Diane Allford started her career as an editor and photography consultant for clients like BET magazines such as YSB, Heart & Soul, and Emerge; Newsweek; Random House, and the NAACP’s The Crisis, the legendary magazine created more than a century ago by W. E. B. Du Bois. Today, she brings her knowledge from her time behind the scenes to her own work as a photographer, wearing multiple hats and blurring the lines between commercial, editorial, documentary, portraiture, and fine art images.
As a photographer with years of experience as an editor, Allford brings a unique perspective to this year’s Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards jury. Ahead of our submissions deadline on September 3rd, we asked her to share some of her proudest moments. Along the way, she also clued us in on what she’s most excited to see in this year’s entries.
How has your career as a photographer yourself influenced your role as a photo editor?
“It’s a matter of personal interest, taste, and experience as a photographer. In my role as photo editor, I approached projects with my own taste, and ways of seeing things from what I’ve learned as a photographer. So whether I’m commissioning photographers and requesting specific requirements from a custom shoot or researching and editing images, my perspective is again influenced by my photography.
“Sometimes simply understanding what a photographer might have to go through in the field is helpful in managing expectations. Working as a photo editor, I learned a lot about designing, composing, and selecting photos to fit predesigned page layouts that included photos and text to create a narrative. I learned the importance of words and images and how it affects human behavior.”
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the commercial and editorial industries within the last year or two, and how do you see these changes influencing the future of the industry?
“There’s more freedom of personal expression in editorial and commercial photography these days. Imagery of real-life experience is what we want to see, good or bad. That’s what editorial is about and what I think commercial imagery is heading toward. The contrast that you see in commercial media is so great compared to the reality of what’s going on outside and across the world.
“You can look at where the technology is working to give more creative accessibility to more people, which is great. Since COVID, there’s now Virtual Photography services being offered and used by consumers to be photographed at home or in their personal space with coaching by the photographers and image-makers. For some people, this might work editorially or commercially. Ultimately, I think technology makes it hard to know how long any influence will last or if it contributes or takes anything away.”
Can you tell us about one of your documentary projects? What about this project has stayed with you over the years?
“Day Trippin In SoHo: Art Meets Fashion Meets Architecture is a project I started shooting with the iPhone 3 in the summer of 2010 while working at Scholastic on Broadway in SoHo New York. I started to notice and photograph the small stores that had been around for a long time and were steadily closing and being replaced by many high-end fashion brands that were moving downtown.
“There was heavy construction all around with stores being renovated and wired with all kinds of storefront multimedia advertising and artistic mannequin displays all dressed and designed to sell fashion. In order to photograph the changes and capture SoHo’s exciting energy, I would shoot the windows early in the morning before office hours, at lunchtime, and at night.
“After several months, I started to develop a style and a certain way of photographing the windows. I was now making use of the area’s historical architecture that reflected in the store windows as part of my compositions. Over time, the photographs became a documentation of the changes I had witnessed to SoHo’s urban landscape.
“What keeps me engaged and motivated to continue this project is the research aspect about SoHo. The research has put me on a treasure hunt to discover my black history and ancestry in SoHo, the Bowery, the East and West Village and throughout lower Manhattan. This means that the Day Trippin In SoHo project is morphing into another series called “Wall Street.” Here, I’m making use of my images that are conceptual and documentary in nature and presenting them as digital collages that are a part of a bigger project in part based on gentrification, community, history, and change.”
You’ve worked as a photo editor at BET, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Scholastic, and beyond. What has been one of your proudest moments as an editor?
“There were many proud moments and projects. My very first job as a photo editor was for Financial World Magazine, a biweekly business and finance magazine. Early into my second year, President Ronald Reagan was booked as the guest speaker for the magazine’s Annual CEO of the Year Awards honoring General Electric’s CEO, Jack Welch.
“During the planning stage, I thought about and proposed the idea of allowing the CEOs and company representatives to be personally photographed with President Regan. It was approved, and I was able to produce a photo shoot that took place after the President spoke. The executives later received copies of their portraits with president Regan as a gift from the magazine.
“Another example is about breaking news and following Hurricane Katrina as the storm was developing in real-time. At the time, I was doing research for the ‘News’ section at Business Week magazine. As the story was developing, and updates were coming into the editorial department, it became apparent by midday that the Katrina feature story would become our crash cover, which meant it will replace the slated story on the front cover.
“Immediately upon hearing this news, I started reaching out to my photo contacts at the Charlotte Observer, The Dallas Morning News, and in Huntsville, Alabama. I also stayed in constant contact with photo editors at The New Orleans Times-Picayune, who were practically underwater themselves, for leads on local photographers (who were out covering the story) and willing to shoot relevant business content for us.
“Leaving no stone unturned, I had to track down and secure usage of syndicated images shot by the photographers. As the photographs were coming into the photo department, the adrenalin was real and seriously pumping. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation throughout the entire day until the issue went to press. That type of situation is very exciting as you are going through it. We were not only putting out the story; we were also racing to beat many other publications to the punch.”
What kinds of work will you be looking for when judging submissions for the 7th Annual Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards?
“I will be looking for something fresh, bold, new, and possibly what I haven’t seen before. This can be personal work or from an assignment. I want to see works by people who have an appreciation for the art of photography, shadow and light, mood, emotion, color, moments captured. I want to see the photographer’s point of view on a particular subject matter.
“I want to see images that make me as the viewer feel like I’m in the room where things were happening. I’m a little old school and like to see that a photographer has a certain amount of technical control over their camera, no matter how they chose to express themselves. It can be with natural daylight or electronic strobes. I want to see how one thinks as a photographer and how experimental they can be in showing their own personal vision and style.”
Submissions for The Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards close September 3rd, 2021. Prizes include gallery exhibitions in Paris and Berlin for series winners and street exhibitions in NYC and LA for single-image winners. Diane Allford will be one of the judges for the single-image category. Learn more about our jury by visiting our website.