Craft

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.

2017.11.24 - Connecting with People - blog 01.jpg

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

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

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

Where I've Come From | Work in Progress Part 1

The last time I wrote about my master's project, I was still photographing strangers on the street, but the project has progressed greatly over the last 10 months! 

About halfway through the first module I changed my methodology and began photographing families in their homes or places that were unique to them. The project changed drastically as I was able to create better imagery and stories through being with these fathers. I also interviewed the dads and learned much about fatherhood. These are some of the images I captured in the second term, along with some of the interview from each one:

“The advice I’d give to another father is summed up in one word: Savor. Many families wish their kids were certain ages, but the reality is that every age is important. We should take the time and savor every moment with our kids.”  -Chris

“The advice I’d give to another father is summed up in one word: Savor. Many families wish their kids were certain ages, but the reality is that every age is important. We should take the time and savor every moment with our kids.”

-Chris

“For me fatherhood is about intentional involvement. Caring for my children and having fun is great, but developing and inspiring character growth is essential. Traits like compassion need to be modeled and discipled.”   -Esteban

“For me fatherhood is about intentional involvement. Caring for my children and having fun is great, but developing and inspiring character growth is essential. Traits like compassion need to be modeled and discipled.” 

-Esteban

“Watching Riley thrive in Tae Kwon Doe was amazing, because it was something he truly excelled in. It’s encouraging to see your kid grow up and do something he’s good at. Seeing him come in first place in events made me truly proud.”  -David

“Watching Riley thrive in Tae Kwon Doe was amazing, because it was something he truly excelled in. It’s encouraging to see your kid grow up and do something he’s good at. Seeing him come in first place in events made me truly proud.”

-David

“Fatherhood is better, harder, and funnier than I ever expected it would be. You hear things before you have kids, similar to before you get married, about the difficulties and good things, but you don’t realize any of it until you have kids yourself.”  -Sage

“Fatherhood is better, harder, and funnier than I ever expected it would be. You hear things before you have kids, similar to before you get married, about the difficulties and good things, but you don’t realize any of it until you have kids yourself.”

-Sage

What I realized the most in this process was that each father had a unique relationship with their child or children and they each expressed that differently. This was a great finding and it was fun to begin the discovery process of how to photograph each family uniquely according to their lives. I loved coupling the text with the images as I thought it brought these stories to life--these are real dads with real kids. Hearing from them and learning from them is invaluable.

I also felt I was getting closer to creating more intimate imagery--you can tell a stark difference from these strangers I was photographing versus these images of fathers who I spent time with. The time factor I think really makes a difference--time is needed when getting images that hold deeper messages than just a snapshot off the street. Some people can make this work, don't get me wrong (I'm inspired greatly by them as well), but considering my values and how I operate in my practice as a photographer, I had to change up how I was working to accomplish more meaningful images. I think knowing this about myself is key moving forward.

At the end of the second term I knew I wanted to head in this direction, holding mini-shoots, photographing fathers and interviewing them about their lives. I'm glad to say that it has progressed wonderfully and I think I'm finding what works for this project.

I'll share in part two of my work in progress what I accomplished the next term (I'll hold you in suspense!). :)

-Ashley

New Aspects of Culture

One fun thing about living in another culture is being able to experience new aspects of that culture which are very foreign to you. Such as this man above, selling powder to make beautiful designs. I had never seen this before! The circular looking items to the right are stencils that help you create the design almost flawlessly. 

I learned that these particular designs are called, "Rangoli", and is used during many festivals here. The powder is made from rice (or other materials, like flour) and you can find many colors--all being very bright! 

I thought they were really beautiful. Many of the shops we passed actually had designs like these on the side of steps in front of their building. I don't understand all the cultural meanings or implications, but it was something very unique for us to discover while we were out shopping the other day!

I sometimes wonder about what I think is normal in the State's that other cultures would consider fascinating. Just like Rangoli designs, this is something they do on a yearly basis--so while it's probably special, it's still common enough to know about and to not think of it's uniqueness. I imagine if I thought hard enough, I would be able to come up with many holidays, customs, and events Americans perform that would be strange or unique to other places.

All this to say, you don't have to live in an "exotic" place to capture interesting photos. I encourage you to go out today and to think critically about your life situation. What is unique? What is special? What do I think is "normal" that other places would see as interesting? Capture those photos and see what comes of it! Send me a link in the comments section if you go out--I'd love to see your work.

-Ashley

Different Every Time

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO-400  |  Somewhere in Texas!

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO-400  |  Somewhere in Texas!

I love taking pictures of fire because you can never get the same shot!

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  1st: f/7.1, 1/8 sec, ISO-800  |  2nd: f/2.5, 1/60 sec ISO-400

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  1st: f/7.1, 1/8 sec, ISO-800  |  2nd: f/2.5, 1/60 sec ISO-400

Especially when you vary the settings. These two (above) have different aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. You can see in the first one, the shutter speed is very slow. I didn't have a tripod, so I held it as still as I possibly could and it came out. If I had my tripod with me at that time, I would have experimented more with slow shutter speeds. Next time.

I like to experiment and try to push the limits on my knowledge and camera. Speaking of experimenting, I am very excited about some things coming from Amazon to my home in the next couple of days. For my recent birthday, some of my family gave me cash as a gift and I was able to purchase some lighting equipment! It's just the basics, but I'm super excited to play with it all soon.

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough money to buy everything I wanted, but I was looking online and there are many DIY projects that I can try out (i.e. DIY Softboxes). If I try it out, I'll let you know how it goes!

-Ashley

Practice Makes Perfect

As I was listening to a podcast yesterday in the car, as we were traveling to Texas, I found my head bobbing often in agreement with the men speaking.

The podcast is called "The Depth of Field" and is put together by Matt Brandon, a travel photographer based in Malaysia. This particular day, he was interviewing Damien Lovegrove, a contemporary photographer who has shot weddings, portraits, commercial and so forth. This man is constantly trying something new! You might not know either men (I didn't know about Lovegrove at all), but I've followed Matt Brandon pretty much since the inception of my love for photography.

Anyways, in this podcast, they talked about a multitude of things which were all interesting, but I really loved what they said about gear. Let's face it. In any field you're in, it's always fun to have the latest and greatest equipment! For photographers, that's camera bodies, lenses, strobes, soft boxes, gadgets, and so forth. We can get so gear crazy and think that these items will make us better--which they might--however, I'd venture to say (like Lovegrove and Brandon) that gear can only take you so far. It's all about you getting out and taking photos. Practice is key!

Have you ever heard about the 10,000 hour rule? In a nutshell, the idea is that whatever you want to be a master at, you have to spend about 10,000 practicing that skill in order to get to the level you want. 10,000 hours! That's a lot! Most of us want that quick and easy fix that makes us an expert in a day, but that's not going to happen folks! It takes practice, practice and more practice! 

Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.4  |  f/3.5, 1/100 sec, ISO-800  | Portland, Oregon

Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.4  |  f/3.5, 1/100 sec, ISO-800  | Portland, Oregon

Every chance I get, I take photos. I take my camera with me everywhere. Why? It's for practicing. I don't always use it, and yes, it is heavy to lug around. However, when that opportunity comes up, I am ready for it. Just like the photo above, it might not be the best photo I've ever taken, but it is as a result of just getting out my camera and shooting. 

I doubt that I've met the 10,000 hours in the skill of photography, but it's something I'm working towards. What about you? Are you willing to put in the time needed to achieve your goal in your field? It's definitely something to think about.

If you want to listen to the podcast, go here: http://thedigitaltrekker.com/2016/03/depth-field-damien-lovegrove/ 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this topic!

-Ashley

Up Close and Personal

Sometimes when people see an interesting subject to photograph, they either don't get close enough or they don't fill the frame (these are kind of one in the same). I know that was the case for me especially in the beginning. I would take photos at eye level (i.e. I wouldn't crouch or lay down to get a shot, etc.). Eye level isn't bad, but the idea is to change your perspective. Even just getting low and looking up can change your subject drastically. Take this tree, for example.

I loved how dreary it looked (as it was quite cold that day), I loved the snow on the limbs and I loved the texture of the bark. So instead of shooting it from afar at my eye level, I decided to snuggle up close to the tree and shoot up.

Filling the frame can make your picture much more interesting--so next time you take your camera out, try to get close to your subject and do something unique. Even if you try it and botch it, it would be better to experiment than to not try at all.

Let me know how it goes!

-Ashley