The Face Behind The Name: Allie Mavian - Photographer & Owner of The Lucky Life Co.
Allie and I go way back to before high school, growing up in the same neighbourhood. We grew up in the skate community and typically you could always find us at the local skate shop, skatepark or trying to grab a pizza somewhere close in between. Since then he's carved his path in the photography world through hard work and true love of the medium. Here's a little bit about Allie and how it call came to be!
Ross: I’ve known you since way back in high school and you’ve always had a camera in your hand – What made you carry it around all of the time? What did you want to shoot, what did you want to see, what made you pick it up?
Allie: It was one of those things of being a part an artistic family, but my older brother was also doing photography in high school so it was always around. It was one of those things - kind of following in my brother’s footsteps in a way. Given the fact that my mom had a camera when I was growing up was also one of those big things so I ended up messing around with it and trying it out.
Ross: So I guess having it while we were skatin’ around was the easiest way to start.
Allie: Yeah. Also, it was one of those things of picking the art elective in high school, I think it was a photography elective in school, and just messing around with that which also changed everything really.
Ross: Did you find you were always stealing your mom’s camera or your brother’s camera to try it out?
Allie: All the time [laughing]. Since that point I was constantly taking it. I mean I still have it.
Ross: Oh do you? [laughing]
Allie: Yea, my brother took it for a while but then I ended up with it.
Ross: That’s funny. So that’s your mom’s camera?
Allie: Yeah actually my mom’s camera, it has some issues with it now and has to be fixed but it’s still kind of cool to be able to have that because that’s the camera I started with.
Ross: That’s awesome man. During high school skating and self learning was your platform to get you started and after that you decided to go to OCAD right?
Allie: Yea, this is kind of a perfect example of following my older brothers footsteps. I went to OCAD because he went to OCAD realistically. I didn’t really do the research in terms of what other schools to go to. I only applied to OCAD and Ryerson. I mean now that I think of it, Sheridan or Humber would have been my best bet but that being said, with those two schools that I applied too, I didn’t get into Ryerson but I got into OCAD. So I was like all right cool, let’s just go to OCAD because that’s where I got in.
Ross: That’s cool, and what did your brother take at OCAD?
Allie: He was in graphic design.
Ross: And you went specifically for photography?
Allie: I went specifically for photography. OCAD has a system where your first year is general arts. So you aren’t directly going into the specific program you want to go into, you have to take all these general electives. You have to take drawing and painting, some kind of sculpture class, and all this other stuff. Then in your second year you choose your major. So basically, from my second year to my fifth year, I did photography specifically.
Ross: Cool, how did you like the general year?
Allie: I mean that first year was pretty cool to mess around with different medias and even though I knew what I wanted to do, it was nice to be able to do something a bit different.
Ross: Was there ever a time that you thought maybe it wasn’t going to be photography but rather one of the other platforms or mediums, or was it always photography?
Allie: During my 5 years at OCAD, no. Now, yea.
Ross: Okay, interesting.
Allie: I mean I was also a young kid where photography was one of those things of me being like “Fuck yea, this is what I want to try to do”.
Allie: And being a young kid, you have a different thought process on things rather than you know, being at the point where you and I are at now where things are obviously different when you have more experience. But I mean photography was my world then and I mean it still is but just in a different way.
Ross: Is it still exciting to you, do you still get excited about doing photography?
Allie: That’s the great thing about being in the industry, especially on the commercial and advertising side of things where no matter what it’s always going to be different. Whether it’s me shooting or me assisting, I’ve rarely had it be the same job more than once
Ross: Right, so it’s always fresh
Allie: It’s always different. Even if what I’m shooting is similar, it’s always slightly different in some kind of way.
Ross: So you went to OCAD, you’ve graduated and it’s 5 years later, what did you do?
Allie: I mean no one really knows what they are doing after university but I mean when I was in my 4th year, my brother was working at a design agency next to this photography studio at Bathurst and King, and he had mentioned to me that the photographer that was in the studio, Mathew Guido, was looking for interns. He’s on the fashion product side of things, so essentially I got my start in the commercial side of stuff in my 4th year. I started interning and then assisting then. So by the time I got out of OCAD, that’s what I knew I was getting into. I was getting more into the assisting world of just working for other photographers. I knew I wasn’t going to start shooting right away, sure that would have been awesome to have been able to have that opportunity to do that but now looking back on it, I’m glad I did that. It was the best kind of segue to get into where I am now.
Ross: You sort of had to pay your do’s a little bit?
Allie: Totally. Some people are lucky enough to go straight from school to shooting, which is great but yea it was probably the greatest segue of me getting into this industry of a whole lot of people
Ross: Do you think it’s better to do it the way you did it, where you had to pay your do’s, take your lumps, be the assistant and do the stuff you really don’t want to do and sort of work your way up and build that almost pyramid of knowledge before you sort of stepped out on your own. Or do you think it’s better to be lucky enough to jump right into shooting.
Allie: I mean if you’re lucky enough to go straight into shooting from University then I mean for sure go for it but I mean especially in this industry, it’s hard enough as it is to get shooting jobs and the best way to get experience is to be able to get into it from starting off as an assistant. That way you are learning off of other people, you’re learning off of the photographer of course but you’re also learning from the other assistants, producers, stylists and all these other people that are around you. You are learning from them and how they do things, whether it relates to you or not.
Ross: Right, sort of like the flow how all the moving parts work?
Allie: You learn the flow of the whole set. I mean don’t get me wrong, if you can shoot great but if you are going straight into shooting you don’t really get that experience. Especially coming from an assistant, you’re getting more knowledge in terms of the all around set and even just by talking to the other assistants and photographer, a lot of the time the photographer doesn’t care if you are asking them questions about the production side of things or how they do this or that, and this was really the best way for me to take everything in.
Ross: So they were open to teaching you?
Allie: Yea because I mean with most people, that’s how they also learned everything was by being able to be in a similar position and learning these different things from these photographers.
Ross: Right, that’s cool
Allie: There’s so much to learn that you don’t necessarily learn as a shooter right off the hop, so it’s the best way I could have learned all of these things.
Ross: So you were assisting for Mathew Guido
Allie: Yea, he’s where I started everything
Ross: And then what happened? Did you separate and do your own thing or was there another assistant job? What was the next step for you?
Allie: Really it was a lot of work from connections that I made through him. He had another photographer and I would help him out. It’s an interesting story but it’s kind of a long one as well so I’ll make it short here. Matt, the space he had he shared with a modelling agency that also helped him in terms of the production side of things. On the model agency side, one of the women who was working there, her husband is also a photographer and he would come and hangout because his wife was there but he would also help out on set in an assistant kind of way. So essentially, I met him through Mathew and I kind of started to go on his sets more, as an intern basically not getting paid or anything. It’s one of those things of being able to go and get the experience and being able to put it on your resume as one of the people you’ve worked with.
Ross: Right, I would assume that this would be your co-sign into the industry?
Allie: Yep, totally. At that point it’s like where you went to school didn’t matter, it was really just the experience you have and the people you know
Ross: Were your mentors willing to let you go to other jobs and help other photographers out or where they kind of like “we love Allie, we want to keep him”?
Allie: I mean, that’s the thing right it’s always kind of tricky that way. I was purely working for just Mathew at the time and he was more than happy for me to be able to go off and work with other people to be able to get experience in different areas of commercial photography. The guy that I met through Mathew his name is Erin Cobb and he’s more of a sport and athlete kind of shooter and during that time that’s a lot of what he shot was hockey and basketball players. So it was a pretty different shift working with him in terms of what Mathew was doing, which was really just fashion and product. But yea no, Mathew was more than happy for me to go off and work with other people in different areas to really be able to get that experience. He knew I was so fresh at that point but I do know that some people are a little bit picker in that way in that their first assistant is their first assistant. It’s a little different now, but that’s kind of how I grew up in the industry.
Ross: And then, you did all your assistant stuff for how many years?
Allie: I’m still doing it. It’s been 8 or 9 years now
Ross: You’ve broken away a little bit to do your own shooting as well obviously.
Allie: Yea, during the last 9 years I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do some shooting within that time, to be able to work on my own stuff whether that is personal projects or proper paying jobs. For me it’s also one of those things of being back and forth in the industry where I still assist and do all this stuff but I’m also in that position where I can still shoot and get whatever I can get when it’s a shooting job. At the end of the day, that takes priority, being able to get my own photography jobs.
Ross: Right, so is that the end goal for you is if you could shoot full-time, would you want to be a shooter or do you enjoy the assisting part?
Allie: Yea I mean it’s one of those things right, at the end of the day the goal is to be a proper full-time photographer
Allie: That is the dream. When will we get there, who knows but I mean for now I’m still hustling and trying to shoot as much as I can.
Ross: And when you aren’t shooting you have this new project, Lucky Life Co. what exactly is your goal with that? What is it?
Allie: Lucky Life Co. came about just after the first lockdown. I was working on some branding stuff for podcasts that is still a work in progress but I was essentially just working on a lot of branding stuff for that and a lot of marketing material for it. I just found myself really working in illustrator a lot and fucking around with all this different stuff and just branding in general. Experimenting like what can I do and how can I mess around with designs etc. Lucky Life Co., came about a little while after that but it was one of those things of like “you know what, what else can I do during this pandemic when photography isn’t around”. It was a project of, “let’s see what I can come up with for designs and let’s see what could happen”. And then it turned into something that I didn’t really expect. I launched the first shirt and got some awesome love from all the pals and it ended up becoming one of those things where I’m like okay cool, let’s take it somewhere that I wouldn’t expect or let’s see what I can do with it and see what the potential could be with it.
Ross: Right so what’s the next steps for Lucky Life Co.?
Allie: With Lucky Life it’s all kind of up in the air. I mean I have no real expectations for it, it’s just one of those things that is constantly in the back of my head where I’m like “okay what can I do next or what’s the one thing I kind of want to work on”. I mean as of right now starting off with the shirts has been the best bet and I mean who knows what will come next.
Ross: Could it be eventually your studio space, could it be a media platform or company? It’s still up in the air I guess right?
Allie: Yea, I mean with all of it it’s a form a way of playing and having fun with something that’s different for me and where it will end up going I have no idea but I mean that being said it’s one of those things of I really see it more as a clothing company than anything else. A lot of the time I just mess around with it and play with different hoodies, long sleeves and even just the smallest things like Nalgene water bottles or stickers. But in terms of a media platform who knows but it’s not really where my heart is, you know, so it’s just one of those things that is constantly on the back burner. It’s also one of those things where if things pick up then okay let’s just have some fun with it and see where I can take it kind of thing. It’s still in the early process of where I can take it.
Ross: So then, post pandemic what are you doing? What’s your goal? To get back into shooting, a little bit of normality?
Allie: The biggest thing post pandemic is to get back into some kind of normalcy. Since July of last year I have been able to do more photography stuff in general, whether it is my own shooting or assisting or being on the media side of things, that’s been pretty normal other than the whole precautionary stuff of being on set and being around other people. I mean yea post pandemic it’s going to be trying to get back to some kind of normal
Ross: Yea, yea totally
Allie: Trying to make everything with work as normal as it can be, but it’s not my biggest issue
Ross: Right, so let's look at a different scenario post pandemic. There’s going to be a whole crop of students that are going through school and they’re like “I don’t really know where to go,” the whole idea of what I’m doing is to connect dots and lay out some steps so that people have a better idea of what direction not necessarily of where they should go but rather where they can go. Do you have any sort of key points for young artists, makers or photographers that may make their lives a little bit easier?
Allie: Um, yea I mean I have so many things that I can talk too young inspiring photographers about on this topic. Even from just my own personal experience the way I grew up in the industry was that obviously coming out of high school and going into University is a big step, but on the side of photography especially if you are wanting to be in the commercial and advertising stuff, school isn’t my first suggestion.
Ross: Oh, okay.
Allie: Well I mean I’d still say go to school if you want that as you can still learn a fair amount but where I learned all my experience in this industry was experience on set, that’s where I learned everything. I take some aspects that I learned from University and apply it to some of my own shooting but not really anything of what I learned at OCAD I can really apply to being on set.
Ross: Right, mean totally agree with you but how do they make that first connect? What’s the step that you take? It’s super easy to say you just got to get the experience but who am I connecting too? Do they just cold call, do they try to meet people in the industry, is there events that they can go to?
Allie: Yea. I mean now that’s going to be a lot harder than it was before this pandemic. But that being said, a lot of being able to try to get experience in the commercial photography industry is similar to the way of trying to get new clients as a photographer, it’s a lot of just reaching out to people. I would hear some stories about how people would just reach out because of school and need hours but the way that I would normally reach out to photographers was like “I just want to sit down, have a coffee and pick your brain” and hopefully it will lead to being on set with that photographer. But a lot of it really is just cold calling people and trying to reach out to as many photographers as you can to be able to try and make that connection to try and get that next step of being able to whether it’s interning or actually getting assisting work with these different photographers. That’s honestly the best way you can do it.
Ross: Is it worth being picky at the beginning?
Allie: You can’t be picky, you really can’t. If you are going to be picky it’s going to be hard for you to get work, you know. The less picky you are the better it will be to get work with different photographers on different jobs and different areas of the industry. It’s like being able to work with life style photographers, product photographers, gallery photographers for all these film and TV shows, it’s all so different and that’s where you’re going to learn all these different techniques and just general knowledge of being on set and what the right things to do and not do are. If you are picky sure that’s fine but every photographer and every assistant on every job is going to do things differently, so the less picky you are the more you are going to learn from it and it’s the best way to do it really. Being able to work with the people you want to work with will come later, it’s better to play the long game and do what you can do to at least get your foot in the door and then as soon as you can get the people you want to work with that’s even better
Ross: That’s great Allie. Thanks so much for taking the time brother, I can’t wait to do this again.
Thanks so much for reading everyone, and a special thanks to Allie for doing the interview and speaking about your experiences. You're the man Allie, thanks for your friendship!
You can find Allie's socials listed below!
@alliemavianphoto & @the_lucky_life_co