meet allister ann
The photographer who believes in finding beauty in daily rituals and counting your blessings every day.
What is meditative for you?
Moving from Los Angeles to Nashville, a huge part of my getaway was surfing. Surfing for me was the escape. That was the exhale. Then I moved to Nashville and I needed to find that something that made me exhale and felt like a forced pause.
My boyfriend’s good friend has a ranch in Kentucky, so we started going up there to go horseback riding. Even talking with the horse that you’re with and having that alone time is really powerful. It became a ritual for us, knowing that we could take a breath and leave everything behind.
Has anyone had a significant impact on your life during the pandemic?
My boyfriend and I always wanted a cat, so it made sense now, especially for the both of us being home as much as we were. For some reason, every time we would try to adopt or apply, it didn’t work out. Then, on one of the trips to go horseback riding, a cat had kittens. So we decided to pick one from the litter.
“His name is Lazlo and he’s brought such a light to this home.”
Having another dynamic in the house is really lovely. He comes with me to the bathroom every morning and I’ve been trying to take as many photos as possible before he gets too big. When he came with me to the bathroom that morning, it was for my beauty routine. I love to start the day by taking my thyroid medication and then applying an oil. It feels like I’m starting my day properly. So the last part of that ritual is him joining me while I do it.
What provides you with a release and grounds you?
I started doing painting classes in Los Angeles and I really liked my professor. In my career, I felt as though I needed to escape from photography even though it’s something that I love so much. So I found this class and it was an 8-week program of portraits, 2 weeks per portrait, and someone would sit for a series of 4 hours. The whole process was such a beautiful experience. Then the lockdown happened and the professor started doing online classes and my partner encouraged it and said give it a try and see. It turned into a weekly ritual of doing online classes and it was nice knowing that every week I had something to look forward to that was not work-related.
How does your home and space impact your mental health?
I became more educated about sage when I lived in Los Angeles and clearing and resetting. It’s almost that parallel with how you’re feeling and checking in. Especially right now, when we’re spending so much time inside our homes, it’s so needed to clear and reset and have that new day feeling that you can start again.
How would you describe your mental health currently?
Trying. This goes back to the upbringing that I had with my family. If you’re feeling down, sad, or unmotivated, be okay with it. If you’re going through the emotions, create, try to make something beautiful out of it. That’s where painting happened for me, being able to have that creative outlet. But it’s ebbs and flows.
“This year I realized the importance of taking a moment to purposefully go outside and be with nature. It’s tiny rituals.”
It’s tiny rituals. It’s caring for your skin, it’s taking that shower and thinking about the things that you’re cleansing yourself of. My mental health right now is fairly okay. When I feel as though I’m in a slump, when I complain about it, or when I call my mom and say that I feel off, or I feel off-kilter, she says, are you painting? Are you creating? Are you doing something to make your creativity spark a little more? That’s where I’m happiest and where I know that I can sit well again. It’s not necessarily a distraction, but a release.
How do you make your health a priority?
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and it all happened so quickly and all at once. So I had to learn what life was going to be like after that. Now it’s equated to taking a pill every morning, which I put into a container that I love and treasure so much. I believe with daily rituals that you should find beauty in it and count your blessings every day.
One day I woke up out of a dead sleep and it felt as though someone had their hand around my neck as if I couldn’t fully breathe. For some reason, I thought I could drive myself to the ER and immediately, the doctor looked at my neck and said, you have a nodule that needs to be taken out. I wasn’t educated about the thyroid at that point, so I flew to Colorado to be with my mom to understand it and know what to expect if it were to go bad.
“My doctor explained that this was very uncommon for someone my age and I would need surgery.”
At that point, too, I was working out, I was surfing a lot. I was doing everything you would think in the books is living a healthy lifestyle. And yet, it still felt like I had been punched in the gut saying your body is not working with you right now.
What was going through your head prior to your thyroid surgery?
I remember the night before crying myself to sleep thinking, did you live your life well? What are the things that you could have done differently or would have done differently? And I remember thinking, I gave it a good shot and I think we’re good. If things go sour, I’ll make the most of this time that I have. I’ve been so fucking lucky.
We did the surgery and my doctor said he took out the lymph nodes that were surrounding the thyroid. I remember trying to put a necklace on at one point and thinking that my neck wasn’t symmetrical. My doctor had noted it was one of the larger nodules he’d ever seen, but felt confident we didn’t need to do radiation.
It happened so fast that my emotions didn’t fully catch up with it. At 11 weeks, I was allowed to travel. I remember being home with my mom and counting down the days until I could have a normal life again. That was the biggest learning experience, which was to be patient with the process. So the greatest thing that I learned was not to push myself. I’m still working through it and trying not to guilt myself for feeling exhausted.
When do you feel most at peace?
With my camera.
When do you feel your body tense up?
When I open up my phone.
What gives you serotonin?
What does your body language say about you?
That I’m soft-spoken, but a very strong observer.
When do you speak your mind?
When I really have to.
next story — merrady wickes