Sophia Nahli Allison is an experimental documentary filmmaker and media arts educator. History is highly contested, both as an academic subject and as an archive of living memories. Michel-Rolph Trouillot in his 1995 book Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, he points out that history is constructed through power relations that allow the idea of a linear, meta history to be constructed through the strategic silencing of histories – histories often blocked out through othering. Allison’s focus is on re-imagining and documenting history – or histories – that are pushed out. This includes memories, dreams and multiple interpretations of freedom through the voices of women the youth and queer people of colour.
Having received her BA in photojournalism, and working towards her postgraduate degree in documentary filmmaking, still and moving imagery are her mediums of choice with regards to materializing these ambitions. She has received recognition for her efforts, including being named the Student Video Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographer Association earlier this year.
Allison’s photographs possess a sense of movement. Viewers are transported into the moments she captures, and are easily able to feel the emotional vibrations translated through her lens. Each image is accompanied by the story of the people photographed as well as the conceptual labour she has invested into assembling each image. Her trained eye is a tool she employs to capture in-the-moment shots as calculated shots.
Her work as a media arts educator has seen her teach high school students photography and film skills through a lens that focuses on social justice and identity. This is a way she continues the necessity to have other narratives seen and heard. In this way she encourages self-expression and the importance of socially conscious documentary work while explaining the significance of subliminal messaging that is often present in other forms of photography and film productions. Allison has seen how her courses have promoted critical thinking and self-awareness in the young students she has interacted with.