Photo 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

The Struggle of Mother's Day

With this new direction I’m taking for my project over Infertility, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the struggle of Mother’s Day. While it’s not what you probably imagined being on a photography blog, it does process through some of the feelings associated with infertility and the struggles women can feel on this day, which does relate to my project quite a bit.

Not the best picture, but the place where Rose is buried.

Not the best picture, but the place where Rose is buried.

For a while I dreaded going to church or really anywhere on Mother’s Day. As terrible as it sounds, it was something I avoided, if I could, especially after my first pregnancy. Mother’s day, while needing to be celebrated because moms are great and do so much, can be a painful day for many women who long for or have lost children. While our daughter was lost when she was still growing at 14 weeks, it still hurt. For many years, this day represented to me the day of “what could have been”. It felt awkward saying I was a mom, even though I did hold her in my hand and we buried her. So, I remained silent those years that were hard and told myself that I would hopefully celebrate in the future.

I think many women struggle on this day. It is hard to go to certain places, where you watch women who have what you want be rightfully honored, while you sit there with what feels like nothing. As silly as it sounds, it feels isolating and furthers the idea that something is wrong with you.

I remember one time in particular that I’ll cherish forever in 2014. I went to church on Mother’s Day that week and I steeled myself for what was going to happen. They would ask all the mother’s to stand and would hand out roses. I sat quietly, tried to rejoice with all of these women, and tried to enjoy the rest of the service. This was at a time when I was really struggling and questioning God about this topic, so this was a big feat for me to simply be there. At the end of the service, one of my friend’s daughters walked up to me, handing me a few roses. She smiled and walked away—I stood dumbfounded. Why did she come and hand me roses? I wasn’t a mom (or at least, I didn’t consider myself one). It meant so much to me and I felt that God could see my pain and heart in this situation. I wasn’t forgotten like I felt I was. This began some of the healing that started during this time. I don’t think this girl will ever realize the impact she had on me that day.

So women who are struggling—I see you and I feel your pain. I know the day has already passed for this year, but the struggle is real, especially if you so deeply desire children or have lost one (or more). God sees you and knows your heart. I pray that you’d be encouraged and filled with contentment and hope, rather than despair and sadness.

And women who haven’t struggled in this area, reach out to a friend who is struggling. Do something special for them or simply say that you’re thinking about them. These small gestures mean the world to those who are hurting.

-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

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

Selfie Project Idea

Have you ever stopped to look around you in public places to see all the people taking selfies? Maybe it's more of a thing in South Asia, but I began thinking of a project idea while we were living there of taking pictures of people taking selfies. Like this one:

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When I took this picture, I could have easily taken 10 more like it. There were people everywhere taking pictures of themselves instead of taking pictures of the historic site they were visiting. It was such an interesting contrast of what people were giving their attention to and what they wanted to remember from their visit. 

I also had the idea of instead of me just taking pictures of people taking selfies, taking a selfie of other people taking selfies. That might be a more ironic twist. :) Anyways, it's an idea that I might pursue one of these days, particularly when my masters ends and I have a little more time to just try out different project ideas.

I have researched the idea a little and there are many people who have done selfie projects, so if I were to do it I'd have to make sure mine was relevant to society today, informed, and different than what others have done. I'd want to add something valuable, not just add more photos into the sea of images we live in.

What do you think? Good or bad idea?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

-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

Follow me on Instagram!

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Okay folks, how many of you are on Instagram?? 

I'm pretty positive that most of us are on Instagram these days as it's such a fun social media outlet, especially for photographers! I love posting pictures and following other people's work. It's a great way to get inspired by what others are doing and to keep up to date with what's going on in the industry.

I ask you reader if you have an Instagram account, because I want to share my Instagram accounts that I recently have started. 

First is my Transparent Life Photography Instagram account:

I am posting several images I've taken over the years on this account, along with some of the projects from my Fatherhood project. This is a great way to follow me and keep up to date with what I'm doing (and feel free to DM me as well--would love to chat!). I haven't posted much on here yet, but a lot is on its way in the coming days, so follow me!

The second Instagram account to pay attention to is my Fatherhood project Instagram account called "Fatherscapes" (the name is still up in the air--it's a working title):

This Instagram account is only pictures related to my project. If you look in previous photos, you will see an online exhibition I did earlier this year with fathers from my project. I'll share about that exhibition in the coming days.

Click on either of the pictures above to be routed to the respective accounts to follow me. Let me know your Instagram account too so I can follow you! 

-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.