Decennium.

Updated: Jan 16

The end of a decade is always a time for reflection. I've been doing a lot of it lately, what with the last year I've had. The other day I was looking through old photography I've done over the last 10 years and quickly got sucked into my self portraits. It was so interesting to look back and see not only how much I've changed and matured over the years (lottt of hairstyles) but also how I've improved in photography.



One common thread I've found in my self portraits is my demeanor. A lot of the portraits I chose as the final image, looking back now I realize weren't necessarily a true depiction of how I was feeling at the time. I've always been drawn to more serious self portraits - my family and friends (many of them not having an art background) would comment on how I looked unhappy. I would always say "I don't have to be smiling in a photo to be happy - this is just me and how I look." But I do think some of my selects back then were a miss. Looking at them now there are clearly photos that better depicted where I was at in life and how I was feeling versus what I thought I wanted to put out there.


It was fascinating to look back at myself and clearly see the emotions on my face that didn't register at the time. What I did was pull a photo from each year that either has never been seen or I felt was a pretty accurate portrayal of that time in my life. Here's a look at those photos with a little commentary.



2010 - 2012


2010 to 2011 I had graduated high school and attended Hallmark Institute of Photography to begin my career in photography - it was a crazy year and I learned so much. Looking back at it now it's almost laughable at how much I clearly didn't know what I was doing, technically speaking, with photography. But I was eager to try things out and continue to learn. I had started my first photo gig working in a child portrait studio at a strip mall in Blackstone Valley and absolutely hated it. Shortly after that I took a job as a graphic designer/production artist at Joss & Main. I was hired for my photography portfolio with the goal of eventually transitioning to start their in house photo studio. At the time I was commuting from my parent's house to Boston 2 hours a day - one way. I did this for 8 months. It was very unfulfilling - I wasn't putting my education to use in the way I had wanted and my commute absolutely drained me and consumed my life. In 2012 I transitioned to shooting in our conference room-turned makeshift studio, moved out and got a room in Waltham. I lived in an 8x8ft box with four male roommates and was absolutely miserable.



2013 - 2015


This period was filled with growing pains. After two years of living in Waltham I had grown tired of living with roommates. At work, we had moved to a much larger, more official studio space in Framingham and things were going relatively well. I was learning and working hard building our studio - finally doing the work I imagined I would be doing. My long-term boyfriend at the time had graduated college and found a job teaching, so we decided to move in together to our place in Marlborough (where we ended up living for the next five years). We settled in to what most would call a "normal" suburban life and were very comfortable. At that time I really dove into learning new hobbies - I took a welding class, started my own crafting brand and opened an Etsy shop, and just worked in every aspect of my life. I was promoted to Senior Photographer of Lifestyle Brands, worked with an incredible team and was surrounded by wonderful people. This was where I truly set the foundation for my success and drive that I have today.



2016 - 2018


This period of my life was the catalyst for some pretty drastic change. Work was becoming increasingly stressful as the studio grew and we ended up moving into a much larger studio space. Lonngggg story short the environment became very toxic, I grew unhappy with my trajectory and felt like I was no longer making progress in my career. It was then I decided to start transitioning to leave Wayfair after 7 years. 2017-2018 I buckled down and dove headfirst into my photography. I took every freelance opportunity that came my way, brought my camera everywhere, and shot as often as I possibly could. I became so obsessed that I let a lot of other aspects of my life slide, but it ultimately got me where I needed to be. Summer of 2018 I took the opportunity to work as In House Photographer at Life is Good and build out their photo studio. It was a huge shift as we were still living in Marlborough; my boyfriend was working in Worcester and I was now working in Boston again. I was excited to be at a new job and learning new skills, but returning to a long commute was a strain on my personal life. Without going into detail, at the very end of 2018 our 12 year relationship ended. 2019 was a completely terrifying blank slate.



2019 - 2020


This time period has a few extra photos as I'm still very close to it and it's been an absolute whirlwind. I began the first part of the year emotionally in the worst place I have ever been; newly single after 12 years of being in a relationship, living alone in Metro-West commuting to the Seaport to my relatively new job, and having no idea where to go next. The first portrait I pulled in this group hit me particularly hard - you can really see just how broken I was at the time. I took a few months to live in my misery and slowly began picking up the pieces. Late spring to early summer I started to come around and felt like I could rejoin the world. I met so many new people and started to form my own community. It no longer made sense for me to live outside of the city, so I decided to move to my own studio in Allston. 2019 was nonstop growth and change, and in the last couple months I've finally been able to settle in to my new life. Everything has been going really well.


Going through my untouched images was such an eye-opening experience. I realized just how much work photographers make that never sees the light of day. Taste levels and experience change over time, there was good chunk of work I didn't realize had potential back then, or that it could hold a different meaning now. I'm grateful for change and the ability to document it through my art. I can only wonder what the next 10 years of portraits will look like.

© ALLISON SEPANEK PHOTOGRAPHY