Natalie Allen boasts an Instagram profile that has long been one of our favorites, a collection of subtle and nuanced images as striking as her personality. Her feed is the rare combination of someone who is assured but also self-aware. The latter, or lack thereof, is an issue she takes up with many of her social media compatriots. Yes, she does appreciate the following and livelihood, that in many ways, social media has allowed her to garner, just don’t tell her how cool you think you are because of your “followers.” Ultimately she is an artist harkening back to the days before selfies, emoji hands, and overdone filters. A time when artists were expected to be raw and flawed; when spontaneity and a unique perspective ruled the day. This is Natalie Allen and you should really get to know her.
Q: When someone who doesn’t know you comes across your social media, what if anything, do you want to convey to them? What would you like them to know?
My social media feed is a vibrant wonder, at least I try to make it that way. I edit to represent a sense of “timelessness” and not what’s “trendy.” What’s on my Instagram feed is only a small fraction of the work I put out. I hope that people will soon realize that social media apps are not the best medium for serious artistry. It helps people say relevant and builds a sense of community, yes — but we must look for other sources to publish our work.
I would hope this seems obvious… but, Instagram only showcases 1/150th of the images I take in real life. Not even, probably less than that. I take HUNDREDS and often THOUSANDS of pictures per week depending on the job, personal project, or commission. Not to mention all the silly whatnots I capture of my friends on a Friday night…
All of my social media applications will showcase different offsets of my work; many cater to a specific audience and must be intentionally curated as such. Why? Because my pictures on Instagram will showcase something entirely different than what’s seen on my Tumblr, Twitter, Website and VSCO Grid.
Instagram’s gallery of 1:1 images mean nothing, they represent something so small, so overrated. Seriously – although it’s obvious, we need to remember that people are SO much more than what they share online. Art exists everywhere.
Q: You describe yourself on IG as a photographer, writer, and yoga teacher that runs with wolves – Besides that being pretty bad ass and epic, can you explain how this came about and what each of those titles means to you?
I do. 🙂 Besides being an actual photographer, yoga teacher, and the occasional writer… “running with the wolves” is a wink to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book “Women Who Run With The Wolves.” It’s a book comprised of various stories explaining the wild and deeply complex side of femininity no one can quite comprehend; it’s a mysterious attribute to the “wolf” in all of us. Wolves are my favorite animal — and are running extinct in the desert due to illegal hunting — so it’s a bit of a wink to my inner wild side, my home, and my passion for feminism.
Q: How did you get started with photography? Is it something you’ve always done?
Photography found me, really. I’ve always been fascinated with taking pictures of my friends during our adventures. Many people started to take notice of my camera in hand and would ask for a few shoots here and there. From then on my passion grew and a career blossomed.
Q: You’re a writer, which means you’re also a reader. Because we’re weird, let’s say we find ourselves in a jacked up dystopian society and you can only have three books, name your three.
Q: Obviously, you travel a lot, what’s the most memorable place you’ve been to and why?
This is a near-impossible question. You can never compare desert to a forest, a grassland to jungle. I will say, that the craziest place I’ve ever been was the grass hut villages just outside the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. If you’re interested in reading my story and viewing images from here, check it out here: http://www.natalieallen.co/journal/#/zambia/
Q: What/Who is your spirit animal?
A lady wolf, if I haven’t made it already so obvious! By far my favorite animal. She’s an independently, irrevocably strong, uniquely beautiful, and wild being. Everything I aim to be.
Q: On most days, you can be found________?
At the movies, at the top of a mountain, or in a bubble bath.
Q: Wow, that is definitely an impressive range of possible locations! You seem to be very aware of your good fortune and the uniqueness of the position you’ve created for yourself. Is it a struggle to stay grounded and not consumed by everything that comes with success as a content creator on social media?
Hell yes it is. Working full-time in ANY creative industry is equally a privilege as it is a burden. It’s tough work to do the kind of work I do, don’t get me wrong. I don’t work a typical 9-5, so my job looks vastly different every single day. My wages are 100% based on the opinions of others and the likelihood they’ll hire me, buy my presets, license my images, etc.
With that comes a lot of pressure to kick ass every single day in order to stay relevant in this field. It’s not just “taking pictures”, it’s the editing, the shooting, creating concepts, hiring models, traveling, field scouting, marketing, answering emails, bookkeeping, tax records, constantly reminding your client to pay you on time (happens more than we’d like it to), and the simple ability to just be good at what you do. It can become emotionally debilitating.
However, people like myself don’t have much room to complain. I make great money for doing what I love. I have the ability to drop everything, pick up a backpack, and travel the world for three months and STILL get paid for some of it. There are rarely any negative repercussions in doing what is it we want to do — because that’s how our job works. I’m very, very bothered by fellow freelancers who complain about petty issues to blast over the internet and act like their lives are any different than their friends who have “normal jobs.” There are many individuals who I come across who act like their 100k automatically makes them a celebrity and all they ever talk about is Instagram. Get over yourself.
That being said, there is a very tight-knit community built around this craft. I’m beyond lucky to be so close with a handful really beautiful people. You take some; you lose some.
Q: What does it mean to you to “stay tru” and how do you “stay tru” on a daily/weekly basis?
Work hard and stay true to who you are. Sounds overly cheesy, I’m sure, but it’s true. Err — “tru.” 😉 When it comes to staying true to myself as a photographer, I have to continue living the best life I possibly can. It’s what keeps me motivated and allows me to thrive. It’s critical to look outwards for inspiration in order to digest creativity more easily. It thrives as a human’s spring broad for imagination, as well as a facilitator for progress towards a certain goal. The vital importance of searching for inspiration comes in many, many different forms. Quit looking at your Instagram feeds or Tumblr pages and search beyond the ordinary: pick a wildflower and press it in your journal, listen to your favorite song at 2:00 in the morning, cook your mother a nice meal, spend a morning outside without your phone, nap in the sunshine, read a book at a coffee shop, visit that place you’ve always wanted to go to, make love on the kitchen countertop, and take your time in museums.
Q: Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My Dad always told me to keep my word. “All a man ever truly has is his word.”
Q: You can only choose one place to photograph anywhere in the world; where would it be and why?
Gah — why do you make these questions so hard?! Any desert landscape I think would be appropriate. It’s my origins…
Q: The perfect photo should_____________?
Create a good feeling. 🙂