The photos are emotive portraits and evocative streetscapes that offer human perspective on the uncertainty and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. You might have seen them on social media by now, as they share and spread a sense of perseverance and hope. If so, you can thank local photographer Allison Daniell Moix.
Moix has been documenting the people and places of Colorado Springs as a professional photographer for well over a decade, mostly through Stellar Propeller Studio which she started in 2008. You’ve probably seen her work in Springs magazine or local advertising campaigns. There’s a good chance you’ve seen her in her element if you’ve attended a local event hosted by the Downtown Partnership, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC or other local organizations. And you might have seen her portraits or wedding photos. She describes her recent work as “editorial and commercial, with lots of personal touches about humanity and capturing the essence of people and places.”
When the coronavirus shut everything down, Moix began to process it all in the way she knows best: by taking out her camera. The results are powerful. We talked with her about the experience, the photos and the stories she’s encountered along the way. Take a look and check out the complete photo collections below.
Springs: What was the initial motivation for starting this pandemic project?
Allison Daniell Moix: It all started with a church sign by my house. One day it said “Activities suspended for 2 weeks.” A few days later it read, “Activities suspended for ? weeks,” and I thought Wow, these are really weird times. So I went out that first day and started with that sign and with closed playgrounds and ended up at the grocery store photographing empty shelves and shoppers in masks.
I don’t typically live my life with a long and thought-out plan. I tend to be like Hansel and Gretel and follow the bread crumbs around. I enjoyed shooting so much on that first day and realized it had been great for me mentally. Before I started this project, my quarantine pattern was one good, productive day followed by one difficult, lethargic day and on and on. Once I started doing this, I was only having one hard day a week! It was good for my brain to have to engage in that way — how it does when I’m doing my normal work — and for me to make some real connections with strangers in the middle of social distancing (from 6 feet away, of course). After several days of acting like a photojournalist, I realized I wanted to do some higher end portraits of the heroes in this pandemic: the nurses and hospital workers, the grocery store employees, sanitation workers. Then the list of people I was interested in honoring just went on and on, and I’m still working through my list!
What are some of the stories and experiences you’ve encountered along the way?
So dang many! I love it. I just met two people when I was out photographing tonight who told me they had only started dating just as COVID-19 started. They told me how they met on Bumble and how he intercepted her date with another guy, and also how they have loved getting to know each other this way. They said they go on long drives and talk about their dreams and their stories, that they get to-go food and eat in his convertible with the top down while watching a movie.
I got to have a longer conversation with my mailman when I photographed him and got to apologize for how my dog loses his mind barking at him every day while he’s just trying to do his job. I met some high schoolers near Helen Hunt Falls all dressed up taking prom photos and got to ask them about how this has been for them. That was a fun connection.
What has stood out to you overall as you’ve visited local businesses, neighborhoods and workers around town?
People are mostly in really good spirits! There is definitely still that community, “We’re in this together” vibe that makes the Springs the Springs.
Do you have any favorite shots?
Oh, sure. Some are favorites because of aesthetics, and some are favorites because of what I was feeling when I took them or what they remind me of now. The firefighter portraits and the ones of Jim Jackson and Birgitta DePree from Millibo Art Theater stand out to me because I love the way they look, and I also had a great connection with them. The shot down Tejon Street on a Friday night at 9 p.m. will always do something to me because I actually had to shed some tears after I experienced the ghost town that was Colorado Springs that evening. Also, the photos I took the first day I went out are really special to me because they are what ignited this whole thing and got my mental health in a more stable place again.
What drives you as a photographer? And how is this project changing you and your artistic approach?
Connection, beauty and curiosity drive me as a photographer. If it’s people or an event or a beautiful building, I want to connect to that space or that celebration or that person in some capacity. I’ve been told that I set people at ease in front of the camera, which is not how most people feel in that position. I also just really adore humans as a whole and care about their stories and what makes them who they are. This project has been wonderful for me in expanding my capacity for storytelling and getting to meet all kinds of people that I don’t normally get to chat with — like my mailman, my sanitation worker, my grocery store cashier. The camera is a bridge for me in connecting with people that it might seem odd for me to just stop and talk at length to otherwise. This project has only heightened my desire for true storytelling, because real people and their real lives are very fascinating.
What kind of response have you received from people as the photos have spread?
I have been blown away by the response and the love from the community. Russ Ware [owner of The Wild Goose Meeting House and Good Neighbors Meeting House] commented on one of my photos with this: “This is important work Allison. You’ve found your role in these days. We need you. Thanks.” That meant the world to me, and it’s things like that that give me energy to keep dreaming and shooting.
What’s next? Is this an ongoing project?
This project is ongoing for the foreseeable future. I’ll get to photograph at the airport next week, capturing empty gates and hardworking employees and (fingers crossed) get to take a photo on an actual plane before takeoff, probably with lots of empty seats. I have several more things lined up like that, and I’m still just following those bread crumbs! I don’t want to belabor this project, but I want to see it through and collect a library of as many photos that will deeply tell the story of how wild and unique this time is. I’m also starting to pick back up some commercial work, which is great because of the ol’ mortgage.
Where can people see your work?
The entire gallery can be seen on my website: stellarpropeller.com
There’s a Facebook album here.
And my Instagram handle is @stellarpropellerstudio