Allison Davis is a wedding, portrait and landscape photographer based in San Diego, California. When she began her career her sole focus was wedding photography, but at the beginning of 2020 Davis was tired of living in Dallas and decided she wanted to be closer to nature. She moved to the west coast and was beginning to put roots down in her new home, when COVID-19 hit and the wedding business shut down. While the world was on pause, Davis began photographing landscapes, which now form her soon be released book Revealed At The Edge. Today Davis is back to photographing weddings, engagements and love stories, while also navigating the new world of publishing and getting word out about her book.
Davis’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I’ve been a wedding and portrait photographer for thirteen years, but the pandemic closures halted the wedding industry in a serious way. I had begun moving my business from Texas to California, but before I could get it off the ground in a new state, the pandemic shut down my hopes of photographing weddings for a living in California. I worked in real estate photography briefly, but my creative, entrepreneurial and artistic heart suffered in this line of work. I learned I had so much more within me and set out to create something with all of the time I was afforded having been essentially unable to work amidst the pandemic. Creating work as an artist came out of a necessity to pivot because when I couldn’t photograph people, I still needed to create. I chose to pursue work as an artist and to photograph what was meaningful and beautiful to me personally. I am working to build a new business out of this endeavor.
I wanted to move to Southern California to be somewhere beautiful. As a photographer, it was a hope of mine that I could be a wedding photographer in a more beautiful location than Dallas. Nothing’s wrong with Dallas: it’s a great city and a wonderful place to live, but it lacked that natural beauty that allowed me to connect with God as the Creator. When faced with the dilemma of going back home to Texas because my inability to work during the pandemic, I took a risk. I decided to travel for thirty days along the West Coast, to photograph and create my first body of work as a fine art landscape photographer. The project was and is a passion project. I’m passionate about natural, untouched places in the world and the beauty and wildness of them.
Creating this initial coffee table book and fine art collection gave me purpose and joy during a season of loss and chaos. Writing, designing, editing, marketing and preparing this book is a culmination of all the skills and talents I’ve developed over the years. Writing and creating this has been an absolute joy as an artist. Tapping into that part of me has been a wonderful journey and I believe my passion and joy is infectious in the way I share it in my book and collection.
How do you define success?
I believe success is a layered thing. I believe it’s a success to live out your calling and purpose. My hope is that by giving myself over entirely to following my calling, I will inspire others, give hope and encourage them to seek beauty and live adventurously. I think we can find success in what we do when we give it our best and trust that we’ve done all we can with that project, idea or event. And my hope is that I will find economic success in doing that in the world.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Dreaming up, planning, executing, developing, designing, and carrying out all the steps necessary to photograph and write my first fine art coffee table book is a huge success. I’m thrilled with the alignment of my skills and heart to create this beautiful piece of art. It is truly a work from my heart and to have it come to life is a dream. Additionally, being able to show my first fine art collection in a gallery has been an additional success I didn’t dream would happen for many years.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
The most challenging aspect so far is marketing such a niche product. I have been working in weddings for thirteen years and switching from selling a service to selling a product has been a learning process. Learning who to connect with, how to get my book into stores or in the right hands has been a learning process — one I’m still very much in the middle of right now. I’m working with a PR specialist to try and get my book picked up by larger media outlets to find the right kinds of buyers and to share my story to inspire others. I’m preparing lists of local bookstores and boutiques in Southern California and will expand to stores all along the West Coast. I’m marketing to my current client list via email campaigns and events I’m hosting at my gallery space. I’m preparing pitches for big box retailers, hotels, interior designers and real estate agents. I’m considering every potential buyer for this coffee table book and hoping to connect with them.
Creating this project during the season of the pandemic has been a struggle as well, especially because of the global supply shortages. My publisher has had a huge delay in being able to acquire the paper to print the book. The delays pushed back my release date by nearly four months. As someone awaiting a product to sell, it’s been a struggle to hold on financially while I’ve been awaiting the finalization of the product for fulfillment. It’s a game of patience and a learning process in manufacturing a product.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Being an entrepreneur is a risk. It has a higher risk, and a higher reward. I have risked my financial security to pursue something beautiful and meaningful to me that I believe will inspire others. With the global supply chain difficulties, it has delayed my book and put me on edge financially while awaiting my product to sell. When I started this project and endeavor, I didn’t account for this possibility and issue.
Relocating to another city to build my wedding business was a risk I took to better my personal life. While it didn’t pay off financially because of the pandemic, my personal life and joy increased in intangible ways.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
I believe that following our passions and joys can be a beautiful way to live. I hope that you press that into whatever you’re creating with your whole heart. Because at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and your choices and how you’ve chosen to live. If you’ve given it everything you’ve got, you’ll have peace, joy and satisfaction in that.
I also believe it’s important to have a great plan and know what you are good at. Choose to outsource and hire for the things you struggle with. I chose to outsource my PR reach because I didn’t have the skill set to execute the campaign within the time period I needed it done.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I spend time at the ocean and the beach to recharge and unplug. Being there almost daily reminds me of what drew me out here, what fills up my heart, what allows me to connect with God and gives me a place to rest. Choosing my environment for my project and work as an artist has been key in inspiring me.
Who is your most important role model?
Chris Burkhard is an important role model right now. He is an adventure and travel photographer who really carved his way into the work he’s been doing over the last ten years. I love how he’s incorporated things he’s passionate about into his work. He does personal work, commercial work and has built a life he loves through how he creates.
I’ve also recently been inspired by Krista Schumacher. She’s a knife palette painter in La Jolla, CA and does some wonderful coastal work. Watching her journey as an artist over the last 1-2 years has been a joy and I love the beautiful, original artwork she creates and the business she’s built.
And honestly, my parents are role models for me as entrepreneurs. They’ve put in the work over the years and built a business and life they enjoy. It wasn’t always easy, but I think they’ve done a wonderful job. Their hard work and the way it’s paid off over time is an inspiration. ◼