#60 | Get Curious with Master Photographer with Alanna Jayne Mctiernan

Alanna Jayne Mctiernan is a master photographer and professional storyteller. She works with architects, interior designers, urban designers and landscape architects to showcase their creations. 

In this episode we discuss:

  • Alanna’s career from portrait photographer to working with urban spaces and places
  • Being a Brisbane local living in a Queenslander.
  • Purchasing a house and starting a new business after being made redundant. 
  • Creating a value based business. 
  • The importance of personal creative projects

Speakers:  Jessica Reynolds, Alanna Jayne McTiernan

But I guess that’s what I’m good at, is bringing images together by listening to people’s stories and hearing what their message is that they want to put out to the world simply. This will be one day you’ll look back on this day and you’ll realize it was one of the best things that ever happened.

Jessica Reynolds:

Hi there. Welcome to The Creating Australia Podcast. My name is Jessica Reynolds and I’m a private town planner and business owner based in Brisbane Queensland. I’m passionate about engaging with the amazing people that make the property and development industry what it is today. In Creating Australia, I want to learn from experts in the industry and share their knowledge and wisdom with you.

In each episode, we’ll talk with different people and unpack their past experiences and innovative ideas for the future. Join me now for an episode of Creating Australia, where we dive into the industry, exploring local stories, projects, businesses, people, ideas, and more. Welcome to today’s episode of The Creating Australia Podcast. My guest today is Alanna Jayne McTiernan. I said that correctly, didn’t I Alanna?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

You did, you did.

Jessica Reynolds:

Alanna is a master photographer, she’s also one of my good friends. Alanna, can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about what you do day to day.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Okay, so Jess, nice to see you. I’m a photographer and a small filmmaker. I started my creative career in portrait photography world and then that’s where I learned the love of storytelling. Not long after that I found a passion for architecture design. And the two slowly merged together to capture people both in place and spaces.

And I do that by capturing it through still imagery in motion. So I now work with architects, interior designers, urban designers, landscape architects with a focus on bringing not just one size fits all approach, but each project has its own sort of life to document. So yeah, that’s what I do day to day.

Jessica Reynolds:

So you’re definitely a creative, how can a creative function in the business world?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

That’s a good question actually. I guess by spending a lot of time figuring out what we bring to the table, that’s different. So being able to sit down with businesses, whether their architects again or whoever it is and figure out how we can tell their story the best way. So sitting down, really getting to know who people are as a business, what’s their messaging, what do they want to get out to the world?

And being able to visually put that together really. So yeah, it can be challenging because we’ve all got different ways of thinking. But I guess that’s what I’m good at, is bringing images together by listening to people’s stories and hearing what their message is that they want to put out to the world simply.

Jessica Reynolds:

That’s beautiful. So can we backtrack a little bit as to how you actually ended up in this architectural photography world, because it isn’t something that I think most people at school, so I’m going to start taking photos of architecture. I’m sure there was a little bit of a journey. Can you, not gloss over, but give us the highlights.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

I’ll try and gloss over for you. So I’ll give you some highlights. So I was a very curious kid. I really always loved and was sort of curious about my surroundings. I grew up watching my dad documenting everything around me. He was a bit of a dork. He liked documenting, you know, the streets, every holiday we went on and he’d do dorky voice overs on the film, and I guess that had a really strong impact on me.

I enjoyed looking at his images afterwards and flicking through the films with him. So dad had the camera equipment, which meant it sort of allowed me to, I guess go and explore and be curious as a kid and start my own storytelling journey. I studied art at school and found the subject to be a really peaceful place for me. You know, that whole, you sort of find your home, so to speak. And so photography was a part of that curriculum.

And I went and started documenting street photography when I was a teenager. I had just been to a Jeffrey Smart exhibition, which had a really strong influence on me and anyone that wanted to look him up. He’s a famous Australian painter. And I started looking at urban spaces around me differently, not just looking at them in a bland way, but actually seeing the beauty in them.

So that’s how it all sort of came together for me. It was a very early stage, there was that curiosity of spaces around me. So I grew up in the city.

Jessica Reynolds:

And that’s Brisbane city?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah, Brisbane city, Brisbane girl. Everyone always thinks I’m from the country though because I think of the way I talk and love to have a chat.

Jessica Reynolds:

It’s alright. I’m sure southerners would probably think Brisbane is the country.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Exactly, right. Although we’re expanding so fast. It’s just a lot sometimes. So yeah, maybe I’m a country girl at heart. But yeah, look, being curious about my surroundings was a really big thing of interest. So that obviously involved architecture and design around me, really urban places and spaces. So I then went and studied photography.

But my work path started in portrait photography. I did on the side do art and street photography, which I actually won a bunch of awards for. I got the most innovative trend. I’ve won Australian illustrative photographer of the year through the AIPP.

Then through that industry I got my masters, I then went on to judging which I did at a state and national level and this was really enjoyable for me because it allowed me to sort of give my knowledge back to the industry. Then I started managing a portrait studio for a long time and I learned a lot about managing teams, which we had in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

And then I got made a redundant business, which was sad, but actually probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. And I remember my dad saying to me, one day, you’ll look back on this day and you’ll realize it was one of the best things that ever happened. And it’s really weird because it’s hard to see the light in the dark at the time.

Jessica Reynolds:

What year was that if you don’t mind me asking?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Well, that was six years ago. So yeah, and it really was because it did kind of give me the push. I had always wanted to start sort of my own portrait business, but also explore and start working with architects and interior designers. And I just needed to, you know, I just clearly the universe just went, here’s your opportunity.

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And then that’s when I yeah, I started. So yeah, for me, I’m pretty blessed. It sounds very hippy to say that. But now I get to combine my love of people in place every day, in terms of my work, and continue that journey of curiosity in photography and filmmaking. So yeah, that’s the short version.

Jessica Reynolds:

I like the short version. My attention span doesn’t go that far. So, six years ago, you I guess pivoted your niche with photography and my understanding of your history is you are somewhat of a self made woman. You are single, still single men out there. Single men, not married men, you’ve built this career on your own. How has that been? I know for myself, building a business as a single female in the past, it definitely has its challenges.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah, definitely. And so I also bought my first home when I was 25. So yeah, I don’t know, I guess you just have a few things in life that you set out to do. How’s it been? Look, it’s been incredibly challenging, but I wouldn’t live life any other way to be honest. So this is a chosen path, you know, sort of saying to somebody the other day, it’s one of those things where you get to realize in life, the more you understand about yourself and what you’re here to do, what’s your journey.

All that kind of stuff you start to recognize, like, yes, it’s been hard. And there’s days where I think impostor syndrome is a real problem, for everybody, right? I think that affects everyone, but I also just simply wouldn’t live a different life because I like challenges. As I said, curiosity is at the forefront of the way I live.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

So I’m intrigued at how to tell better stories, how to connect better, how human beings communicate, all of that sort of stuff. So my dad was right, like I said it was very much a blessing because I’ve never stepped so much into a path that felt so right for me, if that makes sense.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah, it definitely does. Would you recommend that people go and start a business and buy a house at the same time?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

No, don’t do that at the same time.

Jessica Reynolds:

I do not recommend it unless you really know that it’s going to work out.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah, no, as I said, I guess when I did buy it, I was working, I was managing a studio, so I was earning a good income there um and I would say this to people if you’re at a stage in your life where for the next five years, 10 years you’ve chosen that you want to go and work for other people and you do know that there is security there. Yeah, definitely look at those investments because those kinds of investments, long term down the track can be beneficial.

It’s challenging some days for me, I’m like why do I have that mortgage? But equally, you know, I’m sitting here years down the track going, how amazing is this? It’s grown in value, but I also have this beautiful home and this base.

Jessica Reynolds:

Brisbane girl and a Queenslander.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

That’s right, that’s right and I just renovated my bathroom, so that was a bit of fun. But yeah, no, I think be thoughtful about your decisions that you make. So I’m really lucky as I said, well, it’s not luck, it’s a lot of hard work. I chose security at that stage in my life and I chose to buy a property then.

And then where I’m at now, obviously I could, well to be honest, it wasn’t ideal because I got made redundant and it did kind of make me go, you know, I could go and look for more security or I really could step into this opportunity and I’ll see it as an opportunity to show my expertise that I’ve learned over this period of time. And yeah, and honestly, I’m waffling now, I wouldn’t change it.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah, that’s the Alanna way isn’t it? I do find it very interesting because I, myself as a business owner and also starting my company around that same age, 25, 26, I definitely think having a mortgage over my head as a single person would have created a whole bunch of unnecessary stress. But let’s, you know, rather than becoming a financial advice podcast. why don’t we

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Probably not the best from me.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah, so where to from here for you, like you’ve built up obviously some great clients in the architecture world, so where to from here? Are you just going to continue to develop your art and your practice or are you changing the types of clients you’re working with?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Both. Yeah, sorry to jump in there, both to be honest right now, obviously I have an incredible amount of beautiful clients that I work with. And I say beautiful because for me good clients or clients that really value and see your value and like the end of full stop, right? And I don’t want to work with everybody. I don’t want a million different clients.

I want the right clients. And by the right clients are the clients that see the value that you can bring. But also you have a connection with. You know, it’s not just hot and fast and here’s the thing and then we won’t have a talk again. It sounds like a relationship but anyway.

It is a relationship. We’ve talked about this a lot in the past and I’ve tried to enact it within my business too. It is that you really want to work with people who value you and it just makes your life so much nicer. It’s definitely, I think that’s a shared value that we have and why we have this friendship is because we both want to feel valued, we both want to be respected.

Jessica Reynolds:

I myself have sacked a client this week, which is really hard to do when somebody’s giving you money and to say, look I just don’t think I can work with you because your values are just too different to mine.

And I can see that you’re not going to respect it. It could be for a number of reasons why there was that lack of respect, you never know what’s going on in people’s lives. However, I just don’t need that in my day to day, there’s enough problems in the world, I don’t need to be bringing you more.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah, that’s right, 100%. Yeah. I think you’ve labeled it for me, its value, its connection, and I’m gonna create something better for you by being able to get to know who you are as well on a deeper level. Because I think we’re in a stage where it’s not about just pushing things out there anymore because there’s so much, there’s a lot of voice.

And I think it’s not about having, you know, a million different pictures or a million different videos or a million different things. It’s like sitting down and really thinking about, and now I’m getting very serious, but really think about what your message is here as a company or as a person.

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And I think it’s really important for businesses, not only to think about that as a company, but you know, the value system like you said is key because I connect with businesses that I know value whether it’s environment or whatever it is. But I want to spend more time getting to know those people and what their messaging is.

So it’s kind of, it sounds like a rotary will when I say it over and over again, but it really is key because people are going to go, oh, I saw this thing that this architect did and I really value that. And you know, if you value it, you’re more likely going to use them or refer to them or you know what I mean?

Jessica Reynolds:

So the way that you’re cutting through the noise, obviously there’s a lot of people out there, there’s a lot of content creators, anyone can be sort of somewhat of a photographer or videographer these days. So your way of cutting through is obviously by being a professional and continuing to, you know, upgrade your craft. But then your business model is based on getting to know the people and their projects on a deeper level.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah, 100%. And that’s growing. So when you ask that question before, like, what am I doing? Where am I going? That’s just something that I work on all the time. So I’m actually at the moment, also myself working on, what do I want to share? So I’ve got a tree in my backyard, we’ll keep it short about my tree.

Jessica Reynolds:

The tree story.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

But I’m making a film about the tree.

Jessica Reynolds:

It’s very dramatic.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Very dramatic. I’m not Creative, but my messaging, my messaging is stopping and people just stop and really think about the beautiful, it’s a tree that’s been in the backyard for 70 years. There’s a history there. It’s almost to me it’s a living organism that we should be more mindful of.

And there’s a care. So I just want to show it in its own light before it gets chopped down. So that’s me, that was the story.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah. So your neighbor bought a property, and they’re going to cut down this very old tree that you have a very strong emotional attachment to. And it’s been a bit of a story there. So everybody look out for Alanna’s, what are you giving the title of the tree story? I don’t mean to laugh.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

No, no, it doesn’t bother me. And that’s the thing, it will connect with whoever wants to connect with it. So I have no idea what the title is yet. I’m just to be honest, it’s actually emotional looking at the imagery of the tree, it’s a really beautiful thing.

Jessica Reynolds:

So I’m glad you’ve got enough emotions for the two of us. I’m definitely respectful of trees, but also, I mean that developer world and it’s very hard to feel that strongly about every tree. Otherwise I’d probably be crying myself to sleep every night. Most people are pretty good. We’ve got some good developers at the moment who actually want to retain trees and see their value.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah. And look I understand there’s scenarios and there’s things, I’m not completely oblivious. I’m just wanting to stop for a moment and say, let’s just celebrate this. It’s not just this tree, it’s obviously the bigger thinking and narrative of trees and land and space. So yeah.

Jessica Reynolds:

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

I’ve written down because I knew you would ask that question. So I think it depends on who’s listening and what they want to take away from it. But I think for me, if I was listening and I was thinking I wanted to get into this type of work or really any type of work my thing would be to go back to, and I’ve been on repeat about it, is to be curious.

Be curious about what you want to put out into this world, but also be curious about, you know, whether it’s wanting to photograph architecture and like what is it inside of you that you want to really tell. At the moment, for me, another message would be love and kindness.

I know I sound hippy, but I think the world needs a lot more love and kindness and respect. I just want to put that out there. And I also think, yeah, spend time on personal projects. So for me doing this tree thing or not, tree thing, Tree story, sometimes you can feel like personal projects like take up a lot of your time.

And you go, well, where am I going to fit that in also? But I think it really does expand your conscious thinking and that really rolls into your work. So for you, it would be like just this obviously started out as something that you were curious about doing because you’re curious about people and how they work.

And you wanted to put that out into the world, which I think is amazing and I’m so proud of you. So yeah, and look at where you’ve come to. Like, it’s amazing. So I think work on those projects because they’re the things that allow you to shine and allow, you know, yes, we can do our jobs. But this is something that people are really going to go, yeah, how amazing is Jess, for example. I just want to say that.

Jessica Reynolds:

That’s the point of the podcast. How Amazing is Jess, thank you.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

Yeah, I know it’s funny. Yeah.

Jessica Reynolds:

So is that success to you? Is success to you being able to proceed with your curiosities and exploring them?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

100%. Yeah. Yeah.

Jessica Reynolds:

That’s good. So if people want to contact you, what is the best way?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

I would go to my website or the Gram, The good old Gram. Although I do try not to be on that. It’s very hard.

Jessica Reynolds:

How do people, what’s the spelling of your name?

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

So it’s A L A N N A J A Y N E M C T I E R N A N .com. So that’s the website. And then I think my Instagram, how funny is that? I think it’s just yeah at Alanna Jayne McTiernan and so I’m sure you’ll have links and things. But yeah that’s how I roll.

Jessica Reynolds:

Making a lot of assumptions there. Thank you. … Thank you so much for joining us today.

Alanna Jayne McTiernan:

That’s cool. Thank you darling.

Jessica Reynolds:

Thanks for joining me on today’s episode of Creating Australia. Don’t forget to subscribe and join us on our socials to keep updated on our latest content. On Creating Australia, I love talking about everything to do with people, property, and development. So if you have something you’d like me to explore, let me know by searching Creating Australia on Instagram or searching Jessica Reynolds on LinkedIn.