Overcommitted by choice

file1-1Feeling over-committed? Stretched a bit thin? Taking part in too many things?

Allegra, the St. John’s student council president and an amateur photographer fresh off her debut exhibit in Italy, has some advice based on her personal experience: Do more.

“You have less time, but the time you have is focused,” says the 17-year-old senior. “I think if you do more stuff, it has the opposite effect than you might think. You know you have to get things done.”

Allegra should know.

In addition to photography and student council, her activities have included playing field hockey and soccer, working on the tech crew with theatre, joining Model UN, serving a charity organization, listening to vinyl records with student group In The Groove, and being a part of a programming club last year (despite not knowing how to program computers).

This year? Allegra may try out her skills with the darts team.

“In a way, it helps me to have so much going on. Otherwise, I would never get anything Van Rijn - Nicoletti, Allegra (12847).jpgdone,” she says. “And I think it opens your mind to stuff you might like.”

Being open to new experiences led Allegra to first pick up her mother’s camera, when she was 14, during a trip to the seaside.

“It was just sitting there,” she remembers. “It really just came out of nowhere. I found this instrument, started playing with it and I liked it.”

Very quickly Allegra was taking photographs in Brussels, spending time on the weekend looking for interesting lights, shapes and shadows. “It was always in my free time,” she says. “There was always a camera wherever I went.”

P1020608Those early, black-and-white experimental shots evolved when she travelled to Italy, where both her parents are from and where they go for most vacations. The countryside, especially olive trees, became her focus.

“I think that’s when it became an artistic pursuit,” Allegra recalls, saying she did look at other photographers’ efforts, but let her own camera roam. “When you’re taking the picture, you don’t even think what you’re doing. You’re just taking it.”

Her parents were encouraging, but Allegra knew she was getting better when some of her parents’ friends in Italy, where they have a house, complimented her work. Encouraged by the positive feedback from artists, cinematographers and others, she agreed to publicly exhibit her photos in her parents’ renovated olive oil mill. The show was part of La Notte Verde, an annual celebration of agriculture and tradition.

file-2Allegra worked hard this past August to put the show together, matching her photos to poems in English, and learning how to frame and curate a photographic exhibit. In the middle of that effort, she flew back to Belgium to welcome the new St. John’s students as part of her student council duties and then rushed back to Italy.

Finishing the arrangement of her work on the walls shortly before the opening, Allegra stood back and watched the viewers react.

“I’m 17 years old. Who am I to hang pictures and have people look at them? It was very strange,” she remembers thinking. “It was like all the people were looking in my brain.”

The positive feedback given by those who came made all the effort worthwhile, Allegra file1-2says. “It was a fun night.”

Whether her academic future will be following her artistic muse or studying something “less unpredictable” remains uncertain. “I will always keep taking pictures,” she adds.

One other thing Allegra promises to do: to stay open to new ideas and pursuits. The college handbooks and websites she has looked at have gotten her attention.

“Every course just looks so interesting,” Allegra says with enthusiasm.