Meeting Amelia was quite literally like being caught in a whirlwind: breathless enthusiasm, genuine excitement and pleasure in the path that she has made for herself, and real, solid knowledge, talent and integrity: all these are on display immediately. Squeezing in an interview between talking to the whole cohort of A-level Photography students and enjoying a joyful catch up with her old teachers meant that she was ‘mine’ for 19 minutes and 22 seconds, and this was perhaps part of the intensity. I get the impression however that this is the real Amelia: driven, committed, talented and in a hurry.
Take a look at her website – www.ameliaallenphotography.com – and you will see that she has already built up a portfolio of considerable range, variety and sophistication. Her fashion work is the epitome of the that glamorous, edgy, brittle world, and it is easy to understand why she already has had her work published in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and the like. At 23, she is already a doyenne of Fashion Week catwalks and designers.
But then browse her wider work, her documentary work, and it becomes clear that this is a photographer whose work is driven by the power to explore and reveal the human condition in the moment, to show so much more than the surface. People and relationships are clearly at the heart of what she does. Take this on into her publications, her widely-praised book ‘Naked Britain’, and there is wonderful gentle humour, compassion and warmth.
Spotting both the potential power in naturism, and a gap in the market, this work is the product of two years of close commitment and involvement. Funding herself with her commercial work, and the odd wedding (again – look at the shots – oh so achingly romantic!), she threw herself into the movement. Did she take her clothes off? Yes, she did, and found it not only liberating and rewarding, but ultimately enlightening in terms of the stranglehold of body-consciousness that seems to dominate our world.
The text itself hit the shelves last year. Launched at a Mayfair gallery, it received energetic responses media-wide. Certainly confrontational, risqué, and ‘out there’, it is an extraordinary achievement, given the difficulties and expenses involved in getting into print in a market which is both niche and very costly. It is also full of warmth and gentle, insightful humour which is not patronizing or exploitative. Amelia certainly hits her brief here. After several years of work in the glamour and clamour of fashion, here is work that has something to communicate, work with depth as well warmth.
So what are the secrets of her success? Her interest in people and the relationships that are at the heart of all that she does. Does this mean all those clients and subjects, part of that initial philosophy of ‘never turning down a job’ as she says? Those wonderful Hurtwood friendship groups that remain central to both work and life to this day? Yes, of course, but much more than that. What undoubtedly makes Amelia Allen the extraordinary and successful photographer that she is, is founded on her love of people and personality. Initially, she tells me, she thought she wanted to act, having so thoroughly enjoyed her involvement in the Hurtwood musical, ‘Les Miserables’.
What she has come to see however, is that it is the camaraderie, the community and warmth of the experience that mattered most. She has found this in photography, in the relationships she makes with her subjects, the basis of trust which she identifies as the key to the great image. People revealing themselves in every sense to her, so she can capture the truthful shot, the moment of revelation. That certainly comes through in her work – and one can see how she has achieved that sense of reality and intimacy in such a varied portfolio of work.
Best piece of advice? Access is everything – oh, and never turn down a job. There is something to be learned everywhere. People are endlessly interesting if you can capture them truthfully.
‘If you have a camera and imagination you can make it work,’ she tells me, and she has.
The perks? Endless it seems. Not least of them, travelling all over the world. This is a highly accomplished young professional who has combined hard work, expertise, business acumen and a real interest – dare I say love? – for humanity, into a wonderful career. She tells me that she is still a baby in photography terms, and has much to learn. So modesty and pragmatism must be added to her qualities. She is indeed learning still, and I think the world will hear much more of Amelia Allen.
Her next project – her documentary work – takes another look at protests and women’s rights, she tells me.
What about 2019?
No danger of her running out of work I would say.
Check below for a gallery of her work, and visit her website: