Fatherhood Project

That's A Wrap!

I've been delaying this post because I was trying to let it sink in. 

I'm officially finished with my MA in Photography from Falmouth University!

I can't believe it. The last two years I have been so focused on finishing this MA that the time flew by. It has been my constant companion these two years, which has made the last few days feel awkward and empty. My schedule is now in need of an overhaul--one that doesn't include school. It's amazing and frightening at the same time!

Before I share what's next for me in the photography world, I want to celebrate the accomplishment and thank God and all of my family/friends for their support. I couldn't have done this without the countless dads who said yes to participating in my project, to my husband who made so many sacrifices (especially towards the end when I was in "do not disturb" mode), to all my amazing professors who encouraged and critiqued my work, and to all of my friends who have encouraged me to do this program. THANK YOU to all of you. What's amazing, is that I haven't just accomplished this MA, but have published a book! I am still in awe about that one and never thought I was capable of such a thing. I remember when I began this MA I had NO IDEA how I'd ever get to this point--but I did it. Whew. This is by far the hardest, yet most rewarding program I have ever done. Looking back, I can truly see how much I've changed--I am not the same as I was when I started. I feel more refined and certain about who I am as a photographer and how I operate within my practice. So all this to say, I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had and can't wait to see how it helps me in the coming future. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm thankful I made it through (although I won't know if I officially made it through until mid-September when I get my grades...but I'm pretty positive I passed; we'll see).

Moving on to the future, what's next? Several people have asked me that over the last few days and while I was trying not to rush to the next thing, I have thought a lot about it (of course!). Here are some of my ideas:

  • I am uncertain of the name of this project, but I really want to dive into my identity as a nomad. For the last five years I have lived abroad and it's really changed me. How I see people, culture, and situations are different than before--especially my home culture. So I really would love to do a project that communicates that change within me and I'd love to explore what has changed and how it has changed. It's a lot of self reflection and introspective thinking, but ideally I want to create images that reflect on my reflections about my life and thoughts, looking at expatriates and what happens to them when the live in other cultures. It's very different than my project over fatherhood, but I think it would be interesting to see what comes of it. I have some ideas technically how I'd accomplish this project, but I'll divulge those later. :)
 
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  • My project Foreign Lands: American Fathers Living Abroad is still active and going. I would like to keep up my Instagram account, so I will continue to post there. I also would love to continue in the theme of fatherhood--I've become very passionate about the topic and don't want to stop looking at dads. I've thought of doing other projects that look at other nationalities living abroad (like South African's or British dads maybe?), creating a series of books along the same topic. These are just some ideas, nothing is set yet. Follow me on my Instagram account here!
  • I'd love to teach or train photography in my city, so this is also on the agenda. I don't know at what capacity this will be, but I love teaching (especially cross-culturally). In the beginning, this is what motivated me to get my masters in the first place, so I'd love to end up doing this in the near future. We'll see! 

So lots of ideas! I'm trying to listen to the advice of some friends by celebrating this accomplishment and not rushing into the next thing, but this is hard for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like to be idle. There is always something that can be accomplished. :) But rest is an "activity" too (apparently). :) 

Well friends, you will now hear more from me on this blog now that my essay-writing-days are over (can I get an amen!?)! Thanks for coming back after my long hiatus! Chat soon.

Ashley

Book Release!

If you haven't heard already, I have exciting news....

I have officially published my book. 
Foreign Lands: American Dads Living Abroad!

This has been a two year process for me of tons of shooting, editing, selecting, more editing, and even more editing (publishing a book is not for the faint at heart!). I didn't realize the work that would go into this, but it is so worth it. I am very pleased with the project's outcome and what I discovered about fatherhood in the process.

When I received the book I was so impressed with the quality. I decided to use the Print-On-Demand (POD) service, Blurb.com, as my audience is not just in one location, but in several countries. It is a great way for the most people possible to get their hands on a copy. If you'd like to view the storefront page, click the image of me holding the book!

Overall I am very happy about the work and so excited for people to see it. I really hope that it's an encouragement to dads out there who are struggling or just need to hear from other men who are in similar situations. Fatherhood is such an under-researched and overlooked topic and I really hope that I can help share the significance of this role in a family. 

Another piece of exciting news is that I have been interviewed by an Instagram user, @happywithdaddy. The interview should be rolling out soon, which I will post here when it's released. Thanks to everyone for their amazing support and to Hannah, who helped design the book. She did a fantastic job and really made the book come together. I couldn't have done it without her. 

Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to hear your feedback about the work. 

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Nathan

Meet Nathan! He is a father to a rambunctious, car-loving-almost-18-month-old boy in the Houston, Texas area. He agreed to participate in my project and we had fun playing with cars and blocks on Sunday evening.

Just a side note--the boy, Zachary, is actually my nephew, so it was fun photographing him and his dad for this project! :) It's not too often that we're back in the States so I took advantage of the opportunity. 

 "My son has taught me to be patient. If he decides he wants to do something his way, he will do it his way. He's very stubborn--I have four nephews and one niece and he's probably one of the most stubborn kids I've ever met."   -Nathan

"My son has taught me to be patient. If he decides he wants to do something his way, he will do it his way. He's very stubborn--I have four nephews and one niece and he's probably one of the most stubborn kids I've ever met."   -Nathan

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For a first time father, Nathan had a lot of wisdom to share. One of the things that have surprised me throughout this project is how every single father has something unique to say about fatherhood--the challenges, the greatest moments, and the advice they'd give. There have been some similarities of what people have said, but oftentimes each father has specific areas of focus and things that are important to them. It's always exciting to me to hear what they have to say and what activity they'll choose to do with their kid (as I leave it up to them to make it more personable and authentic). Honestly sometimes I feel I'm getting more out of the project than they are! I'll never be a father, but I sure am learning much about this vital role in families. 

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I'm currently adding in another element to this project, where I'm adding in objects (like toys, books, etc.) that the kids play with in order to bring in more context to the relationship between fathers and kids. So for Zachary, he loves playing with cars, trucks, and his blocks, so I had to take a picture of these items. 

 "I never had someone I cared about so much before. He's barely been in my life and I care more about him than anyone else."  -Nathan

"I never had someone I cared about so much before. He's barely been in my life and I care more about him than anyone else."  -Nathan

The biggest challenge of this photo shoot was the lighting actually. So far in this project I have not used flash and I really wanted to keep it that way in order to not change the aesthetic of the images. Natural lighting is also what I'm comfortable with--I haven't really used flash except to experiment and learn, so I didn't quite feel comfortable bringing it in. Unfortunately some of the lights in this set were blown out in order to have correct exposure elsewhere and the images are quite grainy. I'll still use these for the project, but this is something I need to consider in the future--perhaps I need to experiment with flash in these situations in order to get cleaner images? This is the life of a photographer though--constantly learning and adapting to situations is a must!

Since I'm currently in Texas, my plan is to set up as many photo shoots as I can while I'm here, so...if you're in the Houston or Dallas areas and want to partake, let me know! I'd love, love, love to take your pictures and to show through your relationship with your child how important being a father is. I can't do this project without fathers collaborating with me in this. So, if you're interested, shoot me an email: ashley@transparentlifephotos.com. We leave in the beginning of January, so time is of the essence. :) Don't delay and email me today (ha, I rhymed! ;)

Have a happy Monday!

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Matt

While visiting some good friends of ours, I asked them if they would set me up to photograph a father in their area and they set me up with Matt. 

Matt has three adorable children and he graciously participated in the project. I honestly can say this was one of the best photo shoots for the project I've done. I feel like photo shoots with complete strangers can go really well or really bad. It definitely went really well! 

Matt's openness in sharing his struggles about being a dad, his willingness to be real and goofy with his kids in front of the camera, and his patience while I got all the shots I needed was just unparalleled. All the father's I've photographed have been very wonderful, but as I've done this project I've noticed that dad's aren't the biggest fans of having their picture taken! :) So thank you to all of you who have participated thus far! 

 “Now that I'm six and a half years in being a father and have three kids now and not just one or two, I’ve learned that you have to lay down your life for them and assume that your life is not yours anymore. That's just how much effort having children take.”    -Matt

“Now that I'm six and a half years in being a father and have three kids now and not just one or two, I’ve learned that you have to lay down your life for them and assume that your life is not yours anymore. That's just how much effort having children take.”    -Matt

One of the things I tried out with Matt was pictures of things that were special to his relationship with his kids. I had done this with Andrew as well, but with Matt I dug a little deeper. The things that came out of it were really wonderful and I feel that they gave much more context for the project. 

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 "I did not know that I was an angry man until I had kids; they just have the ability to bring out anger in me that no one ever has in my life. This is hard on a lot of levels. It's hard being angry, it's hard that their the ones that make me angry, and it's hard knowing that they're watching me be angry. It's like a trifecta that both my wife and I are working on."    -Matt

"I did not know that I was an angry man until I had kids; they just have the ability to bring out anger in me that no one ever has in my life. This is hard on a lot of levels. It's hard being angry, it's hard that their the ones that make me angry, and it's hard knowing that they're watching me be angry. It's like a trifecta that both my wife and I are working on."    -Matt

Overall moving forward, I'm excited about what I'm learning, the depth at which this project is going, and the relationships I'm building in the process. Hopefully I will have a beautiful photo book at the end of all of this work that I can proudly share with dad's all around the world! 

I have done two photo shoots recently that I will share soon! Have a great Monday!

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Kelly

I had the pleasure of photographing Kelly for my project before we moved and we had a great time. His two children are adorable and you can tell that they just adore him. 

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 "Even though my kids upset me often, the love I have for them doesn't change. Five minutes after they've hurt me badly, I still have this deep feeling of love for them that drives me to do whatever is important for them, despite how much they've not listened or thrown tantrums."   -Kelly

"Even though my kids upset me often, the love I have for them doesn't change. Five minutes after they've hurt me badly, I still have this deep feeling of love for them that drives me to do whatever is important for them, despite how much they've not listened or thrown tantrums."   -Kelly

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 "My youngest child is starting to smile a lot and so when he wakes up with a big grin and stoked to see me, it's an amazing moment."  -Kelly

"My youngest child is starting to smile a lot and so when he wakes up with a big grin and stoked to see me, it's an amazing moment."  -Kelly

Seeing how these fathers interact with their kids has been a lot of fun for me. With the change in location (back in the States--if you didn't see that change, read about it here), I'm interested in seeing if there is a huge difference between expat fathers and "local" fathers, if you will. I just wonder what the advice will be! I guess I'll find out soon. 

If you're in the Houston or Dallas area and you'd like to participate in my project, let me know!

-Ashley

End Goals | Work in Progress

If you've been following my work in progress posts, then you might have wondered what I will do with all of these photos and these father's stories. As I've wrestled with what I want to accomplish, I believe I've come to the decision of a photo book!

Photo books can be so fun to look at. I've really come to enjoy them and appreciate them in a new way. Kind of like KayLynn Deveney's book (that I wrote about here), a book really can bring a narrative to life by having one topic being discovered throughout the entire piece of work. It really focuses your attention and allows you to look through the pages and take in the subject matter without being distracted by other things. 

Initially I struggled with deciding if it should only be pictures and no text, but as I've interviewed these fathers I believe that their advice and experience needs to be told. It is just too good to leave it out. Images are powerful on their own, but sometimes when combined with text it can really bring the story to life and is not obtrusive or distracting.

 “When we adopted Tacoa, I remember thinking, how can I have even more love in my heart for another child? When he came, my heart opened up more then I ever realized it could.”  -Chris

“When we adopted Tacoa, I remember thinking, how can I have even more love in my heart for another child? When he came, my heart opened up more then I ever realized it could.”

-Chris

There are values and ideals that these fathers are carrying that enrich the experience of fatherhood that I want to bring out and show the world. I want viewers of this book to end with a different opinion of fathers than when they started. I know myself, my thoughts have changed. Being a father is quite difficult and I never understood it before the project (not that I do now--I just have a better understanding). 

The photo book will roll out next year some time, so be on the lookout for my process and when it's finished. I'm really excited about it and feel that it will be a starting point for me as a photographer. Who knows what I will create after this project ends! :)

So out of curiosity, do any of you have photo books that you love/hate? Let me know, as I'd love to see what other people have done. Secondly, what do you think of this idea of making a photo book? Let me know--I'd love to hear your thoughts.

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Andrew

Meet Andrew--he and his kiddos participated in my project recently. His perspective on Fatherhood is much different than other father's I've interviewed in that he has four children at very different ages. It was fun to hear his experiences and photograph them drinking tea and playing cards. :)

 "Let each kid be themselves. Don't try to force them all to be what you want to be. Observe them, get to know them and see what they're actually interested in rather than kind of pushing them around."

"Let each kid be themselves. Don't try to force them all to be what you want to be. Observe them, get to know them and see what they're actually interested in rather than kind of pushing them around."

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 “This drawing was made by my oldest daughter and is very important to me, as it clearly represents each person in our family. It reminds me how thankful I am for my children and how special they are to me.”

“This drawing was made by my oldest daughter and is very important to me, as it clearly represents each person in our family. It reminds me how thankful I am for my children and how special they are to me.”

I'm beginning to take pictures of not only the father and his children, but of objects that are special to the relationship--like toys, pictures, drawings, etc. I think this will build more context to the story! 

More to come soon!

-Ashley

Where am I going? | Work in Progress Part 3

As you've seen in part one and two of my work in progress for my master's project, a lot has changed over a year period. I started this new term excited for what's ahead. I left the previous term seeking images that show the entire scene and forced you to look around--not just lifestyle portraits that summed up everything in one viewing. 

Another angle that I was told to consider was objects; to "investigate" these families. Sounds creepy saying it like that, but what it means is taking closer-up shots of the items that the fathers and children interact with. Could be the books, a note from the child to the father, an older photograph, toys, etc. So rather than just show the fathers and kids interacting, bring in more context to the project as a whole by showing items that they interact with or have some kind of emotional value with.

This is the idea or concept that I'm currently exploring and it's been a lot of fun! I did a few shoots before this idea was brought to my attention, so it's rather new and where I'm headed in my project currently. Here is one of the first shoots I did this term of my friend Dan.

 "An important aspect of fatherhood is co-creating and making things together. My son came up with the idea of making a potato launcher and figuring out how to make it together was fun and special for us both."

"An important aspect of fatherhood is co-creating and making things together. My son came up with the idea of making a potato launcher and figuring out how to make it together was fun and special for us both."

 “Something memorable and special for me, is that my kids buy me a game every year for my birthday and Christmas and we play those games every week. Spot it! is my current favorite that we often play together.”  -Dan

“Something memorable and special for me, is that my kids buy me a game every year for my birthday and Christmas and we play those games every week. Spot it! is my current favorite that we often play together.”

-Dan

I've been told to consider taking two to three pictures of objects for each family, so this is what I'll do in the future. For Dan, I only have one image unfortunately, but it still brings in a story more than just the shot of them shooting a potato gun together (which is still pretty epic!). 

What do you think? How do you think these up-close shots will enrich my project? 

Thanks for stopping by!

-Ashley