Dolly Avenue: A Visual Storyteller Who Was Willing To Take A Risk

What’s going on, introduce yourself to the people.

Hello everyone, my name is Dolly Avenue. I’m a visual storyteller based out of Chicago.

How was life growing up for you?

Growing up I was constantly moving which created a way for me to keep my memories intact with my camera.

When did you first begin to witness your creative talents?

I always associated myself as a right-brainer. Music was my first creative outlet. Through playing instruments and writing lyrics, I immediately knew art was my pursuit.

You just talked about how music was your first medium of choice, when did you transition into photography?

Growing up I always had a camera that I would use to document my travels. Being a musician, I had to learn to self brand in order to showcase my talent. I learned to set up my own camera equipment and lighting in order to share my songwriting through video for the web.

A little over a year ago you quit your office job to pursue photography as a full-time gig, how important is it for creatives to take risks to pursue their dreams?

I think pursuing the creative industry is already an unconventional route. I believe that taking risks is important in order to grow and improve in your art. Although the freelance route works for me currently, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with balancing a steady job for income while pursuing your passion.

After you quit your office job, did you begin to take your photography work far more serious?

Creating has always been more than a hobby of mine. There is no timeline as to when I decided it was important to me, it just always has been.

How big of an impact did IG have on your photography?

Instagram had a huge impact on my photography. I don’t particularly have a niche, but Instagram was a way to explore concepts and experiment with various styles. There was a time when I looked at the images I created and I wasn’t satisfied. When I first began capturing, I knew I had the eye for where I wanted the quality of my work to be. I wasn’t confident in what I was making just yet. Stumbling upon Ryan Chun’s (@6corners) work inspired me to push myself creatively and experiment with darker tones. This time period was the start of when my style developed. I knew musically I was always in tune with a more fine-art approach with darker concepts, but to realize it through the way I formed images has been so rewarding.


Do you feel like your photography work is constantly changing?

Absolutely. It’s changing all the time. I don’t think anyone can truly pinpoint what kind of genre I fall under because I honestly don’t try to pursue anything specific. I like not being limited.

Although your photography is constantly changing, what is the one message you want people to take away from your photos?

I want the viewer to look at my images and forget about me completely. I don’t want them to think of who shot the image but inquire about who and what is being captured.

Recently you went out to the Amazon for 10 days with Wine to Water, a non-profit organization focused on providing clean water to people around the world. How was that experience for you?

It was a life changing experience. I saw an interesting card design while walking down the street. I scanned it, turned it around, and was completely in love with the message. I loved the concept of using your creative talents to make a difference. Unfortunately I quickly realized that the deadline to go on the trip was over. I decided to reach out to the organization anyways and they told me the original deadline was over, but if somehow I could raise enough then the odds were in my favor. Right away I went home and started a crowdfunding account and raised the money within a week. Although I was scheduled to leave during my finals, I knew that this opportunity outweighed any other reason to not do it. I headed on out to the Amazon with my photo and video gear for 10 days and came back completely changed.



How did the trip end up changing you as a person?

I became more intentional about the work I wanted to create and the work I wanted to take on. Being exposed to such a foreign concept of not being able to drink water safely was more than enough for me to rethink what message I can spread through my creative talents.

Roy T bennett once said, “Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.” How important is giving back to you?

I truly believe we are only fulfilled by sharing experiences with one another.

Last week you were able to work Obama’s Farewell Speech. How was that experience for you?

Obama’s farewell speech was a huge experience for me. I was contributing to the live 360 recording with, VR Scout, and Radiant Images. It was a reminder of how often my camera allows me to step out of my own reality for a moment and live another one.

You’ve been very vocal on having mentors, whether it is Andrew Dryer, Alex Garcia, or Ryan Taylor. Explain the importance of having a mentor.

There is nothing more valuable than learning from the downfalls and accomplishments of those before you.

As you approach graduation, what role has Columbia played in your artistic career over these past 4 years?

Although I am not sold on the idea of pursuing a degree, I find it extremely important to take advantage of the opportunities that you are presented with. Columbia played a major role in providing opportunities for me to collaborate and challenge myself creatively through the given assignments.

What three brands would you love to work with?

That is a tough question. I admire Sagmeister x Walsh completely. The YouTube community and the Red Bull brand are two other favorites.

When it’s all said and done how do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as the creative that refused to sacrifice their happiness and managed to design the life they envisioned.