Thoughts

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

 
2018.09.20 - Rome 01.jpg
 

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:

2017.11.29 - Selfie Project idea - for blog 01.jpg

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

Back in the Heartland

Two months ago I wouldn't have suspected I'd be in the States right now. I also wouldn't have foreseen our move to the Middle East either. Change can happen so rapidly--it's mind boggling! One minute life is a certain way and within seconds it can be completely opposite. I'm glad that God is in control and I'm not--I'd screw things up, that's for sure!

If you've seen my recent Instagram post, you will also have seen my mind exploding at all the goodies in America. The grocery store really makes my head spin. There are large grocery stores where I have lived the last four years, but for some reason large stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. in America really amaze me. I can never get over the variety, quality, and quantity of items you can purchase!

So needless to say, life has been very different the last week and a half. Everyone looks like me, talks like me, and life is familiar. It's a strange feeling (that I like, but it's still strange). I thought coming back this time I knew what to expect. This is our third trip back to America in the last 4.5 years, but I guess I was out long enough this time to forget nuances that make this place special.

For example, the other day after the funeral of Joshua's grandfather, we decided to get out of the house and just drive. As we drove we happened to see a sign about disc golf and decided to stop and see what the course looked like. As we went into the store, we ended up chatting with the owners of the place for a good 30 minutes, grabbed a cup of coffee from their in-house coffee shop, and chatted with the owner's son (who was the barista) for another 30 minutes.

We left filled up (as an extroverts tank is filled by people interaction :) and we were so surprised by the friendliness of these random strangers we had met. How are people so friendly? It was such an enjoyable experience; one that has been rarely experienced the last year and a half.

So we're definitely enjoying our time in the U.S. even though it's been a hard trip back. Besides celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow (yay for turkey) and seeing family/friends, I'm really hoping to connect with photography societies here. It's something I've never done before, so it'll be interesting to see what is going on in the Houston and Dallas areas. 

A lot is happening and I'm sure I'll have more to share soon about my project, life, and our travels! Have a Happy Thanksgiving, my U.S. friends!

-Ashley

What's in my Bag?

I've had a few people ask me what's in my camera bag, and I thought I'd share! 

First off, let me just say that I am a minimalist (half by choice and half by necessity) so if you're looking for gadgets and techy items, I probably won't excite you much. But this all goes to show you don't need much to take good photos! As world and humanitarian photographer, David duChemin stresses all the time--vision is better! :) 

First off, the bag. Bags are important y'all. :) I have two bags that I love and have had for some time:

Jo Totes - "Betsy"

Jo Totes - "Betsy"

Crumpler - "5 Million Dollar Bag"

Crumpler - "5 Million Dollar Bag"

I've had my Crumpler bag now for six years and have practically brought it everywhere with no issues ever. It's a fantastic bag that I love taking on flights as it fits underneath the seats and it's a great bag for underdeveloped countries as it doesn't easily look dirty or look like a camera bag. There are tons of pockets to stash memory cards, gadgets, lenses, pens, etc. inside, as well as fits my camera with a lens attached and two prime lenses easy. It's a great bag. Good job Crumpler. 

My Jo Totes bag I have only used a little bit. I bought it three years ago because I didn't want to bring my Crumpler to weddings anymore--while it's an awesome bag, it's just not all that pretty. :) So I opted for a mustard yellow camera bag that looks like a pretty purse! This bag is great as it has tons of pockets to stash all kinds of stuff, fits my camera with a lens attached and two prime lenses, and even can fit comfortably up to a 15" laptop if I wanted to. Even with all of that stuff, it still looks nice and not overstuffed. 

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II

Okay, now gear. Again, I'm a minimalist.

The Canon 5D Mark II is a great camera. Yes, it is no longer being made as there is the Canon 5D Mark III and IV, but I will use this camera until it dies. Full frame, light, heavy duty, and takes great pictures in low lighting. 

I've had it now for five years and it has never given me any issues. It's gotten wet, been in dusty, dirty places, and has been dropped a few times (whoopsies), but it's still going strong! I love this camera and so glad that I got it as it's seriously a great camera. 

The lenses I carry always are:

 

 

 

Canon 50mm f/1.4

Canon 50mm f/1.4

Canon 24mm f/2.8

Canon 24mm f/2.8

Canon 85mm f/1.8

Canon 85mm f/1.8

When my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 died on me, I decided to go all prime and I'm so glad I did. The quality of primes is excellent and once you get used to shooting with them, it's easy and you find yourself being more creative (especially since you are the zoom!). Sometimes I do wish I had a zoom lens, but for the kind of work I do it's not something I think about all the time. 

The 24mm is the lens I've been using primarily for my fatherhood project, which gives me those wide angles that I'm looking for. The 50mm has been great for street photography and portraits. The 85mm is also good for portraits and getting closer to longer-distanced subjects, but I don't find myself pulling it out of my bag as often as the other two. It might be something I sell one of these days.

The other noteable thing that I carry in my bag with me at all times is this handy gadget I bought off of Amazon--a shutter release! These are great for portraits that you want to be in and for taking pictures on a tripod that have a slow shutter speed. Speaking of tripod's, this is my favorite tripod I've ever owned by MeFoto. It is a fantastic tripod that is stable and has never dropped my camera or fallen over. 

Off Brand Shutter Release

Off Brand Shutter Release

MeFoto Tripod

MeFoto Tripod

I do have a lens reflector that I use on shoots at times, as well as off camera strobes, triggers, etc., but they're something I don't always pull out. The things listed above are items that I use consistently all the time and have had great success with.

So that's all I carry and have in the realm of equipment! :) Feel free to ask me any questions 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

Settling In | Personal Post

So with our recent move we've been house hunting and trying to figure out where to live. It's been quite a journey. With viewing 19 houses already I feel like a pro! I definitely have my list of what I do not want and what I do want very defined since we've seen so many places. 

I do have to say I am ready to be settled. After four years and four international moves under my belt, I'm done with packing, selling items, and saying goodbye. I have to say though, even with all of these moves, this last goodbye was the hardest for us. The day we left I held one of my closer friends for 10 minutes while she bawled (and I was too, I must confess!). It was unnerving, especially since I don't know if I will ever see her again. Yes the world is changing and globalization is happening, but she is very poor and I don't think she has ever left the country...or ever plans to. I'm thankful for the time I had with her and I hope and pray the best for her and her family (and everyone else we met).

October 2016 - My friend teaching me how to make Biriyani. 

October 2016 - My friend teaching me how to make Biriyani. 

Sorry for that somber bit! I am excited that we are here and that I will make new friends--just sad about what we left behind. Joshua and I feel that we'll be here likely the next three years, so we feel we can make roots a bit more and actually be a part of our community than previously. There are some photographic societies that I hope to jump into here and who knows where that will take me! I guess time will tell. :)

So how do you handle transition and change? Do you embrace it or run the opposite way screaming? :) I think I can say that I'm embracing it this time and trying to keep up with everything that's happening. There's a lot going on so time will tell to see how we do. :) Pray for us! 

Have an awesome day and be on the lookout for part two for my master's project!

-Ashley

What's Your Drive?

Are you utilizing your skills for your own benefit? Are you in your field for your gain? Are you sharing your story or focusing on others? 

These are some questions I've been pondering over the last couple of days due to a podcast I recently listened to. The podcast is called "Depth of Field" and is hosted by Matt Brandon, a travel and documentary photographer. The goal of the podcast is to interview other photographers for the benefit of other working photographers (or those who aspire to be a working photographer). The person being interviewed was Esther Havens, a humanitarian photographer, who has traveled the world working for NGOs, non-profits, and other organizations, to share their stories and the impact they're having on the world. She's a passionate person, who does amazing photographic work and someone who genuinely cares about the organizations she works for.

It was a challenging podcast, as it made me truly evaluate what I am doing as a photographer. Am I in this for myself? For my gain? Or am I trying to lift others up and share their stories? 

I don't know if I have a complete answer for myself--but I do know that there have been moments when I shot a picture and thought, "Oh! What a great shot to put in my portfolio!" This goes for taking pictures of people and even inanimate objects or scenery.

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.8, 1/800 sec, ISO-400

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/2.8, 1/800 sec, ISO-400

Like this picture of the splash of ocean water--if I thought immediately how great it would be to post this on my website, I'm not praising God for His creation, but thinking about myself. How short-sighted this is!

I feel slightly ashamed realizing that (and admitting it to you!), but in the creative field, it's a hard reality to fight against. The reality that everyone is trying to be better than others in their field and will do crazy things to stand out and receive a following. I don't think I've done anything crazy, but my heart and mind have sometimes wandered to myself rather than the person I was photographing. This is something I truly want to change in myself and my work.

I think that whatever field you're in, these are good questions to ask. It's good to have a "heart check" and ask yourself if you're trying to gain praise or if you're actually making a difference in the lives you're working with. I want the latter. I want to make a difference in the people I'm photographing and the stories I'm sharing.

So, what's you're drive? What's compelling you to do what you're doing? Is it for yourself or for others? Go think about it and let me know your thoughts!

If you want to listen to the interview, click here.

-Ashley 

A Broken World

In the wake of what's happened in Florida, my heart is very heavy. This world is so broken and unfortunately, I don't think it's on the upswing. I'm not trying to be a pessimist, but we're all broken people--this is a reality. We've all been hurt, come from broken homes, have dysfunctional families, have broken friendships, and the list goes on. There is no perfect person in this world. 

Just look at TV. I know this isn't the only problem and certainly isn't the only reason for violence today, but I think it has something to do with it. Some shows are fine, but some images, messages, and world-views have become so mainstream that we are desensitized as a culture. Everything is becoming permissible to watch.

The other day while working at home, I glanced at the TV and watched in horror as a woman with a large butcher's knife killed two people. They didn't leave anything to imagination. I was sick. Why do we want to watch these things?! How is this enjoyable? What good does it do for us? Why put these things into our minds?

Our minds can create enough horror on their own without the help of others. Just FYI, this show was on normal, cable television. We weren't watching a slasher film. 

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/5, 1/2000 sec, ISO-500  |  Seattle, WA, USA

Canon 5D Mark II; 50mm f/1.4  |  f/5, 1/2000 sec, ISO-500  |  Seattle, WA, USA

I think what Paul says in Philippians 4:8 is relevant: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (ESV) 

This is a high standard, but what a wonderful thing to work towards! Obviously, this doesn't bring the healing we need as a world. Only God can do that! But if we can stop putting evil things in, then what a change I believe would happen.

The world is broken, but God really likes to redeem people and activities. Why don't you be the start of that?

-Ashley