Seeing it her way

  • dublin, carole allen, long time cancer battle, health
  • dublin, carole allen, long time cancer battle, health
  • dublin, carole allen, cancer, long time treatment

“Carole saw the world through a generous lens. She always worked to make her portraits true.”

That’s how Annie Card, a former photo editor at Yankee magazine, recalls the talented Carole Allen, a woman well-known to many in the Monadnock region and throughout New England whose photos for Yankee, the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and other publications captured the essence of New England life.

Allen, 66, died April 3 at Hospice House in Concord, after a nine-year struggle with cancer. She had continued taking photos throughout the final years of her life and had continued to walk outside, one of her greatest pleasures, even during the last days of her life.

Card recalls Allen as being dedicated to her craft, a woman who sought to find new ways to use photography to highlight a story.

“She was always pushing the envelope,” Card said on Friday. “She just wanted to try different things.”

Card recalls assigning Allen to travel to each of the New England states to take a photo of the state’s oldest tree.

“It was a tough assignment, to try to make the photos special,” Card said. “She’d been experimenting with infrared photography and used that to give a ghostly, old-time feel. And in one place she contacted a local ballet studio and arranged for four or five little girls in tutus to surround the trunk of the tree, to give a sense of scale. All the photos were spectacular.”

Allen became a staff photographer for the Monadnock Ledger in 1999 and was a frequent presence at outdoor events and celebrations, capturing images of life in the region, always with a focus on people.

“Carole would do anything to get the right picture,” said Marcia Patten, the former editor of the Ledger and later the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, who worked with Allen for many years. “She was very dedicated to her craft. You could always depend on Carole to bring back great pictures.”

Allen, a native of Philadelphia, was a nurse who got her start in photography while living in Maine with her husband, Mel Allen, who is now the editor of Yankee.

The couple met in the summer of 1965, just after Carole graduated from high school.

“We went out for four years,” Mel Allen said on Friday. “She went to the Germantown hospital’s nursing school. She finished first in her class and on the day she graduated, we got married in my parents’ home.”

Mel was a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia at the time of the wedding, and the couple lived briefly in Columbia before returning to the United States.

“It was so hot down there, we dreamed about coming somewhere cold,” Mel said. “We got a rental car and drove north with $500 in our pockets. We got off the interstate in Gorham, Maine, the first stop that had a college. I enrolled in teaching courses and Carole got a job as a nurse.”

After studying at Maine Photography Workshops in Rockport, Maine, Carole became her husband’s work partner, collaborating with him on freelance story assignments for the Maine Sunday Telegram and Yankee throughout the 1970s.

“She shot bears in their winter dens, Ted Williams at a fishing camp, the potato harvest up north,” Mel Allen recalled. “We were among the first journalists to do whitewater rafting stories.”

The couple moved to the Monadnock region in 1979, when Mel joined the staff at Yankee. They had two children — Daniel, born in 1985, and Joshua, born in 1988 — who were the subjects of hundreds of Carole’s photos throughout their childhood.

“She shot with the eye of an artist and the heart of a mother,” Mel Allen recalled.

Josh Allen, who is now 25, says his mother was always at the baseball games when he and his brother were young, constantly taking photos.

“She was so absorbed, she’d forget her own safety at times,” Josh said on Friday. “She was nearly hit by foul balls more than once, because she was always so invested in what we all were doing.”

Josh said he has been doing endurance sporting events recently, and his mother’s strength as she dealt with illness inspired him.

“I realize now that I get my own strength from her,” he said. “I think about all she went through. She had so much will power to push through the difficulties. She was so independent, always living on her own and she continued doing the stuff she enjoyed for so long.”

Ledger-Transcript workers remember the quality of the photos that Allen would bring in on Mondays after a weekend of shooting.

“She could really tell a story with her photos,” said Clare McCarthy, a production staffer at the paper. “If you look at a whole shoot, you could see her working toward getting that one great shot. She will be missed.”

Allen’s enthusiasm for her job was memorable, too.

“I saw her stop traffic, climb walls, lie down, wade in water up to her chest to get the best shot,” recalled Robin Haubrich, a former Ledger-Transcript colleague. “We shared a lot of laughs, too, while reviewing the photos back in the office.”

Marilyn Weir, a photographer herself who also works at the Ledger-Transcript, met Allen some years ago when Weir was working at the camera shop in Peterborough.

“She was a favorite customer who also became a friend,” Weir said. “She loved photography and was impassioned with infrared photography, creating some beautiful images. ... I’ll always remember Carole for her easy smile and laugh. Even in her last weeks when I visited, her smile and humor were present. She was a warm and loving person who I will miss very much.”

Mel and Carole Allen divorced in 2000, and Carole was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2005.

“We reconciled as close friends that year and we went on the journey together,” Mel Allen said. “Carole was stubborn, obstinate, idiosyncratic. That’s what kept her alive so long. I don’t know of any chemotherapy that she didn’t have in her body. She would not give in.”

In August 2012, Allen spoke eloquently about her battle with cancer, including the side effects of chemotherapy, in a story that ran in the Ledger-Transcript.

“The first couple of days, you have a lot of energy,” she said. “You have a false sense of enthusiasm. By the third or fourth day, you’re extremely fatigued. You should rest, but I find that extremely hard.”

She also described a photo project she was working on, capturing images of family farms in Dublin, the town where she lived for many years.

“It’s given me a real feeling of accomplishment to have this creative project,” she said.

“Carole loved doing those photos of Monadnock farmers,” Mel Allen said. “I always felt the whole idea of renewal spoke to her on some level. She was fighting to live.”

Allen’s obituary appears on page 9.

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