp job, she started working at Accent Photo Imaging in Centennial Commons off Garden of the Gods Road. Daniell, 33, described her career as “following the breadcrumbs,” and spoke with the Business Journal recently about her art.
How did you become a photographer?
I formed Stellar Propeller Studio in 2008 after a year working at a professional photo shop doing work on other people’s photos, and a year and a half doing second shootings for Blue Fox [Photography].
My business feels like it’s continually evolving as I grow as an artist and my work grows with it. I’m constantly trying to challenge myself to learn new things and to push myself to the “terror’s edge,” to quote Denver photographer Steve Stanton. I’ve done work for The Broadmoor, Lee Spirits, Bob McGrath Construction and Colorado Collective.
Talk about your artistic endeavors.
I make fine art and am very passionate about it. My last solo exhibit was in March 2015 at COPPeR called Visions & Dreams, and it was a collection of photographs, mixed media and painting. I spent a lot of time in college doing fine art, engaging in artmaking where you had to get your hands dirty: sculpture, drawing and working on the letterpress.
I think that the more art forms one is engaged with, the odds of the art being richer increase, because one art form can inform the others and give it more layers and depth. But, as far as why I chose to make a living as a photographer, I would say that I don’t live my life with five-year plans or 10-year plans. I tend to live life like Hansel and Gretel, following the breadcrumbs around. And the breadcrumbs totally led me to photography, for which I am very grateful. It’s a wonderful blend of things I’m good at — working with people and making them feel comfortable, making art, seeing light, telling stories, helping businesses grow.
Talk about photography in the digital age.
Photography is also a form of art that is really necessary in the digital age. It’s everywhere — ads, Instagram, websites, dating websites. … If you don’t have eye candy online, your business or profile probably suffers. Good photography shows off what you do, who you are and tells people you care enough about yourself or your product to portray it well.
Honestly, in the back of my mind, I always think about the zombie apocalypse and what would and wouldn’t matter if that happened. Obviously, photography wouldn’t make the cut of things we desperately need, but it sure does bring value to life and is a joy to create.
What’s your favorite photo?
I default to a famous quote by Imogen Cunningham, “The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” It’s funny: My favorite photo isn’t one by any of my favorite photographers, but instead is one of my father and me from when I was little.
I don’t even know who took it, but you can sense the joy and love between father and daughter. And since he passed away when I was 13, it’s obviously very special and irreplaceable … and touches me in a deeply personal way.
What do you think of the young professional culture here?
I love it here. Colorado Springs has enough people to feel like a city that’s making a difference, but few enough people to feel like our community is a family. I also think the YPs here aren’t all out for themselves and building their own empires, but instead actually care about what we’re building together.
Working at Epicentral [Coworking] has given me more connection with other YPs and I’m extremely appreciative of that.
It’s allowed me to feel like I have more of a finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
How can the Springs attract more young professionals?
Developing a thriving downtown is important because YPs want more than the sprawl and shopping centers suburbia has to offer. The Downtown Partnership and lots of others are making this happen.
They’re … making downtown a place people want to start businesses and hang out. As long as people are investing in this city, allowing new businesses to begin and grow, and highlighting the great outdoor activities we have, I see no reason YPs shouldn’t flock to the Springs. I got here as fast as I could.
How has Epicentral Coworking helped your business?
It took me seven years of part-time work to where I felt comfortable enough to take the plunge. Two years ago, I said I was five years away from going full-time, and I owe that to Epicentral. I love it here.
What’s kept you in the Springs?
The people, by far. I love the community; I love that it doesn’t take too long here to feel like home, to feel established. The city itself just keeps getting better and better, and I’m proud to be a part of it. When people ask me how I like living in the Springs, I tell them I love it more than I ever have.