Alison Shaw’s Photography Mentorship


Becoming a fine artist is exciting, creative, energizing, terrifying, and overwhelming. All of them. It’s exciting to learn and grow, to create, and to spend time with other artists on the same path. But creative work can be daunting — especially, I would argue, for fine art photographers. At this point 90 percent of us have a camera with us at all times, right in our pockets. We can apply “HDR” to snapshots on our phones, add artsy borders and tones in the Hipstagram app, and string photos together into stories on Instagram. Photography is everywhere, and everyone’s a photographer. How do aspiring photographers distinguish themselves, and reach the level of fine art?

Through our mentorship programs, Alison Shaw and I teach serious amateur photographers to answer that question for themselves. Alison, a fine art photographer since the mid-1970s who’s shown her work in galleries around the world, has spent her career learning, growing, and continually pushing her unique techniques in new directions. I’m an art director by training, often hiring photographers for editorial and advertising. I do the design, marketing, writing, and “visioning” at Alison Shaw Photography. Together, Alison and I work with our students on a number of levels — technical, creative, intuitive — always aiming to find each artist’s unique creative style. After completing our six-month mentorship, students are eligible to do the yearlong advanced mentorship, culminating in a show at Alison Shaw Gallery. This year, we were honored to show the work of four photographers:


“Gay Head Cliffs 2017”

Jacqueline Abodeely lives in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and has a long family history in East Chop. In her words, “I grew up an only child, an ‘old soul,’ with the ability to tap into deeper energies.” Her evocative photographs illustrate this perspective, “where it can be hard to distinguish between reality and the spiritual world.” Jacqueline shoots familiar Island scenes and connects them with her spiritual familial history, “offering you this dream-like parallel existence, a secret that’s in our everyday world.”


“#3 Field 2018”

Beth Horstman lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and owns a vacation home on the Vineyard. She was raised on a small farm; Beth’s dad was a veterinarian, her mom a gardener, and her eldest sibling is mentally handicapped. She says her path to the acceptance she’s learned throughout her life is “to look for the calm.” Creatively, Beth keeps her compositions simple, “isolating subjects using fog, perspective, and framing, to keep out distractions.” Her landscape photographs illustrate the balance she’s found, showing how “Mother Nature has a reason for everything.”


“Fall-Moreland Hills 2017”

Andrea Dawson is a pathologist from Moreland, Ohio, who uses a microscope to evaluate biopsies of breast tissue. Her work is “a complex process that combines analysis of overall patterns and close-up details.” Andrea’s unique vision mirrors her professional focus. Shooting from late fall through early spring, she uses depth of field to “capture the beauty of [nature’s details] against the complex web of patterns in the background.” Through her eyes, there’s “unique beauty in the most mundane aspects of our natural world.”



Lucy Dahl grew up in England, and lives year-round in Edgartown. Her self-portraits tell a story that she’s illustrating in photographs and words. In all of her black and white images, she’s wearing a long black dress she found “in the back of a dusty junk shop in East London.” To shoot the series, Lucy used her camera’s self-timer, running into the frame for each shot. Her dramatic images evoke an emotional journey, with the dress a consistent touchstone.


For more information on Alison Shaw Photography Mentorship programs, go to or call 508-693-4429.

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