ashley manleyComment


ashley manleyComment
ashley manley

Do you know what I love? Watching my kids grow and change. I can't say I notice differences daily, but I most certainly do monthly.  Oak wiped his face with a napkin for the first time after lunch today, then he read 4 words out of a book.  Vale put her cup in the sink last week, by herself.  They change their minds, their likes, their abilities so quickly and it's a borderline beautiful  miracle of life to witness sometimes.

Do you know what else I love? Watching the seasons change. My biggest reason to move to Illinois was experience that change that was never part of my life as a kid.  To see new green life pop up in the spring and bright orange leaves fill the landscape in the fall.  The purity of the first snow in winter, the celebration of the first pool day of the summer.  Ready or not, life marches on.  Ever changing, ever beautiful.

But you know what I think is so strange? How I think these changes are amazing and wonderful but the idea of making  personal changes in adulthood is impossible. Embarrassing even. It's an admission of learning lessons, making mistakes, and having to prove things we said we would "never do" a lie. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes changing my mind makes me feel guilty, like I should have known this was going to happen somehow.

The last 7-months have been filled with some serious soul searching for me.  On parenthood, life, and photography.  I've spent a lot of time outdoors, strangely drawn to watching birds and bugs go about their business, steadfast in their life's work.  I've watched the cottonwood trees on our property go from green, to yellow, to brown, to bare.  I've watched the changes. I've admired them, even when it isn't beautiful at first look.

In this soul searching, I felt a restlessness in my work, one I knew the nagging answer to but looked for solutions that were easier..simpler.  But finally, thanks a lot of time writing and thinking and writing and thinking and some good words from Yan Palmer, I knew what I needed in my photography: a change.

Though I wasn't in business for the majority of this year, the photos I was taking, true to my documentary loving ways, weren't speaking to me.  I saw my kids, not me.  I saw my handful of clients, not me. I had worked so hard to be hands-off and authentic in my work that I felt like I lost my authenticity.  The photos were good, they just weren't me, not anymore.

So, as I write this, I'm on the verge of vomiting.  Because y'all, declaring a change after being so passionate about something is effing hard.  Like my kids and the seasons, it's a time of change for me, albeit one that started with me kicking and screaming. (Which, it should be noted is kind of ridiculous because I've told dozens of photographers "It's okay to change your mind...shoot what you want, how you want!" Clearly, I need to listen to my own advice sometimes!)  I have a special place in my heart for documentary photography, for photographs that are made purely from real life and the skills of a photographer, but my creative heart longs for something different.  For more wild images, images that are more me and my subjects, not just my subjects.  Images that are documentary and art and a hodgepodge of things that can't fit in a box. So, like the cottonwood leaves in the fields around my house and the abilities of my children, I too am changing...ready or not.  I'm chasing the light, chasing the art.

So why am I sharing this with you? For several reasons, really.  If you are a fellow photographer and feel lost in your work, maybe you need to change but haven't found the nerve.  Maybe reading this will serve as a good kick in the buns.  If you aren't a photographer but still a breathing person, maybe you have felt the nagging in your guts to do something differently but you were worried about getting judged, having those "never will I ever!" comments be held over your head.  As someone that has thrown out a lot of nevers in my life ("I'm never having kids!" "I would NEVER be a stay-at-home mom! kill me!" "I would never homeschool!" "I NEVER pose or interfere in my photography sessions...real is best, ya know?") I'm here to let you know, eating crow only tastes bad for a little while. And those people that judge you? Well, they must be perfect and never change their minds.  Don't sweat their judgements, they aren't your tribe anyway.  

And if you are a client of mine? I'm sharing this with you because I'm excited to say that I will be taking a few weeks of sessions next year (my complete calendar and session description are here!) so now you know what to expect in 2018...a photographer that's kinda the same, kinda different.

Whatever brings you here, let's make 2018 wild.  Here's to changes, for better or worse.