One afternoon earlier this week, Resource Magazine had the opportunity to speak to Yvonne Allaway. She is a photographer whose project, God’s Medicine, is well on the way to reaching its goal on Kickstarter. God’s Medicine is a photography book all about joy and laughter.
For our Image Makers blog, we always seek to feature beautiful photography and people who have a deep passion for the craft. In Yvonne Allaway, we’re certain we’ve found both. It was an interview filled with laughter, something that words cannot always do justice. God’s Medicine is all about that – the emotions dwelling between the lines. Yvonne Allaway is a kind soul who coaxes happiness from anyone she meets. We hope you become inspired as much as she has inspired us!
“This is my photo book on happiness, joy and love. That is what God’s Medicine is. Salve for the soul.” – Yvonne Allaway
What gave you the idea for God’s Medicine? I practice meditation and a lot of spiritual things to keep myself in a positive headspace. The idea came to me as I was reading a book by Joel Osteen (his books are very uplifiting). He was talking about laughter. One day I woke up and it came to me out of the blue. I have to make a book about laughter! From then on it gelled in my head. I’ve had my own issues with negativity so it should be something that people can look at, laugh and feel better. So we started shooting it. I started calling friends of mine.
How did you find the people to fill these pages with? Sometimes I find myself walking in the streets, and in a spur of the moment, documentary style, I find the people I’m looking for. It can be really simple. I tell someone about the book and they smile at me and say “okay, you can photograph me”. But my aim is to discover and distribute joy among all types of people.
Right now I’m looking for people who are physically challenged. Having them in the book gives hope to others. I’m looking for people who have issues but are still smiling. I photographed people who were doing spiritual chanting in a church. I talked to Orthodox Jewish people, who told me that the best time to shoot them is during their holiday season. I’m not making it a religious book – these are just people I’ve found. Fathers, mothers and children, all kinds of people are in these pages.
I find them on the subway sometimes. There was one guy who sat there laughing the entire ride, with the biggest teeth I’ve ever seen! I photographed the asian women I go to, to do my nails. There was the man who just liked to walk around with a cat on his face. And then I snapped a photo of someone in Washington Square Park just recently – he was in the fountain, laughing while getting sprayed.
So yes, I’ve met a lot of interesting people through this project.
Do you do anything to evoke their joyful expressions? Usually I don’t have to do much! They already have happy dispositions. One of my favorites is the shot of a man jumping in the air. He has one of the most positive attitudes of anyone I’ve ever met. He’s a dancer, so I thought: what better way to showcase his joy than through dance? Some of the others are a little bit shy, so I find ways to draw it out of them. Sometimes I say: can you laugh really really hard? Just try it! And then they start cracking up. I photograph couples as well, and there will always be a woman who tells me: “Oh, I don’t look so hot. Let’s take another!”
How is the process going? What needs to be done before it’s sent off to the publisher? Basically what I need to do first is make more material. I have shot so much and I’m still shooting. I then have to print everything out, lay it all on the floor and find the flow. Once I do that, I can get a mock up of the book and present it to publishers. I’ve gotten a few names, but you do have to show them as much of a finished product as possible. After that, I will talk to the writer so we can kick some ideas around. I know what I want the text to be like: simple, poetic, not a whole lot of words at all. I want the pictures to stand out more and the words to string it along.
By March 13, whether you reach the goal or not, what do you have planned? If I don’t reach it, I guess I’ll just have to go back to square one and get the money myself. But this has already been in the cards a long time ago. I wanted Kickstarter to get the project going but it’s happening no matter what. Although, the amount of backing I’ve had in just a short amount of time is wonderful. If anyone is interested in actually being in the book, they’re welcome to come along. Everyone has said how amazing this project is.
What do you feel about God’s Medicine so far? I hope it has made you happy as well! This project has affected my own life greatly. When I encounter challenges, I refer back to my head and remind myself: Yvonne, you are creating a book for happiness…so smile! I have always been happy to be able to impart my talents to help others. I’ve worked in projects before where we actually focused on foster kids which ended up in the Long Island Children’s Museum. It’s helped quite a few of them secure jobs. I am always into giving back because I feel so blessed with so many things.
The biggest benefit is being able to shoot all these people. I have made friends. It has opened me up as a person because I do tend to be extremely shy. I won’t get a photograph if I don’t open my mouth and get my friendliness out there. It has also helped me see who is very supportive of my talent. There are people who haven’t been able to back the book on Kickstarter but have provided support and encouragement. In times of doubt, when I wonder to myself: am I really going to do this as a career? They give me good vibes. It keeps me going.