INTRODUCING ASHLEY MARKLE
Ashley Markle is an artist working with photography and mixed media. Originally from Ohio, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Film at Kent State University in 2017. Shortly after, she moved to Brooklyn, NY and realized her passion for still photography. She completed the Continuing Education Track Program at the International Center of Photography then continued on to the Advanced Track Program in which she received a full scholarship. She has just released her debut, self-published photobook titled, “weekends with my mother and her lover.” Available to purchase on her website below.
Lis: A photoshoot in your underwear can be a daunting idea. How did you find the experience?
Ashley: When I first started shooting a few years ago, I always shot myself either naked or in my underwear. My best friend Ally even told me once that it’s not an Ashley Markle shoot unless everyone’s in their underwear. Sometimes I felt strange about this because I didn’t want to be known for that, and at the time, I didn’t really know why I was doing it. I strayed away from those types of images and started focusing on work made with the important people in my life. It felt good to go back to my roots and explore the idea with all of the new knowledge I have about what my work actually means to me; especially shooting in my mother’s home with her assistance. I’m an only child and have always had a hard time making and keeping friends (until I became an artist). So when I first started shooting I think I was using the naked bodies of myself and my fellow subjects to explore touch and have the opportunity to comfortably touch another body in a safe environment. Now, going back to this type of shoot with more confidence felt very cathartic.
Lis: What does self care look like for you?
Ashley: I struggle with self-care because it wasn’t something that I was taught. The focus always seemed to be on everything else around me and always working hard to achieve things. When I moved out of my mom’s house in Ohio to start my life in New York City as an adult, I began trying to implement some self care practices like splurging on things that make me happy, forming a skin care routine, lighting candles for myself, etc. I honestly felt somewhat guilty every time I did something for myself to relax because my mind is always focused on doing something to advance my career. Then Covid hit. It was a long year of chastising myself for not being able to find work and also staying involved in a relationship that made me feel worse about myself. As soon as I decided to finally end that relationship, things changed for me. Because I was going through a break-up, I was easier on myself, and that transferred to other areas of my life. Today, self-care is still weird to me. I think I practice self-care by continuing to go to therapy, take it easy on myself, celebrate the good things that happen to me, and continuing to climb mountains in the Catskills. But I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who showers every day no matter how happy I am. I guess self-care is different for everyone. I’ve learned that self-care isn’t just skin care routines and bubble baths. It’s learning your deep-rooted needs that stem from your childhood traumas and being patient with yourself as you learn to meet those needs on your own.
Lis: Your photographic work is so intriguing and is such an interesting balance between abstract and narrative. Do you plan a particular narrative when shooting or is it more of an improvisational process?
Ashley: I think I’ve found a good balance in doing the work to understand my narrative while also letting my subconscious take over. When I’m not shooting I’m constantly writing about my work and my relationships. I’m reading about psychology, attachment styles, abandonment issues and also talking about these things with my therapist. It might be weird but half the reason I go to therapy is to use it as a supplement to my creative practice. I’ve learned so much about myself and the people around me. So when it eventually comes time to shoot, my subconscious just forms these images in my head. I’m very lucky in that I have always had vivid dreams and I always remember them. So when I see these images in my head it feels like things that would happen in my dreams. I make sure to trust these instincts and shoot everything my brain is showing me. Later, when I get the negatives back, I’m looking at them with my conscious brain and I’m able to see the narratives.
Lis: Place seems to be a recurring motif throughout your work. How important is location for developing your stories?
Ashley: I didn’t realize the importance of place in my work until recently. It’s definitely a challenge for me to make work I like in NYC because things are so condensed here. I prefer open spaces and nature. However, place seems to be most important based on who I’m shooting with. When I was dating my ex, I was able to make a lot of work in my apartment, at his house, and at the various places we explored on Long Island. But while shooting with my family, I have to shoot at their home or in places surrounding our town. If they came to visit me in Brooklyn I don’t think I would even try to shoot with them here because it would feel inauthentic. The places I shoot are based on the significance of what they mean to myself and my subject. I also just love the aesthetic of suburbia in the work made with my family. It’s fun to create weird, visceral images in a place that is so normal and repetitive.
Lis: You also utilise self portraiture significantly. What interests you in this medium?
Ashley: The first photographers I was really drawn to were self-portrait photographers; Robert Mapplethorpe and Francesca Woodman. Humans are very complex beings and I admired these people for using art to try to get to know every piece of themselves. I also found that I became so interested in the artist’s life and this created even more appreciation for the work. I actually cried when I went to see Robert Mapplethorpe’s show at the Guggenheim. When I die, I hope for two things: to be surrounded by people I love and to completely know myself. Naturally, this is why I’m drawn to self-portraiture and posing with my loved ones.
Lis: What are you working on now?
Ashley: I’ve spent the last 6 months working on self-publishing a book of the work I made with my mother and step-father. I’ve never worked so hard on something before. I had to learn how to sequence, layout, and design. Also had to teach myself inDesign. I owe a huge thanks to my friends/fellow artists, Erik Mace and Mcguire McManus, both brilliant photographers and designers. But I’m excited to say that as I write this, my book will be available to purchase on my website in a couple of weeks. It may be available by the time this is posted. I started a collaborative zine project where artists submit work around a central theme and I layout everyone’s work mixed together. It’s interesting to form new meanings in people’s work by placing it with another artist’s images or writing. I hope to put out a zine every month or every other month, the first one is being printed next week. I’m also in the process of applying to MFA programs which is very exciting. My studies at the International Center of Photography have grown my practice immensely so I’m excited to continue growing in the rigor of a graduate program.
Lis: What do you hope for in 2021?
Ashley: Personally, I hope to start being able to partially support myself from my work. Artists never talk about money which I think is weird because we all need money. I certainly don’t create to make money but if I can support myself simply from making work I care deeply about, that’s the dream. I also hope to hear from more people about my work. I’ve gotten some Instagram DMs from strangers about their interpretations of my work and how it inspires them to make and nothing makes me happier. The fact that people care about pictures of myself and my family is astounding to me but it’s very cool.
Aside from what I want for myself, I really hope America can stop being so divided. I generally lean more to the left but I have realized both sides are being lied to. Our media has driven the divide between right and left so far apart I’m worried we won’t be able to come back together. My media tells me every Trump supporter is a white supremacist and their media tells them liberals are all godless heathens running rampant and spreading darkness instead of light. It’s crazy. My parents are generally more conservative and I’ve gotten in many fights with them about this but they’ve shown me positive things that Trump did during his presidency that I never even heard about because my media didn’t cover it. And I’ve informed them about lies they’ve been told about Biden’s tax plan. I just want Americans to get rid of all the hate they feel toward each other and remember we all have a common goal to make America the best place to live that it can be.