THE LAYERS OF ELLEN ASHTON

MBW – What moves you the most in your life? 
Ellen Ashton – I find that I am moved by a lot of things…The way the leaves twirl through the air as autumn fills the atmosphere, the waves as they bow to the shore, the sweet sound of a new born babe’s cry, the tender looks, smiles and touches as a groom see his bride for the first time or the realization that every morning His mercies are new and I am given the opportunity to start fresh and reach for the stars. I am moved by so many things and am a person who feels deeply. I am moved that I have been given eyes to see and find beauty in the things that surround me.

MBW – Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you? 
EA – I am currently living in Dallas, Texas and work all over the US. I am a fine art wedding and portrait photographer and I do a bulk of my work in Texas, Minnesota & Colorado. I am dying to shoot a wedding in all 50 states! I love that my job takes me all over and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Being able to travel to my clients has shaped me in many ways. It has caused me to be organized and do lots of research to insure that my clients get the very best since I don’t always see the venues till the day before. It has taught me to be flexible, to go with the flow and enjoy every opportunity that comes my way. Lastly it has shaped me to understand each states cultural differences and better serve my clients.

MBW – In what way, if any, does your location influence your work?
EA – I would say that my location influences my work a lot. Because I travel I have come to realize that every area leans toward one thing or another. This has been great and has kept me on my toes. I have found that my style is a mix of city and open field type images. This has greatly been influenced by my Texas roots and Minnesota adventures. Because of living in both of these areas it has molded me into the artist I am today. 

MBW -Explain your daily routine
EA – Well, I love sleep! Like, a lot. My motto is “Blessed, stressed and chai tea obsessed”. I wouldn’t say I have a routine per say. The only thing that is routine in my life is my dedication to reading my bible and taking time to worship and meditate every day. My schedule is all over the board and I always take things has they come. I keep my time flexible everyday to edit, reply to emails, blog, work on my website run an errand, meet with clients or vendors or take an adventure to capture something new. I like to keep time organized yet open if that makes any sense. I always start the week with a list of things that need to get done and make sure that they are all finished before Friday.

MBW -What is the most useful piece of advice you’ve been given?
EA – When I first became a “photographer” I literally sucked eggs. I was totally that photographer who just bought a cheap camera and started asking family and friends to model for me. I was so discouraged because I had this dream and hope inside of me that was screaming to get out and I didn’t know how to achieve it or even where to start.. My mother is the one who told me that I could do anything I set my mind to, that the sky was the limit and I never had to let fear lie to me. “just close your eyes, spread your wings and jump off the ledge, baby. You are going to fly.” My mom gave me the best advice that day. She gave me the courage to never give up and to always dream big.

MBW – What do you struggle with at the moment? 
EA – Oh, goodness, I think my struggle is the same as every photographer out there.  Self doubt. I struggle to see my work in the same light that everyone else does. Sometimes I feel like my ideas aren’t fresh or I’m stuck on finding just the right pose. I am always encouraged though when I remember that we all put our pants on the same way- one leg at a time. 

MBW – Do you remember the saddest moment of your life? 
EA – YES. The saddest moment of my life was when the doctor told my husband and I that our daughter had a heart defect and wasn’t going to make it outside of my womb. I felt like a part of my soul died when I gave birth to her itty bitty, lifeless body. Sadness can’t even begin to disable my sorrow. However, loosing our baby has taught my so much about living and I am thankful that I get to be her mom.

MBW – What would you say about your perception from your youth till now? 
EA – I spent a great deal of my youth feeling fearful to try things, being afraid of people and never feeling like I fit in. I was bullied as a child and always felt like the odd ball. All through my teen and college years I struggled to find my place because I was different. Being “different” was who I was always meant to be and seeing that I have value just the way I am has changed my mindset that I can be everything I was created to be… me.

MBW – What would you like to give for your legacy?
EA – I want people to remember me asa person who is quick to show grace and understanding, a person who loves others deeply and inspires others by my faith. God is pretty much the most important thing to me and I hope that when others encounter me they are overwhelmed and feel God’s love pouring out of me. 

MBW – How did you came to photography?
EA – Funny story! This is going to be super long winded but hopefully somewhat comical. My love for photography started at the ripe age of 16. I begged and begged my parents for a camera and on my sweet sixteen I woke up to the sound of happy birthday wishes and my birthday gift. A shinny new camera! We went to lunch only to return home to find that our house had been robbed and my camera stolen. I was crushed! However, one of my dad’s friends heard what happened and went out and bought me and even better camera then the one I had originally been given. That white and blue sony camera went everywhere with me! My teen years where spent exploring the Scottish countryside and photographing everything in sight for about two years. Then I went to college I became so engulfed with my biblical counseling major that I seldom thought about photography, until I left the US once more to teach english over seas in the Philippines. It was there that I realized just how much I missed having a camera in my hands. After I returned I met the man of my dreams who is now my husband and started thinking every day about photography. I would sit on my bed and day dream about being a photographer, but thats all I did was dream. After my husband and I got married he bought me my first DSLR as a gift. When he gave it to me he said “I know that your scared and don’t think you can do it, or make a career out of being a photographer… but I want you to know that I believe in you and I want to help you pursue your dream.” I am so thankful for my husband and all the support our family and friends gave me. They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.

MBW – What did you want to be growing up? 
EA – I have always been a major day dreamer. When I was a child I wanted to be a wedding dress designer. I had hundreds of sketches and spent hours each day dreaming about making women feel beautiful on their wedding day.

MBW -What has been the most defining moment in your career?
EA – I would say the most defining moment of my career was when I realized I was my ideal client. When I stopped doing what I thought people wanted (like pinteresty type images) and started photographing the things that moved me. It changed my business for the better.

MBW – Or do you feel there was a turning point, monumental time, or series of events in your life that you were felt as though you were on the right path in regards to your photography career that brought you to where you are now? 
EA – I will never forget the first time I realized that my sometimes quirky ideas actually worked. As I am sure you have realized by now, I am a huge dreamer. I had this dream of photographing a bride in a floral dress that had a bohemian vibe. I decided I was no longer going to dream about it anymore, I was going to do it. So, I grabbed a friend an did a stylized bohemian bridal shoot in the heart of Minneapolis. I had no idea how it would go or if people would understand my vision for the shoot. That shoot made me realize that I can do anything I set my mind to. The lighting and vision for the shoot was absolute magic and for the first time ever I realized that I could be me in photography and people would receive it. This was a turning point in my business and I never felt so free in my life. For me being able to create something and capture it warms my body and gives me a natural high. It’s the best feeling in the world to hold a camera in my hand.

MBW – Who or what is inspiring you at the moment? 
EA – Well, I am inspired by several photographers at the moment. I have always been an Elizabeth Messina & Jose Villa groupy because well, lets face it, they are literally like the mother and father of fine art photography. I really adore Jana William’s and Jasime Star because they are so up beat and their passion to work hard and create beautiful and inspiring images really does just that. It’s something I truly admire and aim to be! I also love Jen Haung, Lauren Peele, Julie Paisley and so many more talented and creative photographer! I am also so inspired my music. Bethel is currently my new favorite and I feel very inspired when listening to them.

MBW – Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
EA – I see myself still doing wedding and portrait photography and teaching workshops. I see my husband and I doing humanitarian work together, waking up to the sound of small feet pitter pattering to our bedroom door and having a house full of love and laughter… I dearly love to laugh. 

MBW -What creative training do you do outside of your work? 
EA – Workshops! I really feel refreshed and rejuvenated when I attend workshops. I am kinda like the little mermaid, “I want to be where the people are.” I am energized by others and love working with other creatives. It always amazes me that 10 people can be looking at the same thing and end up with a totally different result. I find that so beautiful and inspiring.

MBW – How do you know what a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?
EA  – When the images either speaks to me or sparkles. Believe it or not, images can sparkle! I look at photographs as though it should feel alive or tell a story. When I see that in my work I know it’s ready to be shown to the world.

MBW – What was your hardest/painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you? 
EA – I wouldn’t say that anything is a “failure” because I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. I would say though, that my greatest challenge was discovering who I truly was as an artist. When I first started my career as a photographer I did what I knew would make me money. I did all those cheesy pinteresty type photo’s that every john doe thought was cute but in reality was awful.. Yeah that was me and that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I really struggled getting out of that because I had a huge clientele that wanted those kind of images and I knew deep down that that style wasn’t me and it didn’t make me enjoy my work. My husband and I moved and during that time is when we lost our baby. I was in such a bad place physically and emotionally that I didn’t pick up my camera for about six months. After that period of time I picked up my camera again and decided that life was too short to be a people pleaser so I started following people who inspired me and tried really hard to learn and grow into the artist I wanted to be and I am so glad I did! Photography and life have a whole new mean to me because of it.

MBW – If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity? 
EA – If I couldn’t use my cameras to express myself I would die. Ok, maybe not die but it would for sure be hard! I would say the next best things would be interior design, creative writing or writing worship songs.

MBW – Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community? 
EA – Absolutely! I am forever indebted to the creative community for all the knowledge they have poured into me. Life would be a lonely and miserable without community.

MBW – Do you have any advice to share with people about the lifestyle of a wedding photographer? 
EA – I would say the most important thing that I have learned is to stop and smell the roses. It’s easy to get sucked into the social media world, stalk the amount of followers you have or compare yourself or your work to everyone else’s. My advice is to throw all that out the window and live your life and build relationships with people. When you die no one will remember how many followers you had or how many magazines you were in. Pursue the things that truly matter. Being photographers is what we do and only a small part of who we are… There is so much more to life then just building a business, so enjoy all that life has to offer!

MBW – Thank you so much for your time, it is always a pleasure to know more about awesome people and connecting with them.

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