Grow in your Craft

Look Up!

If you follow my personal Instagram account you’ll notice that I tend to take a lot of pictures of ceilings and the sky. I don’t know why my eyes are drawn to it, but I notice the patterns, shapes, and colors. Like this one below:

 
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This was taken in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Behind me is the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa), but I turned around and saw this building instead. :) This shows you my priorities! Anyways, I love the curves, the trees, the expansive sky, and all the lines. This is definitely what my eyes go towards!

I think one thing to glean from this though is to follow what you like to do and not what everyone else likes to do. Some people might have thought it strange that I was photographing the small building behind the Burj Khalifa, but it’s what my eyes were drawn to. I think it’s important to find your vision and calling and stick to it, even when it seems unconventional. Speaking of which, I have a blog post that I’m working on about this topic. Vision in whatever you create is so important, especially in light of how short our lives are. More to come on that soon!

-Ashley

Looking for the Special Moments

It can be really hard to have tourist-like eyes in your own city. Finding interesting things to photograph can be a challenge, especially if you see the same things every day. A trick for me to get out of that funk is to walk around a specific place with my camera in hand; looking for interesting scenes—whether it be textures, symmetry, interesting faces, interactions that are peculiar, or something beautiful. There is always something worthy to be photographed—you just have to have the eyes to see it! Take this for example:

 
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We were walking in a market and I just happened to see this rug hung up on the wall with these colorful poufs underneath. I loved all the colors and how it looked, so I took the shot and this is what I got. It’s beautiful! I think I’d normally miss this if I didn’t slow down and look.

I think this goes beyond photography and can be applied to our lives in general. Sometimes we can get so busy that we miss the beautiful or surprising things or people throughout our day. I, myself, am trying to slow down and “smell the roses”, as the old adage goes. I don’t want to miss those special moments because I was preoccupied with a task or schedule. Life is too short friends, so don’t miss out on the important things.

On that sobering note (sorry for the reminder of our short lives!), I hope that in the normalcy of the day you look and find something or someone new in your path. Enjoy your day!

-Ashley

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

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

2017.12.04 - Nathan & Zachary - for blog 04.jpg

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. 

2017.12.04 - Nathan & Zachary - for blog 03.jpg

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

Connecting with People

One of the things I love to do when I travel is connect with people. I think it comes more natural to me than it used to; in the past I was afraid to approach strangers, but I've grown in that area (although sometimes I still get scared). The fear that I feel though is generally washed away once I begin talking with people--I genuinely love meeting new people and hearing about their lives.  Like for example, this family I met in Thailand when I was there last year.

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These two women are sisters, and their family has been running this small restaurant on the side of the road for a very long time. The sisters make the delicious food and take care of all the customers and their parents as well who live with them in their home that is attached to this restaurant. 

Going to the back of their restaurant was pleasurable--we chatted while they cooked and I took a few pictures. Unfortunately their English was limited and I have no Thai language abilities, but we were able to small talk some and it was an enjoyable experience for us both.

People are willing to connect with you if you just try to understand them; try to relate with them on some level about what they do, their lives, where they come from, what they believe in, etc. I know for me, when others ask me about my life and experiences I feel honored and loved--I hope these women did as well. If I ever get back to where they are it would be fun to visit them again!

-Ashley

KayLyn Deveney | Monday Master's Musings

I thought it'd be fun to share weekly one thing that I'm learning or enjoying in my masters program currently. It will likely be something I'll keep up even after my masters as I feel that one thing that this program has taught me is to constantly digest material in the photography/art world and to reflect on how it affects my practice as a photographer.

One photographer whose work I've enjoyed is named KayLyn Deveney. She is an American photographer, but has been living in Europe where she went to school to get her masters and Ph.D in photography. The project that she created that I love the most is a photobook called, The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings.

She met this man named Albert Hastings in her neighborhood and found his routines and life interesting. After a friendship was formed, she began photographing him throughout his day over a two year period. Throughout this time, she began taking the printed photos to him to see his thoughts or response to the image. These images and his response ended up going into the photo book together, creating this interesting story that was collaborated together and not done solely by Deveney herself. If she had put pictures and captions together alone I feel it would have lost much of the wit and personality of Bert himself--he has a voice and is not just in the photos. 

You can view the book below in this YouTube video to see what I'm talking about.

When I first saw Deveney's project, I think it was the first time collaboration on this level had occurred to me. Now, I clearly see how much it enriched her story of this man's life, directly involving him in the process.

Collaboration is definitely a methodology that I want my practice marked by. Whomever I photograph, I want them to have a voice in the work. For Deveney, she provided the platform for Bert to share his thoughts on the images she was creating. I hope that in the future, especially with my project over fatherhood, I can provide these fathers an opportunity to share their thoughts on fatherhood and why it's important. I think it's a worthy subject and needs to be talked about.

Anyways, this is a really brief synopsis of the book and what it's about, but hopefully you're curious now and you'll watch that link above. :) 

Happy Monday!

-Ashley

Final Project Progression

My project has been progressing well. I met with the professor for the course two nights ago and it was a very encouraging tutorial for me in many ways.

One of the things I was struggling with was how to take such a big project and break it down into bite size pieces. What was suggested to me by both the professor and the teaching adviser was that I make mini-projects for each module, breaking the project into smaller size goals, rather than one large project.

For this first module, I’ve decided I’m going to focus on the “Faces of Fatherhood”–a small mini-project where I will be photographing different fathers with their children. In this mini-project I’m hoping to discover about what fatherhood looks like by taking images of men and their children. I’m wanting to rid myself of my personal view of fatherhood, if I’m able, by being an observer in this society. Kind of like this picture below, you can see what I’m talking about:

The images might vary, but the general idea is to just catch a glimpse of what fatherhood/fathers looks like here.

I also was challenged in my project to not become universal in how I create this project. While I think fundamentally that humanity has many similarities just by the nature of how we were created in God’s image, it would be tragic of me to simplify the differences between cultures, reducing the value of the nuances and beauty that makes us all different from other nations. I felt this was really sound advice and something I want to be careful of.

Overall, I’m pleased where this project is headed and looking forward to what I uncover and learn in the process.

Commissioned Micro Project

In my class, we were given the assignment to pair up with another student in order to commission that student to create a piece of work. This is the brief Andrey commissioned me to do:

BRIEF: Is this really South Asia?

Can you create a series of images taken in your city that will very likely look decidedly non-South Asian in the eyes of most viewers. So no women in saris or men in Sikh headdresses or Ambassador cabs. It can be places, street scenes, people, or buildings that most will not likely associate with this area.

It was a fun micro-project that really made me think twice about the process of creating a body of work. Here's what I came up with! If you want to read the process I went through to create this micro project, you can find it here on my critical research journal for my class.

 Opening in most large cities, fancy shopping areas are places to escape the heat and enjoy clean, air conditioned shopping without the hassle of markets.

Opening in most large cities, fancy shopping areas are places to escape the heat and enjoy clean, air conditioned shopping without the hassle of markets.

 In a land where "Chai" (tea) is normally the hot beverage of choice, coffee is a new phenomenon that is gathering a following.

In a land where "Chai" (tea) is normally the hot beverage of choice, coffee is a new phenomenon that is gathering a following.

 Franchises from other countries, like Cinnabon, have successful debuts, allowing other nations to enjoy something new and different.

Franchises from other countries, like Cinnabon, have successful debuts, allowing other nations to enjoy something new and different.

 Exercise is a growing value that's drawing both men and women, working out in the same space—a taboo idea that makes some still feel uncomfortable.

Exercise is a growing value that's drawing both men and women, working out in the same space—a taboo idea that makes some still feel uncomfortable.

 Sari's and Shalwar Kameez aren’t the only chosen dress for South Asians anymore—Western clothes are accessible and an acceptable clothing choice that many prefer to wear.

Sari's and Shalwar Kameez aren’t the only chosen dress for South Asians anymore—Western clothes are accessible and an acceptable clothing choice that many prefer to wear.

Thanks for taking a look! Hope you have a great weekend!

-Ashley