Interview #55: Alyson Romanok
CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?
Alyson Romanok: It was really innocent and naïve. When I was a pre-teen, I had a little point and shoot that I used frequently for everyday purposes. Always being interested in art, it eventually blossomed into taking photos with intention… and then into “Hey, I want a digital SLR. This is fun”. I like to laugh at how something so simplistic had such a big effect on my life.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. Does your town/city/country affect your photography?
AR: Moving to New York last year has been a huge impact on my work. It gave me more of a drive to do less of what I was comfortable with, and more of what I really wanted to do. Seeing other talented artists around you really inspire you to not cut yourself short of what you are capable of.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
AR: Waffles with cinnamon.
CUS: Describe your average day.
AR: Wake up, briskly walk to class, and stay in the classroom for the majority of the day. I usually snap a photo with my film point and shoot sometime during my short commute. I also talk to my boyfriend the entire day. He helps me keep going.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
AR: I’m currently studying photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I am in my second year.
CUS: What makes a good image?
AR: It could be a number of things. A good image can be purely aesthetically pleasing, or have a wonderful backstory that adds to its composition and subject. It could also be the conceptual notion that successfully translates in the image. Plainly, when the artist’s intent thrives.
CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?
AR: The people I care for, light, a camera, a city to love, and Diet Snapple Peach.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true? What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography?
AR: It first depends on what one’s definition of “photographer” is. If it’s simply a person that takes photographs, then yes, everyone can be a photographer. The separation is that not everyone can be a good photographer. Personally, I take both digital and film photographs. I enjoy film photography more, but I stay avid on digital for costly and job-related reasons.
CUS: What are your thoughts on photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook...) How do you differentiate "art" photography and "non-art" photography?
AR: I don’t believe that the mass amount of images on the Internet is necessarily a bad thing. Us photographers need to remember that not all photographs are meant with an artful purpose. Some are frankly just for remembering or documenting. I think that the difference between “art” and “non-art” photography is simply intention: An image is “art” if it had the purpose of being so. I think the heavier topic is which “art” photography is considered “good art” photography.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work?
AR: Yes. So many opportunities open up for artists through the Internet. I landed my first and current photography-related job all thanks to the Internet. Being able to interact with people all over the world really broadens your horizons of prospects.
CUS: What is your fondest childhood memory?
AR: Every summer, my parents took my sister and me to Ocean City, Maryland. There are so many traditions we created within those trips. We would always go to this restaurant called The Hobbit, which was tackily filled with mystical creatures and appropriated dish names. Not until about a decade later did I become a Lord of the Rings fan and was able to fully appreciate those memories.
CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?
AR: The way light falls on things.
CUS: Tell us a little about the people in your photographs.
AR: All of the people that I photograph, at least so far, are people that I personally know. They all are (or once were) friends. I love shooting people, so it’s pretty natural to photograph people close to me. It’s also very appealing to me knowing that there is a personal story and connection with the subject, rather than just a model you booked solely on their looks.
CUS: What are your plans for the winter?
AR: My school gives me a generous 6 weeks for winter vacation. I plan on spending about half of the time back home in New Jersey for the holidays, and then the other half in Chicago for a nice vacation within a vacation.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?
AR: The advice that I’m still trying to take myself: Don’t limit yourself… and don’t underestimate your capabilities.
CUS: What do you hope to achieve with your photography? Do you foresee photography as a career in your future?
AR: Being a photography student, my plan is to have photography as a career. It’s obviously still unsure as to if I will actually be a working photographer, or having another job working with photographs. I think that as long as I am working with images creatively, I will be happy.
CUS: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
AR: My boyfriend, who is also a photographer, has been a huge influence in my work. A large amount of our art has turned into documenting our long distance relationship. We’ve been toying with the idea of making a zine that combine our photographs to tell our story.
CUS: Our last interviewee, Ariel Rosenbloom, asks: I feel like a large part of becoming a successful artist today is related to money and having the means to work full-time on art. How has money (or lack thereof) had an affect on your photographic work?
AR: I would definitely be shooting a lot more film if I had more money. I’m pretty sure every photographer has a wish list of equipment they’d own if money were no object. Instead, I have to upgrade in increments, but I’ve learned to not mind too much. It’s helped me be smarter about my choices.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
AR: What would you be doing if you weren't a photographer?