BY ELENA GRANDE
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — Twenty-year-old Gabby Dungan, a 2013 graduate of Niskayuna High School, didn’t always know she wanted to be a photographer. The only thing she was sure of was that she was her happiest when expressing herself creatively.
Growing up, Dungan had a great interest in art. Her godfather, Kevin, was the first person to truly encourage her to pursue photography, telling her she had a unique eye for art. As her love for photography grew, she began to imagine the possibility of making a career of it. However, many roadblocks were standing between her and attaining that dream.
Dungan struggled frequently during high school, to the point where it didn’t seem like she’d even graduate on time. Later, she found out she had attention deficit disorder, which made concentration difficult. But during her school years, all she knew was that creativity soothed her and commanded her focus in a way nothing else could.
“Having a learning disability, I leaned toward art because it was the one thing I was good at doing,” she said, “Art was the only place I felt I excelled.”
Before settling on photography, Dungan considered a couple of other career choices, such as becoming a wedding planner or social media evangelist. But she always felt naturally drawn toward taking photographs.
Her family influenced her decision, too. Her father, who happened to be a photography buff when he was in high school, always supported her. His daughter’s desire to become a photographer helped him rediscover his love for the art, and what ensued was a business partnership between the two.
The father-daughter duo now owns GND Studios, a business that specializes in taking senior portraits, family photos and headshots, along with several other types of photos.
Although GND is their main business endeavor, the father and daughter have two other studios under different names: We Have Big League Pics, which include their sports portraits and action photos, and Otaku Pic, which features Dungan’s work at various anime and fandom conventions.
Among Dungan’s clients are Niskayuna youth sports programs.
“Working with these programs, you get a lot of practice in getting that perfect action shot,” she said. She adds, however, that action sports photography is more of her dad’s thing, and that her true interest lies in costume photography, which allows her more artistic control.
“It’s fun capturing the character through my photography,” she said. “I get to be more creative with the lighting and post-processing.”
Shared studio space
Despite the setbacks and trials Dungan faced during high school, her dreams are really starting to take shape. One key part of her success was the discovery of Clique Studio in downtown Schenectady, a shared studio space where several area photographers collaborate and share the rent. She happened upon the Clique studio Facebook page while hunting for a studio, and felt it was great to find a local space where local artists could work.
Genine Gullickson, owner of the studio on the second floor of 426 State St., Schenectady, is also a Niskayuna resident. Dungan said being able to take part in a shared space was quicker and easier than renting her own, plus it comes with built-in learning opportunities from other photographers.
“Genine has been a great to work with,” Dungan said. “I hope I can learn more from her about both photography and the business of photography.”
Dungan admits that although the arrangement has worked out very well, she hasn’t had much chance to interact with the other photographers in the short time that she’s been using the space.
“I look forward to getting to know the others as time passes,” she said. “They are all talented and I appreciate their work.”
Even though she looks back on high school as a tough time personally, Dungan is currently trying to get more involved with the student body there. She is beginning to work with the school’s drama club, citing it as a great first step to help her potentially become the school’s official photographer. That would make her the main shooter for the school yearbook, school events and sports, and allow her to work with the photography students as a mentor.
“When I was a student, I know that if I saw a peer around my age running their own photography business, it would have helped my confidence a lot,” Dungan said.