By Margarita Hirapetian
Photographer and filmmaker Abby Ballin loves the idea of freezing time and preserving moments, people, and nature. In fact, from the moment she borrowed her father’s camera as an early teen, she was hooked. Currently based in South Florida, Abby studied photography and illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City (She has worked for clients like The New York Times, Lionsgate, JC Penney, Brides Magazine, and the redoubtable Wilhelmina Agency). Later, she spent some time styling for commercials and editorial work, but photography ultimately drew her back. That’s because photography offers her a way of “capturing [moments] in ways that my eye see them and then challenging myself by distorting the images in ways that my eye cannot.” In her work, she focuses on blending “the realms of fantasy and reality, incorporating nature and other primal elements” however she can. This can perhaps best be seen in her Tape Art Series, in which female models are strategically and beautifully adorned with gold tape all over their bodies. It is enchanting and otherworldly, with the models themselves looking like ethereal beings. Observing the photos, you can’t help but be drawn in and also feel like you are being transported to somewhere magical.
Speaking of otherworldliness, Abby herself believes that creativity can be something that is evoked from another place. She says, “I am a firm believer that our ideas, our creations, are not our own, but are gifts that come from all around us and beyond. I do notice a lot of the women that I capture tend to become “Queen” like, almost
superhuman. Part of that is the styling and the edit of course, but mostly I think it comes from that empowerment …and how when women embrace their femininity fully something of great strength and beauty is witnessed.” Women are of course featured prominently in her Tape Art Series, portraits, and beauty and fashion
photography, but it’s less the female body that empowers her as women in general. She reflects, “I love this time we are in right now for women. Our voices are louder than ever, it’s thrilling! I love being able to capture and communicate each woman’s expression of herself.” It’s also important to Abby that her subjects are put at ease, a part of her job that Abby embraces wholeheartedly. She explains, “I work with a lot of first-time or new models. Creating a safe welcoming space for them to be vulnerable and open to try something new is one of my favorite parts of my work. That intimacy and level of trust is what empowers me the most.” Indeed, a level of trust between photographer and subject is of utmost importance and something that can produce some of a photographer’s best work.
In addition to her ability to establish intimacy and trust, Abby also relies on her experience as a stylist to help her, and to train her eye to focus on the small details as well as the big picture. She says, “Being a stylist helps my work as a photographer in so many ways. From being able to articulate to other stylists the desired look in a
way that is efficient. I also am very hands-on still with styling on set and often step in when on a time crunch or short-handed to keep on schedule.” As to what inspires her, for Abby it’s all about music, “Music and sound usually initiates my creative process. When I listen to different notes and melodies it brings pictures or stories to
my mind. I then want to create those images.” Seeing a story in your head is one thing, but being able to bring that vision to life through a setting, subject, and (sometimes) props is definitely a challenge. And yet Abby does so with skill and aplomb. With all the spirit she puts into capturing something beautiful, she also hopes her work evokes a powerful sense of emotion from viewers, “In everything I do I try and provoke feeling. This may seem obvious. You see something and typically it makes you feel something. I hope that my work goes beyond that initial reflex and touches something that allows the viewer to feel the sensation. I want that sensation to seduce the viewer to looking towards the beauty in the world.”
There is a lot of beauty in Abby’s work, and it seems to come easily for her to capture that beauty. In fact, the biggest challenge she personally faces has to do with money, something artists in general struggle with at times, as she acknowledges, “Most artists can relate to the challenge of trying to be financially stable. It’s hard
enough to find clients who are willing to pay and then once you find them to get them to pay in a timely manner. On top of it all, equipment, as well as staging shoots can have big costs attached. Ultimately, it’s not about the money, there is far more you get out of it then just that. Still, you have to find a way to support yourself while
not compromising your work.” Seriously, what artist can’t relate? Luckily, it hasn’t stopped Abby from moving forward and continuing to do what she does best.
As for the future, her goals are both significant and simple: “To just keep creating.” There’s certainly no doubt that she’ll continue to capture images that captivate and intrigue for a long time to come. View more of her remarkable and compelling work by visiting her website and following her on Instagram.