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Meet Gary Allard of Gary Allard Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Allard.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I think my story started back at the breakfast table when I was around 6 or 7 years-old. It was one of those “What do you want to do when you grow up?” moments. My mom was asking questions I hadn’t considered before. First I had to think on the concept of growing up, which for a 6-year-old is pretty abstract, then wrap my little head around doing something besides drawing pictures as a pastime.

That was the first time I recall hearing the term “commercial artist” and I was intrigued. As my mother explained it, there was a place in this world for people that could draw well. “Someone had to draw the art on this cereal box,” she told me. The most rudimentary understanding of art, commerce and communication were planted in my head. From there on out, I was fascinated with the power of this universal language.

After devouring any and all art-related classes in high school I went on to the Seattle Art Institute and their graphic design courses. I was impatient, so I took the bare minimum so I could get my start working in the real world. In photography and design, I’m largely self-taught. In hindsight, my time at the Art Institute was really just a way to get some career guidance and learn the basics.

After a decade or so in graphic design and art direction in the sportswear industry, I had some choices in front of me. The company I was with for a few years sold the business and gave me the option of a severance package or passing me off to the new owners. I took the money and ran.

This was also around the same time digital photography was becoming mainstream. I was working as a freelance art director and shooting photos on the side. I made a decision that if I was going to hustle to build something new, it needed to be something that really had my full creative attention and passion. Photography was my happy place so I made that crossover. It still feeds that childhood idea of art and commerce by speaking this beautiful universal language.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I won’t say it’s been “smooth” but I never stop learning better ways to do my job. Any independent creative knows the challenges. The photography industry is rife with pitfalls. Notoriously so. Getting hired, getting paid, not getting paid, having copyrights infringed. I’m running all aspects of a business myself. There’s a lot to it. And the gear! Can’t forget about the gear. It’s incredibly expensive and constantly outdated.

I don’t want to come off grumpy though, the payoff is having full control of the business. I can choose who to work with and which projects to take. Of course, there are times when I accept jobs that aren’t as exciting as others but that’s how life works, right? It can’t all be unicorns and martinis – the tough jobs keep me in check and sharpen my skills. I learn a lot taking gigs that aren’t ideal.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
The majority of my work is lifestyle photography for advertising and editorial. I mostly photograph people which is always rewarding. I’ve had the honor of taking photos of some truly remarkable people. Everyone has a story and I’m in a position where I get to help them tell that story. Whether they’re athletes, scholars, artists, whatever, I really try to take care and bring authenticity to the image. Even if it’s meant to be fantastical, it’s better when there’s a thread of truth peaking through. I love the collaborative aspect of that.

From a professional standpoint, I like to keep things in perspective with my role. Ultimately my team and I are there to make someone’s job easier. I’m only a piece of the pie. I try to think through the entire process that my clients are tasked with and do what I can to keep things moving forward and stress-free. If I can give them one less thing to worry about, we all win.

What were you like growing up?
I’ve always been visually oriented. As a kid, I was pretty shy and quiet and all I wanted to do was draw. I’d get in trouble at school because I was drawing instead of paying attention to the teachers. I remember one time in the 5th grade when my math teacher caught me drawing. She took it away and stuck it on the bulletin board with a note that said “Gary’s math work” in some attempt to shame me. I was upset, but only because I hadn’t finished the drawing yet.

Later on, the creative outlets grew to include music and photography. I picked up the guitar when I was 14 and that pretty much became an obsession. It kept me out of trouble through high school. All I wanted to do was go home and practice my scales. I grew up in the Seattle area so I had plenty of rainy day downtime locked in my room with a guitar.

Around that same time, I took a beginning photography class and we made pinhole cameras out of cereal boxes which kind of blew my mind. Most of my high school curriculum consisted of any and every visual communications class they offered. I graduated with a 4.0 and chose not to walk with the honor students at graduation. It felt unfair because my final semester was nothing but art, photography, jazz guitar, and volleyball classes, while my peers were sweating it out in college-level courses. In retrospect, I see that excelling in creativity has been very valuable but at the time it felt a little like cheating!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Gary Allard, Stacy Keck

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