The Job for Me
Profile by Jane Ledwell
Many Buzz interviews in the past have included Alanna Jankov. For years, she took the photos that accompanied the artist profiles on this page. Sometimes the interview and the photo shoot overlapped, and I could count on Alanna’s offbeat humour to set interview subjects at ease. One interview subject made sure Alanna was going to be the photographer before agreeing to be interviewed. “I hope it’s her. She slays me,” he said.
For her own part, Alanna says she was waiting all those years to get out from behind the camera and step into the limelight as the profile subject. It’s finally happened this month because Alanna is the newly-hired Executive Director of The Guild in Charlottetown. “I really feel like I’m in my element,” she says. “In my first week, I was a gardener, a building superintendent, a curator, a manager… I almost felt I was sucked back into life again.” She reckons the job is a “Procustean bed”—she’ll be stretching herself to fit it.
At Christmas, Alanna closed her photography studio, her self-owned business of about 20 years. “It is no disrespect to photographers, but I felt it was time for me at 44 not to be climbing a ladder anymore to corral people for a group shot.” She worked as a mentor in the Holland College photography program and took on a contract with the provincial Executive Council. Just as she was wondering what was next for her, the job at The Guild was advertised, and she says, it was quickly obvious: “This is what’s next.” She took one look at the job ad and though, “Jeepers, does this not fit into who I am… Sure, it’s long hours—crazy hours—but I think if I stuck that out for twenty years [in my photo studio], it must be what I’m supposed to do.”
Alanna says, “I used to have to be flexible in my job to be flexible to my kids. Now, I can be flexible to my new baby, The Guild.”
The beloved art space in the city faces the same challenges to be sustainable in a climate of cutbacks that face other arts and culture institutions. “The goal is for The Guild to remain open year-round,” Alanna says. “We’re a great venue, and we’re excited… We can be busy all year-round, supporting Island artists.”
Alanna admits, “I kind of go into things thinking in five-year increments. I won’t be putting my mark on The Guild in the first year.” She’s walking into pre-planned programming this summer, and notes, gratefully, “Ghislaine [O’Hanley] left things very organized for me,” and existing staff is “so caring of the place.”
Alanna is happy to feel part of a team with The Guild’s Board, Ars Longa. “When you have your own business, you are out there on your own. I feel like now I’m part of a cacophonous network. I’m facilitating their ideas into the physical—to say, there it is. It’s happening.”
Alanna’s past exhibits and events as a photographer capitalized on creative promotions and the element of surprise. She held back tantalizing details of her exhibitions until the last possible moment. In her photo studio, Alanna tried to “keep people wondering what was going on in the studio.”
She wants to use her instincts for publicity in her new job. “We want to engage the public in excitement that is building at The Guild… People love to be curious,” she says. “Curiosity makes people want to be part of something… We’re reaching out to all people—whether you are an artist, hockey player, businessperson, hockey player, chef, or musician,” she says.
Alanna won’t be leaving her camera behind. “There’ll always be a time I need to feed my habit,” she admits. “But there’s probably a lot more things that need to be done by me.” When the camera comes out at The Guild, “I’ll be creating memories of my time there.” More than long hours, that’s what connects her new work at The Guild to her old work as a photographer: creating memories that bring people together, memories that she hopes will last.