A love of music and the desire to capture artists in moments of creativity is what drives Elizabeth Allen and her photography. A self-taught photographer, Elizabeth started EMA Photography in February 2008. However, she has had a camera in her hands since the age of 12; her first camera was a Polaroid she bought with the money she received after graduating from 8th grade. Throughout high school and college, her godfather, a photographer himself, helped feed her interest in photography. She would spend all her money on film and developing her photos, and the anticipation of discovering what her camera had captured was like a natural high. “I remember my mother letting me take family photos after church when I was 9 or 10,” says Elizabeth as she smiles at the memory. “My favorite subjects were flowers in bloom or trees in the fall, as well of sunsets; they still are to this day.”
An avid lover of GOOD music, Elizabeth used to go to concerts and take pictures of artists’ performances, looking to capture the essence of their emotions on stage and their interaction with the audience. She realized that she wanted to turn this into more than a hobby, and little by little saved up for a professional camera. In November 2007 she met Charles Anthony of Hustlemode, who introduced her to many of the movers and shakers of music, film and fashion and gave her the opportunity to photograph countless artists and celebrities. She can often be found covering the red carpet or celebrity events. Her main love, though, remains the live show, and through her photography has become a fan of many artists, especially independent or “underground.” The first show she shot featured performances by Mickey Factz, Peter Hadar and John Robinson; she also met rising stars such as Fresh Daily and Niles Davis that night. “It feels good to see the progress that these artists have made in their careers, having followed them for close to two years now,” she says. “I love the niche that I’m in – that being the independent/”underground” scene – because I feel like I’m documenting the beginnings of talented artists who I know have the potential to become big stars in the future.”
Having amassed thousands of photos in a relatively short time, Charles Anthony encouraged Elizabeth to put on a photo exhibit. In August 2008, only seven months after beginning her career as a photographer, she curated her first exhibit, aptly entitled “The First Seven.” Almost 100 people attended the exhibit, which featured performance photos of artists in music, art and spoken word. Since then, she has been asked to contribute to several photo exhibits, and in August 2009 presented her second solo exhibit, a tribute to all the people she has met in her still budding career. She hopes to continue to present at least one solo exhibit annually.
Elizabeth’s work has been published in Bleu Magazine (June 2009) and Backayard Magazine (July 2009), the latter also having widespread distribution in Jamaica. She is an annual media contributor for The Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival and Donuts Are Forever, both of which she has been covering since 2008. Her photos can also be found on countless blogs and websites, such as 2DopeBoyz, Fusicology, Honey Magazine, DJ Booth, Dr. Jays, Stuff Fly People Like, Rock the Dub and Potholes In My Blog. “Raheem DeVaughn once used a photo I took at one of his shows as a banner for his MySpace page,” she giggles.
Wanting to give back to the people who unknowingly have given her so much, Elizabeth periodically organized a networking and talent event called “Show & Tell,” the first of which occurred in December 2008. At this event, she connected MC’s, singers, poets, artists, photographers and dancers who may normally never meet each other in normal circumstances. She also organizes back-to-school fundraisers to coincide with her annual photo exhibits. In 2008, the proceeds benefited the Harlem School of the Arts; in 2009, she collected backpacks and school supplies and put together back-to-school care packages which were donated to the Urban Family Center at the Henry Street Settlement, a family shelter in the Lower East Side. She also donated care packages to a youth event in Washington Heights. Last year, with the help of your generous donations, school supplies were sent to an orphanage in Haiti.
Even with all her relative success, Elizabeth still considers herself an amateur photographer who is still learning her craft. She is a fan of many of her peers, such as TONE, Texas, Photo Rob and Mel D. Cole (Village Slum). She hopes to begin travelling to cover the scene outside of New York City. Until then, she continues to look for the next special moment to capture…
LIZ (Elizabeth Allen) IZ:
A born and raised New Yorker
A freelance photographer (since February 2008)
A staple on the indie hip hop circuit
A lover of GOOD music, no matter what the genre
A fan of sunsets, beautiful people, ice cream, smiley faces, argyle socks and shelltop adidas