Allie Klawitter and Alexandria Dravillas are two De Paul University digital photography students with serious vision when it comes to capturing the natural world. Striking, ambitious and highly intelligent in their separate executions, both of these young artists are unafraid to bring “the wild” into their work. Their opening show, South by Midwest, opens on April 21st at 7:00pm at The Frame Shop in Bridgeport. We asked each artist a few questions about what they love to photograph and how nature fits into their visual storytelling.
Allie Klawitter is a young photographer currently studying at DePaul University, where she is pursuing a Major in Art, Media, & Design with a specialization in Digital Photography along with a Minor in Graphic Design. As a high school student in Oklahoma, she was an active participant in the photography program at Booker T. Washington, where she earned a prestigious Silver Medal in the 2014 Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition for her photograph “Life”. Allie’s photography is varied in subject matter, but her passion for animals is a dominant theme that is exposed through her portraits. Having worked as a Veterinary Technician, as well as owning many pets, she is able to share her passion for animals through photography.
Allie, what can you tell us about where you are from and how does this place inform or inspire your work? Were you a naturally born photographer?
Allie: I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Which happens to be one of Oklahoma’s “big cities” but I also have a family farm in a small town 45 minutes away from the city, called Avant. I think it was my country experience that made me gravitate to animals and gave me an innate ability to connect with them in an uncommon way. I also had the opportunity to have access to a 3-year photography class at my high school, the only of its kind in the state, which got me leaning more towards the arts. It gave me the opportunity to pursue many advanced facets of photography, both analog and digital, as well as the use of digital tools, like Photoshop. Rather than coming from the art world into photography, my path began with photography and has led me into the world of art.
I have always been fascinated by the arts, especially the camera. From a young age I would borrow my sister’s point and shoot or grab control of the disposable cameras on road trips. I did not always intend to become an artist. In the beginning, I wanted to go to veterinary school. I went so far as to work at a veterinary hospital though all of high school as a technician/assistant. The combination of the farm and the love for animals has truly made an impact on my work.
What occurs in photographing animals and nature that doesn’t with other subjects? How is this process unique or the similar? Is it easier or more difficult than photographing stationary or inanimate objects?
Allie: Animals are certainly more unpredictable, but, at the same time, they are probably less prone to mood swings, which can be helpful in getting quality shots. If I have enough time with an animal to make a real one-on-one connection with them, I am able to get almost human-like poses from them, which is always fun to capture, but I can also follow the animal around, get down at their level, and capture more random shots, which can be the best ones. Probably my most memorable animal photo is one I titled “Life” and I took of my dog, Oliver, from ground view as licked a puddle of water in a crack of my driveway. In this photo, I focused up close so all that was visible was his nose and his tongue making contact with the water. The way the photo came out, one could not be certain that it was a dog, much less what kind of dog it was. I know some have commented that they thought it was a bear. Within photographing nature and animals, I attempt to capture the spirit and the subtle details that people do not normally notice.
There are other types of subjects in nature I would love to have the opportunity to photograph, but they can require special equipment that I don’t yet have; things like zoom lenses or even digital binocular/camera hybrids. Up until this point, I have to be able to get fairly close up, so that does limit me. But, at the same time, there are many beautiful things in nature that I can easily get close up on that make excellent subjects. It’s kind of the same thing with athletic photos. I don’t have problems with capturing the action, but getting close enough to the action can be problematic.
What is it that resonates most with you? Animalistic nature? The serenity and/or solitude of nature?
Allie: I probably lean more towards the serenity of nature resonating with me. I guess I do enjoy some solitude, but my preference is to have a companion, whether that is a person or my dog Oliver. I have fond memories of sitting alone in a field with just my dog. I always feel that he has the same sense of enjoyment in that setting as I do.
How has your approach changed since moving to Chicago? How has your education helped or hindered your development?
Allie: I probably retain the same approaches and tendencies as a photographer, since coming to Chicago, but there is no question that both town and education have expanded my view and my arsenal of techniques. Just the other night, I set out to do some night-time HDR and long-exposure photos. The Chicago Skyline is a great subject, but in and of itself, can be a bit overused. Which every newcomer to the city and or photographer needs to get out of there system. The trick is to find interesting perspectives and angles that somehow accentuate it’s beauty in an unfamiliar way. One HDR I took used an icy swim ladder as the real focal point, looking at the Skyline from the Lake Michigan shore, with the Skyline, itself, taking on the icy appearance of the swim ladder. On the other hand, a view down Lakeshore Drive at night was the perfect subject for a time-delayed shot that I titled, “Headlight, Taillight”, because the effect was a continuous stream of neon light in each lane of traffic. It would be very difficult to get a similar shot batch in Oklahoma. This is but a couple of examples, but the location definitely provides almost an endless array of subject matter and as much as the education has helped already, I’m just beginning to get into the meat of my curriculum that I find to be very exciting.
What do you hope to photograph in the future? What or who inspires you most currently?
Allie: I hope to travel and expand my subject matter of the natural world, including social/environmental critiques that are presented before me along the way. The current photographer who I look up to and grab inspiration from is Hunter Lawrence and Keith Ladzinski.
Alexandria Dravillas is a portrait, landscape, and concert photographer. She currently studies at DePaul University, where she is pursuing a double major in Psychology and in Media Art with a concentration in Photography. Alexandria is a contributing photographer for numerous online publications including Shredded, Melted, Dissolving Film, and The Chicago Vibe magazines. She has photographed upcoming bands including Cherry Glazerr, The Growlers, and The Orwells. Concert photography combines Alexandria’s passion for music with her love for photography. Alexandria manipulates the ordinary with the incorporation of texture and reflection into her landscape photos. Seeking to create work that is chromatic, vibrant, and eye opening, she turns the mundane aspects of her environment into extraordinary landscapes by capturing them with a completely new perspective.
Where did you grow up and when did you first become interested in photography? Is it something you always wanted to do? How has your knowledge of the subject changed or developed by attending DePaul?
Alexandria: I grew up in the Southwest in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was always creative as a child. I’ve expressed myself through many different mediums while growing up. I danced competitively for fourteen years, I took piano, singing, drawing, and oil painting lessons. I first became interested in photography in high school, somewhere around my sophomore year. I loved Tumblr; I spent hours on Tumblr in middle school and high school looking at photos and building my blog of reposts, but it wasn’t until I was a sophomore in high school that I realized that I liked it so much because I loved photography and that I wanted to create my own photos. I began taking photos as a hobby. Collecting people’s work suddenly felt meaningless to me because it was not my own, which I knew I was capable of creating. Tumblr showed me my love for photography but it was not until my junior year that I began to pursue it.
I did not consider myself a photographer until I started attending DePaul. DePaul has an amazing, tight knit art program that I’m so proud to be a part of. I took an analog class in high school but I had little experience with digital photography. DePaul has given me amazing and inspiring professors that know me on a first name basis. I was about to go to Arizona State University, which is the largest university in the country. At ASU, professors only know students as their seven digit ID number. Students never get to have one-on-one relationships with their professors. I’m so fortunate to be able to attend DePaul because the relationships that I have created with professors are so important to me. These professors are helping me grow as an artist more and more each day. They are why the department is so successful.
How does concert photography differ from your ordinary conceptual process? Or are they more similar than one would think? Are there spatial/logistical challenges in trying to take pictures of a band with tons of screaming fans around?
Alexandria: My Concert photography is not very conceptual but I think that it can be, it just depends on what you’re trying to get out of the experience. There are definitely a lot of challenges in shooting shows. Venues usually have a photo pit that only the press has access to so screaming fans aren’t usually an issue. I think the most challenging part of shooting shows is capturing moments before they are over. I mostly shoot crazy rock and punk rock shows, but sometimes it feels like I’m actually photographing a sports event because everything is so fast paced. You really can’t put your camera down during the set or you might miss something.
Who would you love to photograph? Band, Individual, Place?
Alexandria: I would love to be a tour photographer for Twin Peaks. I’ve been wanting to photograph Salvation Mountain and Antelope Canyon for a while now. I’m hoping to make my way over there this summer.
How do you view the ordinary and how would you like to change it through photography? What is your process for changing an regular landscape into something vibrant, exciting and challenging?
Alexandria: I’m very influenced by Gursky and Magritte. Gursky manipulates the subjects of his photos into patterns. He likes photographing huge quantities of his subjects from a distance in order to show a new patterned structure that is created with a bunch of tiny little parts. Magritte was a painter who wanted to make people question things. I often use reflections and focus on natural textures to create something that hasn’t been seen before. I manipulate reality to make viewers question what they are looking at.
Where do you see your skill and vision taking you in the next five years?
Alexandria: I would love to travel the world and photograph everything I come across. I’m not sure if I will be so lucky, but I will always try my best. In the next five years, I hope to pursue concert photography and maybe work for a larger publication. I’m not sure where I’ll be or where I’m going, but wherever I go, I’ll be photographing my experiences.
South by Midwest opens on April 21rst at The Frame Shop in Bridgeport, 3520 S Morgan #LD. Drinks and light fare will be served from 7-10pm.