Behind the Lens: Ash James
Antoine Saint-Exupery says that “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." For Ash James, known notably through his work with acclaimed magazine Cereal, the pursuit of the perfect image is about stripping back the superfluous, shedding visual noise in order to engage with the essence of a moment. Ash says, "every country, city, building or room you enter has a feel to it; a certain energy, or emotion. I try to capture that and let my audience feel what I felt when I was there."
In this instalment of Behind the Lens, we turn our gaze to the visual harmony and simplicity encapsulated by UK-based photographer Ash James. We engage with his daily routines, his take on photography as an act of memorialisation and the role of minimalism in his craft. "I'm very much of the mindset that less is more," Ash admits. "That's just how I like things. If you came to my house you'd understand that. I can't stand clutter. Everything has its place."
Visual style: Clean, minimal
What motivates you: I do it because like many other things in my life - music, travel, coffee - it makes me come alive.
Introduction Chynna Lao
Portrait Rich Stapleton
Images Ash James for Cereal Magazine
What is your current state of mind?
This question made me think about the pop-punk band I was in during my teen years. We went through many terrible band names, but one of the first was State of Mind. I even had a vinyl sticker of it made to fit my guitar. (Haha!)
Anyway, that's beside the point. My current state of mind is quite thoughtful. It's a Sunday afternoon and I've been reading a great book called Emotional Agility by Susan David. You should check it out!
How do you like to begin your day?
I start every day at around 7am by taking my dog Leica (@leicadog) for a walk. We stroll down to the local park and he'll run around taking in the new smells and saying hello to every other living thing he meets along the way. I'll then come home, brew myself an Aeropress and make breakfast (usually involving bacon, eggs & avocado, with a small side dish for Leica).
"Honestly, it was nature that first drew me to photography. I love being out in the open air, adventuring and exploring. Photography was a way of getting out and doing that.”
What inspires you?
I very much admire people that give their all to what they do, whatever that might be. I’m also very lucky to work for a magazine here in the UK where I am surrounded by an incredibly gifted team of people. I'm always especially inspired by what they create; their dedication to their craft and determination to think ahead and consistently produce excellence. It inspires me when I see hard work produce fruit.
I also find a lot of my inspiration from other photographers around me. I love learning from other people’s work and aligning my view to their perspective for a moment. It’s important for me to always be adjusting my way of thinking so as to not become complacent or stagnant in my work.
How would you describe your visual style?
I'd say my style is fairly minimal. Intentionally so. I'm very much of the mindset that less is more. That's just how I like things. If you came to my house you'd understand that. I can't stand clutter. Everything has its place. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
"Every country, city, building or room you enter has a feel to it; a certain energy, or emotion. I try to capture that and let my audience feel what I felt when I was there. Whether that comes across in my images or not, I do not know. I hope so."
Do you believe that the advent of social media has transformed photography? How so?
People used to take photos for themselves, and maybe their friends and family to see. When you think about it, most people taking a photograph on a film camera back in the day would only have had a very small amount of people see it once it had been developed. Now, most people are taking photos to convince the world of social media (usually strangers) that they are significant and lead an interesting life. We take photos to prove something to the world around us and I don’t think that is healthy.
There seems to be this dichotomy with a lot of photographers where they either perceive photography to be about capturing truth or about creation, about creating something you can’t see versus memorialising something already present. Do you believe one over the other? What is photography to you?
I don't think photography is quite that black and white but I'd say I lean more towards capturing truth. For me it's more about capturing what I see and showing the world the way I see it. My goal is typically to let the person viewing my image in on what was seen by me at the time I took the image; my interpretation of the moment, if you will.