Alexandra Wallace: Photographer
On a sunny day outside a California coffee shop, fashion, lifestyle, and bridal photographer Alexandra Wallace lets me know I can call her Alli, and fills me on how she became a lady business owner and her own boss by her early 20's.
Born in Ventura and raised on in Santa Barbara County by parents who met in photography school, it would seem Alexandra Wallace was destined for a life behind the camera, but the truth is she never planned to turn photography into her career when she started taking pictures back in 2002.
After graduating high school, she entered the Brooks Institute with the hope becoming a film director, but they handed her a still camera first. “When you start off in film school they only give you a still camera," she explains. "You don't actually get to set up with a film camera until later on. I got into telling stories through photos."
Her college stint was brief but significant. After just 3 short months, she realized she'd gotten what she came for- inspiration. And with inspiration came a whole new path.
"When I got back [home] I used the security deposit from my apartment and bought my first professional camera.”
She started off taking pictures of friends for fun after her move back home to the Santa Maria Valley and realized that portrait work held a special place in her heart. She quickly became the go-to senior portrait photographer among the graduating classes of her high school Alma mater.
Growing in popularity but still unsure of her path, Alexandra took gen ed classes at a local community college, considered a degree in art, and worked a customer service gig at Toys 'R Us during the holiday season of 2010. The misery of retail convinced her that it was now or never. “That was clear motivation to do something else,” she says.
Her new following, coupled with her parents backing and her boyfriend leaving his day job to pursue his music career full time a few years earlier, was just the momentum she needed.
"I can do this."
Alexandra is talented and focused on her work, her mind always finding new ideas. She's honing her skills and enjoying her foray into fashion photography and it looks to be a good fit. Her website lists a host of on-trend brands and her shots are diverse enough for a range of clients, from the brides of California to the fashion houses of New York.
But, not unlike many other talented and successful women, she suffers from a mild case of Impostor Syndrome. It's small, but a voice in Alexandra's ear still makes her doubt herself sometimes. Despite her beautiful portfolio and impressive resume, she admits feeling uncertain.
“It's still scary, though,” she tells me. “I still worry that at some point the floor with fall out from under me and I'll have no college degree. Luckily, I'm still [taking pictures]," she says. "That's reassuring. "
I'm not convinced Alexandra's success has anything to do with luck, though. When I ask her what the opportunities are like for fashion photography in the area where she resides her confidence returns. “I make them,” she says.
Her method? Consistency and persistence. She get's out there and makes her presence known. She introduces herself to any company she'd like to turn into a client and is always sure to emphasize what she appreciates about their brand and about her desire to produce something they'll love.
If it isn't her talents, skills, and unflagging determination that win her clients, though, it's got to be her infectious positivity. “It's really surprising what happens if you just ask. There have BIG brands out there that I have gotten to work with. They'll just send me clothes, I get to shoot them, and even if I just end up on their Facebook or Instagram, you know, there's 20,000 people that saw it.”
Simply asking has landed her work with other artists and designers taking their own steep trajectory toward the big leagues, like fellow self-starter Jac Vanek, who's branded clothing is sold in Bloomingdale's stores. Alexandra's work has also been featured on Buzzfeed.com.
"I'm constantly trying to improve, to maybe an impossible level. That push is what drives you to success. "
We talk about what it's like managing the business when following the dream and she says there's a learning curve to when it comes to making more than just an impression but making a living too. At first, she struggled, but she's become more aware of the value of her work and more comfortable charging for what she's worth. She encourages others to keep working to increase and recognize their value too.
Not too proud to say it, she's also grateful for the projects she's taken that didn't come with a check but with a better payoff instead. “I have gotten some of the coolest opportunities, that I didn't get paid for, but I've been completely happy. Usually, it turns into something.”
Finally, I ask her if she faces any challenges as a female photographer that a male photographer might not come across. Her response says everything there is to be said about what it really takes to become a true Noise Maker: belief. She tells me, "Women can do anything that men can. Nothing's stopping you."