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Inspired by his coming of age in a small town in Louisiana, Ransom Ashley tells us the story behind his recent photographic series Virgins. Revisiting memories and psychological currents of his childhood, Ashley’s work becomes centered on emotions and explorations while projecting all these feelings into the images within the series. Impacted and influenced by how people around him are not able to see the value in artistic expression or individuality, he achieves to create and tell a relevant story. “It was a personal endeavor for me, which is also why all of the people in this series are quite significant in some way to my coming of age experience.” 
Can you tell us more about your background and how you became interested in being a photographer, actor and cinematographer?
I was a very creative kid with a lot of energy. I was never interested in sports like most of the other boys my age, but was instead very theatrical and artistic, qualities that I had difficulty finding a medium for in my small southern town. I believe it was in my sophomore year of high school when I discovered theater, and I remember feeling like this whole world had opened up before my eyes. This incited in me a passion for storytelling and narratives and I began to experiment with implementing these same objectives in my photography work. Eventually, I began auditioning for films and it was around this time that I fell in love with the visual aspects of filmmaking and the congruency it had with what I was already attempting to do with my photography work.
You are originally from Shreveport, Louisiana; how did this town influenced you on your current project?
Shreveport, for most of my teenage years, was a huge obstacle to me. I always had dreams and aspirations that I knew I would never be able to accomplish or pursue in my hometown and I think I resented that in many ways. I didn’t understand why many of those around me didn’t see the value in artistic expression or individuality. This impacted me a lot as I struggled to find my place within this rigid framework that can be so characteristic of the south, so I believe it not only influenced my getting into photography but also gave me a story I wanted to tell in Virgins. I projected all of these feelings into the images that you see within the series.

So what’s the story you tell in Virgins?
Virgins was inspired largely by my own emotional rollercoaster while coming of age. I was quite perturbed with what I discovered, as I grew older and became more aware of the world around me, especially regarding what it meant for my own identity. Growing up in small towns can be quite difficult if you deviate from the status quo and experiencing this reality really derailed my own experience growing up. I supposed I injected many of the attitudes I have about my own experience into Virgins. It became an outlet for me to express how I felt during this time in my life!
What is the philosophy you seek to challenge in this visual project? 
More than challenging a philosophy, I hope to show different emotional aspects of growing up in a place where you feel quite alone and isolated. It was a personal endeavor for me, which is also why all of the people in this series are quite significant in some way to my coming of age experience. Most people characterize the teenage years with adjectives like freedom or experimentation but the reality is that it can be a very difficult experience for some that are having difficulties discovering or expressing their true identities.
How did your work become centered on both, physical and emotional narratives?
Because of my background in storytelling, I have always attempted to create narratives that people could find themselves in. I never wanted people to view my photographs as something in and of themselves but instead I have always wanted my photographs to inspire people to use their imagination to see this decisive moment as a piece of something much larger: a story that they could create and inhabit themselves.

As a visual artist, where do you draw inspiration from?
I would say I draw most of my inspiration from music and films. A song can arouse in me a feeling that I want to capture visually or a movie can leave me feeling something that I want to convey in a photographic format. As far as photographer’s that I pull inspiration from, I would say that I have always been inspired by the narrative content within the work of photographers like Cindy Sherman and William Eggleston.
Are you working on any new projects currently?
I am currently working on a project entitled Louisiana that is inspired by the character and also isolation of Louisiana but on a wider, less intimate scale.

Words
Melissa Worrall

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