Alexis Pace comes from a long line of artists, photographers, musicians, and storytellers — on both sides of her family. She studied political science and cultural anthropology as an undergraduate, but art was present in her life for as long as she can remember.
“One of my earliest memories behind the camera is of my dad explaining framing and composition to me,” she said. “I couldn’t have been more than six years old, and we were capturing footage of my mom running in a race. He taught me how to position our point-and-shoot camera to watch life unfold through the frame and gave me my very first lesson in making composition decisions. That was the beginning of my pursuit to capture the world as I saw it.”
Pace discovered welding in college. Then at graduate school, she focused on design and the applied arts, and received her Master’s degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute. She said that she ultimately sees life in color and in motion, which is why she is also a devoted cinephile.
“I love detail — the crack and puckering of paint, the patina of a door hinge, the way a shadow falls over the sidewalk,” she said. “I tend to take extreme close-up photos to capture these details. But more than anything, it is light that inspires me. From the sun setting behind rolling hills, to headlights reflected in a puddle at night, if my heart skips a beat, I aim to capture it.”
Pace met Szu, her partner, in 2000, and they married in 2012 in a shark tank, complete with five tiger sharks and a sea turtle as witnesses — perfect for a couple that loves adventure and fun. Today they live in New York City with their four cats, and love to explore the city together.
“I call her the cruise director because she has a knack of finding all the wonderfully quirky things to do around New York. Together, we’ve climbed down a ladder of a sewer cover to the old Brooklyn train tracks, taken a tour of the Old City Hall Station (which entails stopping the 6 train halfway through the City Hall stop turnaround), and slept in tents overnight at the Queens Zoo,” Pace said. “She is a talented photographer and filmmaker, and we have always had a common visual language and passion for art. Our favorite kind of art is public art. We live near Madison Square Park, which has amazing rotating art installations. Also, the medians along Broadway and Park Avenue have regular rotating sculptures and public art. We often spend an afternoon exploring and taking photos walking up and down the avenue, making a day of it, enjoying our city.”
“One of the things I love is how differently we see things. We can be standing right next to each other and take an entirely different photo; it’s all about the framing. If you were to look at my camera roll you’d see a lot of public art, architecture, afternoon light and shadows, street art, and of course, cats.”
And when they travel themselves?
“Adventure and exploration are the ways in which we like to travel,” Pace said. “A bit off the beaten path, as we are not resort people. We like to rent a car and explore as much as we can. When it comes to travel, we split the work. Szu loves travel podcasts and is always listening to find our next destination. She’ll come home and say, ‘Hey, United Airlines is flying direct to the Azores now — let’s go.’ Then, the logistics are up to me. She’ll do the deep dive research into where we are going, and I plot out when, where, and how. We make a great team.”
“Our last big trip before Covid was to Malta. What an amazing country. We spent the whole time in and around Valletta and were there during Gay Pride. It was such fun to see this stunning UNESCO city come alive with Queer Pride. The Pride march itself was small and intimate and it was just delightful to see people out and proud amongst the centuries-old architecture and plazas.”
Birth of a company
Fabella Photo (fabellaphoto.com) started to take shape in 2016. Pace already had been running a video production company, Fabella Productions, which specialized in storytelling for non-profits. She said that while she loved telling the stories and collaborating with the organizations, something was still missing for her.
One day, at her parents’ house, friends who were over noticed that her father’s screensaver came on, and it was filled with photos from all their trips. One of the women there, the wife of a diplomat, said, “Wow, I have so many photos from around the world and I never see them.”
That was the proverbial light bulb moment for Pace.
“As an artist and designer, I can easily help with all aspects of organizing a photo collection and bringing memories back to life. My initial business model was to focus on travel photos. The ‘once in a lifetime’ trips. But the market quickly urged me to expand to life’s milestones. So, travel is, of course, still in the mix: honeymoon, anniversary trips, multigenerational travel, and those really special trips. I also work on all moments big and small, from baby’s first year to the year in review to family collections,” she said.
As she has extensive background in video and film preservation, Pace added that into the company’s mix. She loves to preserve historic photos, films, and videos and bring them back to life. Legacy, where people come from, and who people are, are all things that resonate with Pace. Even the name Fabella is intentional and thoughtful, embodying storytelling and literally meaning ‘little bean’ in Latin. As she tells it, Fabella is like the seed or root of a story, and it also evokes fable and fabulous.
Since Fabella is a premium service, it tends to be for the once-in-a-lifetime trips, she explains. But these days, people are taking a few once-in-a-lifetime type trips, and Fabella has seen that reflected in the clients’ requests.
“While we are happy to work with all clients on any project, typically people are more interested in investing in the once-in-a-lifetime trip. These are the trips, events, or milestones that they want to preserve for generations to come,” Pace said.
The process generally starts with a conversation. Pace said that her goal is to bring joy to people — the joy of celebrating life and memorable moments, big and small.
“I want the process to be as smooth, seamless, and painless as possible,” she said. “It really is all about the client and what makes their heart sing. We have a brief initial meeting on the phone, via teleconference, or in person if possible, to discuss the scope of the project and what memories are most precious to them to bring to life. Next, we get the photos, video, or film from the client. For digital photos, if they are tech savvy, it can all be done online. If not, there are still many ways we can work together. If they are based in the New York City area, a home visit can be arranged; otherwise, we walk them step-by-step through the upload process.”
Once Fabella receives the collection, Pace and her team organize and categorize it, allowing the stories to come forward. They take into account the initial conversation but also the stories that the photos and videos tell themselves. They present the client with a draft to make sure everything is in line with their vision for their memories and make any changes necessary. Finally, Fabella presents the client with the completed PhotoBook, slideshow, gallery-quality framed photos, or video for them to enjoy for generations to come.
Legacy seems to be a big motivator in her work. For the majority of her clients, they are preserving their memories for the next generation. Many seek out Fabella’s services as a gift for someone. Others come with important projects which prove too overwhelming to complete or even begin. Some of these are gifts from the heart that work any time of year, but Fabella often receives requests around life events like anniversaries, birthdays, and important holidays.
The client mix has been diverse so far, according to Pace: lesbian and gay couples, empty nesters, young parents, and singles. And she’s particularly proud to work with others in her queer community.
“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I bring a sensitivity with me — an inherent understanding of family beyond your traditional heterosexual nuclear family model,” she said. “Many of us have a family of choice as well. While I am blessed to be on good terms with my biological family, not everyone has that. We often create a new kind of family and community that works for us. I see that, I get that, and I make no assumptions. From queer honeymoons to trips for queer parents, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I bring a non-judgmental open attitude to all my projects. These stories are personal and intimate and the key to all of it has to be trust.”