Ashley Burress likes interweaving dreams of macabre and nostalgia and she loves capturing them with dark, vivid, sepia-toned instant film. This is how she remembers.
Tell us something about yourself.
My name is Ashley Jae Burress. I’m currently 25 years old and living in Clarksville, TN. I work at a pizzeria, but in my spare time, I like to paint and spend time with my cameras. I’m a huge lover of nature/abandoned buildings/roadkill, so I spend most of my time shooting these things. I’m a dreamer of sorts, and basically just kind of all over the place.
How/When did you begin taking pictures? What was your first camera?
I began taking photos when I was 14. When my father asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, I told him that I desperately wanted a camera. I ended up getting an Olympus Accura 35mm Superzoom, and the first thing I did was purchase some black and white film for it and walk to the graveyard. I was a weird kid.. sort of dark, so that’s what I did. The following year, I recieved a Polaroid 600 Cool Cam from a friend and started shooting instant. I’ve been in love with film ever since. I bring a camera with me wherever I go.
Describe your style in photography. What are your usual subjects and themes?
A friend once wrote a song about how my photography made her feel. It was titled ‘Sepia-toned Rainbow’, and I feel that’s as deep as it gets. I want my photography to give someone a feeling of macabre nostalgia. I like to spook people, so the creepier, the better. My usual subjects are either myself, a dead animal, or an abandoned house. I like people to see the death of something, and imagine what once was there, or maybe all the fun that animal was having right before it had been hit by a car.
Amongst your numerous film photographs, which is your favourite?
“you’ll never see me coming, ‘cause I’m always walkin’ away”
This is a B&W double exposure shot with a Holga 120N – Neopan 400 film. The title is inspired by a poem written by my ex-husband. I’m a big fan of multiple exposures, and this one, accompanied with the title is a little heartbreaking.
What is the soundtrack for your series of photographs?
Anything by Crystal Castles. When I think of them, I think ‘analogue’. I mean, come on, they break open Ataris to mod their synths with Pokey chips. It doesn’t get any better than that. I’m always pumped to take photos when I hear them.
We all have our idols, which photographers do you look up to?
Locally, I would have to give props to my very good friend Chad Spann. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I would have started shooting Holga. He was the first photographer from my city that I got to know. He’s an amazing photographer, and he’s always been there to support what I do. As far as foreign, Francesca Woodman. She grew up in Italy, and her film photography is something I’ve always looked up to. She is by far, the creepiest female photographer that I’ve ever come across on the internet, and I’m truly inspired by her self-portraits.
If you could take anyone’s portrait using film, can be living or dead, who (would it be), which (camera would you use), and why?
I would travel to the Dakotas and photograph the remaining survivors of the Arikara tribe on the Fort Berthold Reservation. This specific tribe is not of my heritage, but I’m deeply enthralled by the fact that there are still so many of them living together. I’m in love with old photographs of Native Americans, and would like to recreate something of that nature. They are beautiful people, and should be remembered as so.
Analogue vs. Digital. What makes analogue/film photography more special than digital?
This is almost a difficult question to answer, as I have been taking a lot of digital lately, because of the fact that I can take several – hundreds even – photos of the same thing, and pick the right one. Quite honestly, I see no fun in that, aside from editing them with programs such as photoshop to give them a more vintage feel. I always felt like I’m cheating when I shoot digital. There’s magic in every film photograph I’ve ever taken. I know exactly what I was feeling when I develop the shot after. There’s also a huge sense of accomplishment when you develop your own film. You can say, ‘hey, I did that. All of it. By myself.’ and feel proud that you’ve created something so real. It’s nostalgic to older people that view my photos. I think that people are generally thrilled when they find out that I still shoot mainly film. It’s totally real, and something that you can hold onto forever, whereas anything digital could completely disappear forever. You can delete a digital photo, but you can’t delete a film photo.. well.. unless you burn it.
A lot of people are into photography today, what would you say to them to inspire them more?
Seriously, just go for it. Shoot as much as you possibly can wherever you go. The more you shoot, the better feel you’ll get for it, and eventually, you’ll carve yourself a niche. You’ll find your own style, and it’ll be a wonderful feeling. A lot of people tell me ‘well, I just wish I had more photographer friends to go out and shoot with.’ .. My advice is to just leave your house and go for a drive/walk by yourself. You’ll feel a lot less inhibited. I feel invisible when I have a camera in front of my face, and it’s a wonderful feeling. I’ve learned a lot about myself from photography, and I think other people will too if they just go for it.
Do you have any ongoing/future projects?
I’m always working on something, or nothing in particular. I’ve just started purchasing instant film from The Impossible Project, and loving every minute of it. Viva la analogue.