Chris Allen is fine art and nature photographer, creativity in business consultant and guide for photo tours in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His passion for photography began around the age of 8 when he was given a Kodak Brownie film camera for Christmas. He collaborates with his wife and artistic mentor, Bonnie, on the photo tour business. He’s also a grandpa of a really cute little boy.
What time do you get up? Between 6:30 & 7am.
What is your morning routine? If I get up by 6am I do yoga, weight training, and a bit of meditation. If not, the routine begins with me or my wife feeding our two cats, watching alternative history and news on YouTube with a leisurely breakfast, shower, and then begin work.
Is your creative work your full-time job? I am in a “reinvention” phase having transitioned out of a full-time “day-job” to being a creativity in business consultant and a photo tour guide. From the perspective that I approach ALL my entrepreneurial activities as “creative work,” creative work IS my full-time job! In a narrower sense, however, the creative work that I find most fulfilling happens around my photography passion more so than with my consulting clients.
What, if any, is your daily routine? My daily routine is probably much more fluid and flexible than most people. I tend to move with the flow of inner guidance combined with a clear vision of what I want/need to get done on the day. I work from home with my wife. We work on our own but also do some collaborative creative work together so that requires that I remain somewhat flexible around her priorities and mine.
“The creativity begins to flow once I send the signal to Source that I’m ready and willing to receive. That happens when I take the first step.”
“I’m always observing the play of light, shadow, lines, shapes, and patterns… imagining how I could capture that specific moment or scene in a unique way that expresses what I see and feel.”
Do you have a dedicated space for your creative work? Yes, I have an office with a superb electric sit down/stand up desk, Mac laptop, 21” external monitor, internet access, great lighting, and some of my favorite framed or mounted photographs on the wall behind me. This is my sacred space for both business consulting and creative photography.
What are some of your favorite items or qualities about your work space? What I enjoy the most about my office space is that it’s all my own stuff and I can organize and decorate it however I wish. I really appreciate that I have effective digital tools to connect with friends, colleagues, and clients online as well as space to display some of my favorite photographs in a kind of rotating exhibition. My computer is set opposite the art wall so participants in online video meetings see my work behind me. I always appreciate when folks notice and appreciate my photographs.
Do you wait for inspiration or start regardless? I start! The creativity begins to flow once I send the signal to Source that I’m ready and willing to receive. That happens when I take the first step.
Why did you choose photography? The magic of being able to create beautiful, expressive images just by the operation of light being captured through the lens of a camera. During my sophomore year of college, long before the days of digital photography, one of my music instructors (I played trumpet) introduced me to the darkroom. I was captivated by the magic of an image suddenly appearing on a blank sheet of paper in a tray of developing fluid. By the end of that year I had transferred colleges to shift majors from education, music, and languages to photography.
What about it lights you up? With the advent of digital photography it’s not about the image appearing on paper in a chemical darkroom anymore. The real joy for me is the way photography expands and enlivens my perception of the world. I’m always observing the play of light, shadow, lines, shapes, patterns and the interaction of nature and people in the environment. Then imagining how I could capture that specific moment or scene in a unique way that expresses what I see and feel.
Where do you get your ideas? From other artists and photographers, as well as online resources. I have studied and followed the work of great photographers ever since my college years. I have two whole shelves of photography books in my bookcase for inspiration. And I participate in numerous online photography platforms like Google & Facebook groups, Instagram, Flickr and 500px. I’m also a member of a regional nature photography group that meets monthly with guest photographer presentations. They sponsor periodic field trips for members to get together on photo outings to great places in the region. Another big source of inspiration for me is a 5-member private “creative critique” group of fellow photographers that meets monthly to share a set of photos for mutual critique and suggestions on improving our work.
What do you hope to say with your photographs? The experience of being consciously alive in this world is a beautiful and mysterious one with ever-present opportunities to see and feel more deeply. And to create the experiences and life that we wish to live.
Best advice ever received? Don’t be too serious!
Biggest lesson learned so far? Life has its natural cycles of ups and downs, highs and lows, struggles and wins. My continual learning is to go with the flow and tune into my inner voice to follow that which brings me the most joy and growth of awareness.
My continual learning is to go with the flow and tune into my inner voice to follow that which brings me the most joy and growth.
“I love the magic of being able to create beautiful, expressive images just by the operation of light being captured through the lens of a camera.”
Best advice you have to offer? Don’t give up on a dream that you believe in. Stay with it, and know that you can create whatever you desire.
What’s your creative superpower? A deep awareness that my consciousness and that of the Creative power of the Universe are not separate, they are One.
What’s one thing you couldn’t live without? A camera!
How do you maintain your creative energy? I often get up and shift focus to a bit of time in the yard or clean up the dishes after lunch to give my mind and heart some space for breathers. This helps me keep my focus when I am at my desk. I also allow myself to stop and take an afternoon meditation whenever I begin to lose energy or focus.
How do you stay focused in a world of the internet, social media, and other distractions? It’s sometimes difficult and I would drive myself nuts if I tried to be in perfect focus all the time. As I said earlier, I have to remain somewhat flexible but with a solid grounding in what my priorities are for the day. Most days I do succeed in achieving what I set out to accomplish that day.
What books do you turn to for inspiration and guidance? My most trusted guidance comes from my own inner exploration during moments of quiet reflection or meditation. My bookcase is full of books from business and creativity to spirituality focused authors such as Elizabeth Gilbert, Daniel Pink, Napoleon Hill, Eckhart Tolle, Austin Kleon, Twyla Tharp; film-era photographers such as Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston & Elliott Porter; contemporary photographers such as Art Wolfe and others. My favorite recently-read books on creativity and artistry are Austin Kleon’s, “Steal Like an Artist”, and Twyla Tharp’s, “The Creative Habit.”
At what point are you done for the day? I’m often putting in additional creative work such as photo processing or online learning about internet marketing in the evening after dinner. But I always aim to end the work day by 10pm and be in bed no later than 11pm.
Do you have any end-of-the day rituals? Brushing and flossing my teeth and a bit of light reading before lights out.
What time do you go to sleep? Between 10:30-11pm.
Five interesting facts about you? 1. I went to all three days of Woodstock when I was in college at age 19, but I didn’t get stoned! 2. My first full-time job was as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation. I instructed over 500 people in the practice between 1973 and 1975. 3. I played the role of Mr. Frank when my High School put on the play, “The Diary of Anne Frank.” 4. I have two cats, Kiwi and Tasha, and have had as many as 4 cats in the family when my children were in grade school. 5. I don’t like peanut butter!
“Don’t give up on a dream that you believe in. Stay with it, and know that you can create whatever you desire.”