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Ep. 24 – Photojournalism: Beauty and Sacrifice with Ash Adams
What are the costs and rewards of pursuing a creative career in photojournalism...
Ash Adams is a photojournalist based in Alaska. Her work primarily revolves around capturing the stories, landscapes, and people of her home state.
With a keen eye for visual storytelling, Ash has built a reputation for her evocative images and insightful approach to photojournalism, often focusing on themes such as indigenous cultures, the impact of climate change, and the challenges faced by those living in remote regions.
In this episode, we discuss the process Ash has when shooting a photojournalism story, what draws her to photography, her relationship with Alaska, and so much more. Sometimes photojournalism means sleeping on the floor, going awhile with food, long sleepless days, or exposing yourself to uncontrollable situations.
Ash talks about what it means to surrender to those elements and how the passion of storytelling motivates her to continue on the grind and hustle of a career in photojournalism.
Over the years, Ash has garnered numerous accolades for her evocative and impactful work. Her stunning images have graced the pages of prestigious publications, while her ability to forge genuine connections with her subjects has earned her a reputation as a compassionate and insightful visual storyteller.
As she continues to explore the breathtaking vistas and captivating stories of Alaska, Ash Adams' creative journey is a testament to the power of photography as a medium for fostering understanding, empathy, and appreciation for the world around us.
Ash started making photographs when she was 13, and never stopped. After making images of music scenes and the realm of her teenage life for years (including selfies on film before there were selfies), she enrolled in Ohio University’s Viscomm School of Design to study photojournalism formally.
Her professional career after undergrad continued in various parts of the editorial industry—from fact-checking to editing to writing to shooting—but moving up to Alaska over a decade ago was the push she needed to go freelance and devote her full energies to photojournalism.
Her creative journey to becoming a professional photographer is one marked by passion, determination and a profound connection to her environment. With a keen eye for detail and an uncanny ability to capture the essence of her subjects, Ash has carved out a niche for herself in the competitive world of photojournalism.
“Make work—lots of it. And don’t be afraid to take a less linear path—everything you do will make you a more well-rounded photographer and journalist. And read—everything. Read about the history of photography, the history of photojournalism, the history of journalism—and read critically, because it has not always been a fair or just game. Read about the history of the countries and regions in which you wish to work, the sciences—social and otherwise—that hold up a place’s past. Know and learn as much as you possibly can.”
Lastly, I asked Ash to share something she possesses that she cherishes and has meaning to her. Ash’s answer to that question as well as the image of her possession of significance is below:
“My knitting needles and also candles that I’ve made at home are a part of every carry-on—both have become part of my daily rituals (along with journaling, running, yoga and meditation) that come with me wherever I go and therefore hold me together when I’m in the throes of a lot of travel and weeks with many moving parts. They in and of themselves do not inspire necessarily, but like my running shoes and journal have become pieces of my world that create a sense of routine and stability that allows my mind to run free but with purpose.
There’s a perpetual restlessness to creativity that can also be its undoing; as I’ve moved through my thirties, I have found more redundant kinds of creativity to be useful tools in reigning in my thoughts and funneling my energy towards a destination. I tend to be on the manic side; I write songs, I publish poetry, I write and photograph as a journalist by profession. My mind is perpetually here and also somewhere else, drawing conclusions and making connections between things. On nights in which I find sleep challenging, I make beeswax candles, which does just enough to let whatever creativity or mind spiraling find focus and eventually restorative rest. When I feel restless but like I can’t get the words for a poem or story pitch together, I knit. When I run, I often have my very best ideas. Some runs feel absolutely spiritual.
There’s joy in these activities, too—I find myself smiling while knitting often, which, contrary to the frequent depiction of the tortured artist, I believe is actually so important to creative process. (Both profound joy and sadness are two sides of the process, at least for me.)
There is truly nothing in this world that I do not find inspiring—trees, flowers, the fake laughter in a sitcom, the way the dog chases the car, rain (just rain!). But having items and practices that travel well and can provide a sense of stability and structure in a life that juggles many things enhances both my mind and spirit in a way that allows inspiration and creativity to take up a space and a shape.”
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