BY: WINSTON MATTIS
Ashlee Hutchinson is an aspiring photographer living in an around the Toronto, area. Ashlee is of Italian extraction. Ashlee is a detail oriented professional whose gift for photography becomes readily apparent upon viewing her work. Ashlee made the transition from photography into film and is now the proud director of a documentary currently in production. By the end of 2015 Ashlee’s first documentary should be completed and ready for release. WINN touched base with Ashlee in Toronto and had a quick rap session about herself, work, and aspirations. What follows are Ashlee’s answers to question we posed to her.
- 1 You were born in Niagara Falls. When did you know you wanted to get into photography?
From as far back as I can remember I has a love for photography. It is hard for me to put a date on when I first knew I wanted to become a photographer. You know, it seems as if I’ve always carried a camera and kept all the old videos. But I didn’t have a single lens reflex camera until the 2nd year of college studying Fashion Arts. I believe this was in 2013 while I attended Humber College????
- 2 Has photography always been a passion of yours?
That is a difficult question to answer, but here is what I would say about that. I have always had a passion to document events and milestones in the lives of people around me. So, documenting stages life and experience has always been a passion of mine. Photography became the medium through which I could document these events, give them live, texture by capturing the moment that may never get repeated. At times it can be magical.
- 3 What made you get into film making?
It seemed like a natural progression. It is one thing to capture an image and tell a story through one photograph or a series of photographs. Film is another way to capture the moments. It opens up different ways to tell your story and for longer periods. You only live once. Sharing with experience with each other and a broader group of people adds depth to life. It gives meaning to one existence. Film offers a set of possibilities that are different yet complimentary to still images. I can play arounf with my imagination a bit more with film and tell stories in different ways. I feel like film opens up many more possibilities..
- 4 You are now a film maker and a photographer. Is there one that you like more than the other?
Even though film offers more possibility to capture changing moods and nuances in experiences, there is just something personal, intimate and daring about photography. If I had to choose between the two I would opt for photography any day. And I do not think this will ever change. There is just something magical about capturing an image in a magnificent way in a photograph.
- 5 What is it about this visual medium that drives you?
I am assuming your question refers to photography. I do not think that I am where I want to be as a photographer. I have seen images taken by other photographers that are so compelling that I kind of say, I wish I could do that. You know, there are other drivers as well. As a photographer one always has to be ready to capture the moment as it happens. That is tougher than you may think. It is very challenging to do that. The time it takes to witness a special moment and physically capture it before it ends can be nanoseconds. So, one has to be ready and good enough to manipulate you instrument and to capture the truth of the experience. Photography, as a story telling medium, enables on to captures truth. There is no relativity in what the camera sees. So, I am fascinated by observing images and capturing as many truths as I can. It’s sometimes a chance, or luck that allows you to take a photo in unexpected ways and times. Sometimes your best work arises at moments when you the artist and in some cases the subject is most vulnerable. So, while the photograph tells a story about the subject, it also documents my own story. My own growth my own moods, etc.
- 6 What aspect of your work do you enjoy most at the moment?
I get wired when I can just pick my camera and document history in the making. I am helping to record history, not in the same way as a writer or historian does, but in some ways photography tells history in a cleaner and more unbiased way. A camera has no biases. Yes, there may be a million photographs in any one scene. So, there may be a million truths. The fact, though is that all of those truths are simply that truths. A photo is real representation and accurate depiction of the past, even if it’s just for that moment.
- 7 What is your approach to photography and film making?
Why do I have to have a single approach? I do not believe I have to have an approach. I don’t have one, and if I do it is a little bit of this, some of that. I consider myself a free spirit and approaches sometimes can be confining. So, I live in the moment, capture the moment and as free and uninhibited a ways as I can. It is just me and my camera recording history, telling stories, regardless of the amount of money I make doing it.
- 8 You have said that you are a story teller who uses story photography and film making to tell stories that matter to you. What type of stories appeal to you?
Stories are really interesting. We all have several stories. We all walk around with many stories to tell. I see myself as a story teller using the medium of photography to assemble and reflect the sum total of peoples experience in a face, a look, a way of being. I operate in the real space. Plenty of people work in fiction or stories that are contrived. For me, the best stories are always real, emerging from live experiences of people. For me, I’d rather engage my imagination not so much in recording the events that make up the story, but how to use photographic images to tell a compelling story. So, yeah. Real stories. You know, I am not really a pretentious person. Down to earth comes to ming when describing myself. That is the same kind of stories
- 9 Why do those type of stories appeal to you?
There is enough fiction in the world. From TV to people you interact on a day to day basis, there is enough drama and junky, sad and gory information. Our culture bombards us with so many fictional, and horror-related stories that are sensational. A lot of it is junk. We are supposed to make sense of all this junk. Real stories with real people can be just as entertaining. The difference is that real stories brings life and help define meaning to human lives and the human condition. Real stories help to teach us about ourselves, our capabilities, our challenges, our vulnerabilities and triumphs.
- 10 In your relatively short career you have managed to photograph some important people. For instance, you photographed Lady Gaga. How did that come about?
Things happen in the moment. With Lady Gaga I was simply walking back from break, noticed a black SUV pulled over. Gaga was taking photos with her fans and receiving gifts from them. So I got in line. I asked for the picture. I did not have a lot of time. I took the shot and the rest as they say is history. It was awesome.
- 11 you photographed Tommy Hilfiger. How did that come about?
As a photographer hungry for stories, one of the things I have learnt is that you have to just get out there and experience life. You have to get out there and find the stories. So, I attend a lot of events armed with my camera. I attended an event based on the brand. He attended at the Hudson’s Bay signing event in 2011. I was lucky enough to get the chance to photograph him then.
- 12. You photographed Rita Marley. How did that come about?
I got involved in a project lead by a woman named Patricia Scarlett. She produced a film by the name Rasta: A Soul’s Journey. That film uses Donisha Prendergast, Bob Marley’s granddaughter through Rita Marley, to tell part of the story of Rasta and its internationalization. Working with Donisha Prendergast, I had the opportunity not only to meet Rita Marley, but to sit down and have dinner with her. That was an amazing experience. In the course of our interactions I photographed her.
- 13 You photographed Anna Dello Russo. How did that come about?
While I was a student at Humber College I attended many Fashion events with a local Blogger. At these events I would meet incredible, fun and down to earth people, such as Anna Dello Russo.
- 14. You photographed Martin Luther King Jnr.. How did that come about?
As I said before, I attend a lot of events in order to experience life as it happens. Working with Donisha Prendergast increased the number of events that I have attended as Donisha has a lot of speaking and other engagements. One such event I attended with Donisha Prendergast was “We Day” held by Free the Children in 2013. Donisha Prendergast was one of the speakers at the event and I was part of her crew. Backstage I had the chance not only to meet Martin Luter King Jnr., to he was kind enough to consent to me photographing him. I feel like I am in the midst of history and sometimes I just cant believe the opportunities that landed in my lap. Coming from Niagara Falls I would never would of thought I would meet historical icons like Dr. Martin Luther King’s bloodline.
Q.15 You photographed LizLoughrey . How did that come about?
Toronto entertainment scene is ripe. It at the cusp. It is ready to be exposed and explode. There is so much talent in this city. One of Toronto’s up and coming artists is Adrian X. He is a guitarist who played with Drake. He now has his own band and label and produces music for other folks. I am currently doing a fair amount of work with Adrian X and some of the performers he has in his fold. I was introduced to Liz through my work with Adrian. I’ve taken photos of her performing alongside her manager and band.
- 16 You photographed Donisha Pendergrast, Bob Marley’s granddaughter, How did that come about?
Oh yes. Donisha Prendergast. What a delightful and freee-spirited, talented and determined soul. I met Patricia Scarlett, a former executive of TVO turned film producer and media personality. At the time that I met Patricia she was involved in producing the film Rasta: A Soul’s Journey. Patricia saw my work and decided to bring me on as a main photographer for the film. It is through this film that I first laid eyes on Donisha and we clicked instantly. Donisha has become not only a subject of my photography, but a friend. For about three years now I have been travelling with and documenting Donisha. Through this gig, I got the opportunity to go to London England and become involved with Donisha’s activities at the Britis Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). I have ton loads of images of Donisha that I have shot over the past three years. That has been a wonderful experience.
- 17 You photographed Andrian X. How did that come about?
Over the year i’ve covered a few of Adrian X’s live performances, working as a frequent photographer for him and his artist Liz Loughrey.
- 19 You did some video work for Over The Rainbow, how did that come about?
What an amazing organization Over the Rainbow is. It was a pleasure to have worked with Over The Rainbow for the past three years. Over the past two years i’ve shot their Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter look books.
- 20 You did some video work for Donisha Pendergrast, how did that come about?
The creative process is dynamic. Things just happen as ideas float around. When in the company of creative people, it is inevitable that ideas will float and some will take shape and others will disappear into thin air. This has been true working with Donisha. As I said before I have been travelling with her for about three years photographing her spiritual and creative journey. While travelling with her, I filmed some great moments such as documentary screenings to We Day events. I then put them together as recaps. Some of these are posted and shared onto the RasTa: A Soul’s Journey Facebook page. There is one in particular that is shot in black and white that I think is just awesome.
- 21 Of all the works that we have talked about which ones are you proudest about and why?
I am most proud of the work I did when I first started to take photography seriously. It built enough attention to form relationships with people who’s purposes in my life were underestimated.
- 21 I am told that you have a goal of producing at least twelve documentary in the next five years. What sorts of subjects do you anticipate doing a documentary about?
Yes, I do. If you think about it that is only two documentaries per year. I am clear that I have to chart my own course in this business because there is so much competition. So, I have chosen to be making and releasing stories. I have many friends and I am a people person. I attend a lot of events and come into contact with many stories. I understand that making twelve documentaries in five years may be considered a large goal. I have followed what they say—think big. With hard work and dedication I think I can pull it off. I am starting to surround myself with people who can help guide and shape my career. So, there are already two documentaries in the works that I am sure I will complete in 2015. So, I am well on my way to accomplishing my goal.
- 22. In five years or so, where do you want your career to be, are there specific projects you would like to work on?
This is going to sound a bit too simple, but it is true. In five years I want to be working a freelance photographer, supporting myself financially and have no visa debts. With some luck and good planning, I may end up with my own photographer and may be video studio. Ialso want to see the world, experience difference and sameness amongst people. I want to expand my mind beyond the narrowness of my own little world in Toronto. There is so much world to see and become a part of. Think about it, travel with my camera, documenting life, its people, special moments, and getting paid to do it is not so bad after all.
- 23 Who are some of the people who influence your work and artistic approach?
I do not really have iconic characters that influence my work. I don’t have a certain photographer or artist that I look up to, or try to emulate. There is no one person. There is also no one style of work to which I gravitate. I kinda feel that I am me and I just want to be me. I just want my photographic style to be me and not some take off of someone else. So, to answer your question I am influenced by life interactions with everyday people and their emotional flux.
- 24 Who are some of the people who have mentored you over the years?
A great photographer named Wade Hudson has been mentoring me over the years. Though Mr. Hudson is younger than I am his work is great. He and I ate friends. I tend to draw upon his expertise when I need technical advice. So, it is not mentoring in the traditional sense. Rather, he is more of an advisor. You should check out his work.
- 25 And who are some of the people you have mentored?
I can’t say i’ve mentored anyone yet. I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough yet to pass on any good lessons or tips about about photography. I am just trying to perfect my craft at the moment.
- 26 Are there specific places in the world that you would love to work?
Who knows where life will take me. Twenty years from now, I have little idea what I will be doing. While, I know what I want, the exact road to take me there is not too clear at the moment. The good news is that I am still young. So, while I would like to work from Canada as my base, I want to travel, see the world, experience the world, vividly capture images of people and events around the world. I know that this does not answer your question. I guess what I am saying is that while I want Canada to be the base from which I work, I want to rule out nothing as there are endless possibilities.