Learning

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

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

New Territory | Personal Post

Living in a new country is always a learning curve--What gestures are appropriate? What do people find interesting to talk about? Where do you buy groceries--and what do you have/lack and what do you have change in your diet to go with what you can find? What do you wear? What's in fashion or what is inappropriate to wear? And so forth! The questions are endless.

Learning a new city is also an interesting experience. Some of our new finds include a local coffee shop that makes excellent coffee. We also found a bubble tea shop--something I haven't had in a long time (that was an exciting discovery)! We also have found that a lot of local places are closed between the hours of 1pm and 4pm. Larger grocery stores and shops are fine, but if you want to go to a market, don't plan to go at that time (we heard about this, but then forgot and learned the hard way--oops). You actually probably wouldn't want to go at that time anyway because it's so hot! Also the work week here is Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. 

So we are in new territory folks--learning a lot and realizing also as we learn how much we don't know about life. It's interesting living in other cultures as it teaches you so much about the creativity of God and how different life can be done. I think every person should live in a different culture than their own for at least some season of their life--it teaches you a kind of respect and perspective that living in your home culture doesn't. Not to say that in some cities you can't get that "international" experience that I'm talking about; I'm fully aware that pockets of many nationalities exist in major cities. But for whatever reason, immersing yourself in a new environment and having to learn how to appreciate differences (because you can't change what's around you or escape from it) is a character building experience. :) 

October 2017 - This new place is starkly different from South Asia. So much space and no people to be seen. It's very different and taking some getting used to.

October 2017 - This new place is starkly different from South Asia. So much space and no people to be seen. It's very different and taking some getting used to.

The other day while looking for homes, we were invited into someone's home and we had the pleasure of experiencing their hospitality. After cardamom-coffee, dates, somosas, fried fish, other-unrecognizable-items, and juice (remember this was a spontaneous house visit--they were prepared!), we left their home grinning ear to ear, very honored, and stomachs full. Our host was very adamant that she show us hospitality and how they do it, relaying to us every detail that goes into serving guests in our new city. They were very proud to be the first locals to invite us into their home and we enjoyed it thoroughly. It was actually recognizable in a lot of ways from our previous place of residence. 

I look forward to more of these experiences as I have much to learn in this new place.! Follow me to hear more about it. :)

-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 2

As promised, here is part two of "Where I've Come From" in regards to my master's project over fatherhood. If you missed part one, go here and you can read about where I was about 10 months ago.

The next term I decided to keep going in the direction I ended with--portrait-like scenes of father's interacting with their kids. As I began shooting though, the feedback I received was that my images were competent for editorial work, the kind of images seen in an advertisement or something similar, but for this project it wasn't suitable. It was flattering to me that editorial work was/is a possibility (and one I'd like to consider in the future), but for this project I didn't understand why an editorial look was bad.

"Prioritizing my time in order to be with my kids is an important aspect of being a father."  -Michael

"Prioritizing my time in order to be with my kids is an important aspect of being a father."

-Michael

And so I remained confused for a good while (and honestly frustrated) and didn't want to photograph anyone out of fear that I'd do the wrong style.  And then, for whatever reason, it clicked. One of my professors met with me one-on-one and told me to try to capture images of the entire scene, not just the fathers themselves, up close.

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"As fathers we should focus on our children's hearts, not the disobedience. Why are they responding like they are? How do you build up rather than tear down?"  -Peter

"As fathers we should focus on our children's hearts, not the disobedience. Why are they responding like they are? How do you build up rather than tear down?"

-Peter

Many of the images, like Michael and Peter above, I was photographing in what is called the "middle ground". There are three parts to an image--the foreground, the middle ground and the background. Many editorial images focus on the middle ground space because they want the message to be caught immediately without much thought. Most editorial shots are for products or services, so it needs to be well composed and lighted to create an eye-catching image that shares a singular message. Michael's images are very much editorial-looking, with first shot having space for text even with the wall I used on the lefthand side. 

Once I realized this, I tried to change up my composition and shooting methodology and finally understood what he was talking about. Look at these images of Cory:

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"The challenge of being a good father is your own immaturity. You're never the dad you want to be and there's always a longing to be better."  -Cory

"The challenge of being a good father is your own immaturity. You're never the dad you want to be and there's always a longing to be better."

-Cory

The kind of images my professors were trying to pull out of me were more complicated, rich images that had lot to look at and much to interpret about the subject of fatherhood. To be honest, shooting this way was quite difficult. I felt like I was missing something since I positioned myself so far away from my subjects. 

I remember leaving Cory and thinking to myself, geez, I think I might have to redo that. The way I shot felt so uncomfortable and foreign to me. However, when I loaded the images and saw them on my screen, I just knew this is what I needed to go for. There was much more depth to these images--a richness that I wasn't getting when I got in close. You could observe the family's surroundings and the interactions within those surroundings. What were the relationships between the surroundings and the family? How did that add to their relationship/family bond? Why were they together in that space and why was it important to them? Those kinds of questions didn't have a chance to be posed in my previous up-close work. 

After Cory's shoot I did a few more and I really feel like things started coming together.

"My greatest moment was the first day--I remember everything about it. My wife gave birth in another city, so on my way to her I was anxious to see my daughter for the first time, but when I saw her, I felt so happy. I will never forget this moment."  -Piyush

"My greatest moment was the first day--I remember everything about it. My wife gave birth in another city, so on my way to her I was anxious to see my daughter for the first time, but when I saw her, I felt so happy. I will never forget this moment."

-Piyush

“I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone when playing with my daughter. I enjoy myself, get animated, and have fun with her. Our kids won’t always be this age, so we should enjoy it.”  -Aaron

“I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone when playing with my daughter. I enjoy myself, get animated, and have fun with her. Our kids won’t always be this age, so we should enjoy it.”

-Aaron

"Having three small children is pretty challenging. As much joy as it is, it's hard work. It's humbling because you think you have it all together, and then you get married, and then you have kids. It's a constant reminder of how much you have to learn and grow in life."  -Wade

"Having three small children is pretty challenging. As much joy as it is, it's hard work. It's humbling because you think you have it all together, and then you get married, and then you have kids. It's a constant reminder of how much you have to learn and grow in life."

-Wade

“The role of fatherhood has changed for me over the years drastically. I went from the one who gave advice, to being the one who’s receiving advice. This is a welcome change, as I’m proud of my children and who they’ve become.”  -Ken

“The role of fatherhood has changed for me over the years drastically. I went from the one who gave advice, to being the one who’s receiving advice. This is a welcome change, as I’m proud of my children and who they’ve become.”

-Ken

This is where I ended in my third module (in August 2017) and where I just picked up--and I'm taking it even further now though. I've been encouraged to go even more in depth, which I'll explain in my final work in progress series next week! 

What do you think about my progress? Do you agree with my tutors and my conclusions? Let me know in the comment section below!

-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