Long Term Project

Exhibition in London

If you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll have seen my posts about my recent exhibition in London at theprintspace. It was a part of my alma mater, Falmouth University, which hosted a graduate exhibition for those who graduated in 2018 and 2019. I am so encouraged to be a part of the exhibition and to have my work seen by others. What a privilege!

While I wasn’t able to attend, a gracious classmate of mine photographed the event and shared the photos. Here’s what it looked like:

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This was the general layout of the space. There were a total of 26 students who exhibited so our areas were limited, but I think we all did a great job customizing our spots.

This was the general layout of the space. There were a total of 26 students who exhibited so our areas were limited, but I think we all did a great job customizing our spots.

My space next to some other student’s work.

My space next to some other student’s work.

I opted to print off four prints as opposed to one or two.

I opted to print off four prints as opposed to one or two.

For not being able to be present at the exhibition, I am quite pleased with how it turned out. In some ways this is the ending of my MA for me. Of course it ended a year ago and I’ve already received my certificate, but this is the last event that is tied to the course. It’s a little bittersweet. I am so grateful I was able to get my masters at Falmouth University and I do feel I’m a better photographer and person for it. When I first began dreaming about pursuing a masters, I never thought it’d actually happen—but here I am a year later after finishing!

I look forward to see where I go next! You just never know. :)

-Ashley

My Infertility Journey

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As you’ve likely discovered from other social media channels, I am miraculously pregnant! I have decided that it would be beneficial for me to process some of my journey and also share it with you, as I think it gives more context as to why this is so special. So without further adieu…


Joshua and I have been married for 12 years and have wanted kids for practically the entire length of our marriage. Even before marrying we had chosen names for a boy, buying a Build-A-Bear and giving the bear that name. Children have always been a major desire of ours, to the point where we joked about having 13 kids and it’s now dwindled to somewhere between 4-10. We might be a bit insane; I guess the verdict is still out. :)

In 2011, we found out we were pregnant. I actually blogged about it on this website and you can read it by clicking here. We were so excited—our dream of having kids were finally coming true and we were starting in our 20’s, four years into marriage. It was perfect. Our dreams were shattered when at 14 weeks, I began to miscarry. I remember holding the baby in the palm of my hand, marveling at how much even at that little size it was a precious baby. God gave us the name Rose and she was buried in a memorial garden; one that we still visit to this day. It was an extremely painful event to go through and it followed us for several years.

In 2014, I had a breakdown. We were in the process of adoption and began to work through home study questions and I just lost it. I was so bitter at God, at my friends who just easily got pregnant with barely trying, with all the Facebook announcements of new babies on the way, and I felt alone and hopeless. Would this dream ever happen? Besides this, we were living abroad in a culture where value is placed on the woman because of her children. Due to us not having any, it was often a topic of conversation. I didn’t know how to deal with comments like, “What’s wrong with you?”, “You must be weak since you can’t carry a child” or even, “You will be blessed once you have children.” I was absolutely fed up with all the condemnation, all the disappointment, and the feelings that something was wrong with me. I was so broken, discontent, and I lacked joy that I should have had for my friends. During this time, I reached out to a group of women who I asked to pray for me. I didn’t know what to do anymore and I knew that it wasn’t something I could change within me. So my friends prayed. And to this day, I honestly don’t know what happened. Perhaps it was simply processing these emotions with others and getting them out, recognizing where I was at and moving on. Or perhaps God just took the pain away. Either way, I distinctly remember feeling utterly content and finally decided that it was okay that I didn’t have kids yet. That my value wasn’t determined by my kids, or lack thereof, but by the value God placed on me. I didn’t realize this change until some friends visited us with their three kids in tow. Halfway through the trip, I realized I once hadn’t asked myself, “Why me?” and I enjoyed my time with their kids. There was a mental, emotional, and spiritual shift that happened, which allowed me to be content with my lot in life. It didn’t remove the desire for kids, but I felt at peace about it all.

Over the next five years, Joshua and I did a multitude of things, including traveling, working abroad, and master’s degrees. During this time, we both didn’t forget our desire for kids, but we had full plates. Due to the season we were in, we waited patiently until some things slowed down before we jumped into anything next. Finally, this year in 2019, we decided that it would be the year. We couldn’t wait anymore. We’re not in our 20’s any longer. We’re not so young and spry anymore and can wait another 10 years. So, with all the testing we’ve done in three different countries, our option was IVF, so we decided that’s what we were going to do in August of this year. We honestly weren’t sure how we’d pay for it or the exact timeline of things, but we knew that this was our next step. And we both truly were at peace with that and knew it would be hard, but worth it if it all went well.

In late February of this year, I began to suspect something was off with my body. I just didn’t feel right, I had lost my appetite, began to feel nauseous at times, was more exhausted than usual, and other unmentionables were happening. Part of me wanted to suspect I was pregnant, but I had been down this road countless times, filled with disappointment and sadness when it wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for. So I blew it off, expecting life to continue as normal.

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Finally, life wasn’t continuing as normal and we bit the bullet and bought a pregnancy test. With great nervousness, I took the test and found the very thing I thought I’d never see…two lines. This was probably the ugliest cry I’ve ever had and thankfully Joshua was the only one who witnessed it. I was pregnant. How was this possible? I just couldn’t even compute what was happening. The next morning, I took another test and it was stronger even than the night before. We were so baffled that the day after finding out, we literally stared at each other the entire day, dumbfounded and not sure what to do. Apparently, our plans of IVF weren’t needed and God miraculously gave us a baby.

And this is now where I am at. Every day is a mixture of shock and joy as I consider what is going on inside of me. I don’t take this lightly; I feel that it is truly a special gift from God. I do struggle with the idea of miscarrying or losing this child somehow, but I am learning that this is the process of becoming a mom. Parents, I am learning from my friends who have kids, are constantly worried about their kids. It starts in the womb and never ends. So, starting now I am trying to release this baby to God, giving Him my concerns, and trusting that He has it all under control. Honestly, just with what I’ve experienced in my life, how could worrying help this baby anyway? I have so little control over much of this process, including when the baby is outside the womb. So, this is good practice for me to trust God with this child’s life and not try to control. I’m sure I’ll grow much in this area over the years.

I have another post that will be shared shortly about a project I’ve been considering long before I found out I was pregnant. Infertility is still very much a part of my life and story and I feel a drive to do a photography project over it. More details will come soon.

Thanks for following with me in this journey, even if you are first hearing this story. If you are struggling with infertility, please don’t give up. I have been there and I did give up hope. Thankfully, God didn’t give up hope on me. I don’t know what your story will be, but know your value doesn’t come from your children or lack thereof. Seek your identity in God and what He has to say about you, not what man says.

More to come soon in the following weeks. I have a crazy journey ahead!

-Ashley

Ramblings on Identity

I have been thinking a lot about identity lately. If you’ve ready my blog posts, you will see that I have moved around a lot. In the last five years, I have lived in three different countries (four if you count the one I come from) and have traveled around the world. I have seen polar opposite cultures, from women fully covered to women practically naked, or from bustling urban cities to empty, wide-open country. Each place is so different.

Moving from culture to culture so fluidly can be jolting and confusing. One moment everyone is speaking a language you understand until a five-hour plane ride later, you’re in a completely different place, with not only a different language, but a different set of rules to how you live life. It’s mind-boggling.

Living in the US you don’t experience this as much. Of course, every state has it’s culture and way of life, but it doesn’t feel that different for an American, especially compared to traveling to a different country. Traveling on a three-to-four-hour flight across the States takes you to another place where English is spoken and the culture relatively the same. On the other side of the world however, a short plane ride can take you to exponentially different places. Places that contain people who see life very differently than you ever thought or imagined. It’s a wild contrast and with globalization and the ease of travel, it allows such a change in just a day.

These days the ease of traveling makes transitioning from place to place more difficult. I have realized now that I need a buffer before I head back to the States. My mind needs some kind of adjustment period where I exit the culture I’m living in and enter my home culture. This transition gets easier every time I do it, but it still is a challenge. It takes a bit to remember where I am and how I relate to people.

Why is it that culture affects identity and how we live our lives? I have found pieces of me change as I’ve lived in each place. From how I dress, to how I interact with men, to even how I spend my time has morphed in the last half decade. Culture seems to have a great impact on people more than one would think.

I am unsure where to go with all of these thoughts (and this is just scratching the surface), but I have plans to build a project around these ideas. I plan to introspectively take a look at my life and how I have changed over these last several years and how culture has had an effect on that. Some of the imagery might be self portraits, but I have some other ideas that I want to experiment with. I’d love it if you’d follow me on this journey and I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on identity, culture, and globalization as well.

In the coming days, I plan to map out my ideas and see how I can start fleshing this out photographically. If you want to share your ideas with me, please comment below or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I do plan on continuing my project over fatherhood. I still have much interest in the topic and I can’t imagine dropping it as I’ve become quite passionate about it. So keep following me on my Instagram, as that’s where I’ll mostly be posting from that project.

For now though, I leave you a photo from a recent trip to Rome. I had never been there before and I was quite enchanted by the city. It reminded me of other parts of Europe, but the more we explored, the more we realized how different and beautiful it is in its own way.

Have a great weekend!

-Ashley

 
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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

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