Ashley McDowell: Up From Under
Work seen at PhotoNOLA …
Photographer Ashley McDowell brought a poignant personal narrative to PhotoNOLA about pain, loss, sadness, and ultimately, hope. The wounds of addiction are inflicted not only on the addict, but all those who surround the person, in this case, Ashley’s sister. The series, Up from Under, reflects a family that is also in recovery, whose lives are shaken and changed by the course of events.
An artist and teacher, Ashley McDowell lives and works in Boston, MA. She received a BFA in Art Photography from Syracuse University and an MFA in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Her work chronicles the last several years of her own family’s struggle with addiction.
Up From Under
I began photographing my sister as a means to understanding her life. A life that at one time was almost entirely led by an addiction to heroin. I started by documenting her tightly knit world of desperation and fear. In this exposure of pain, I show a family that has been torn apart and pieced back together, only to be left in constant turmoil. This is the rollercoaster that is addiction, demonstrated by images of pleasure and plain echoing back and forth. Together we reveal the emotional and physical anguish of this all-too-familiar narrative – often hidden from outsiders.Through this decade long journey of dependency and recovery, the circumstances of our lives have changed and in turn so has the work. It is constantly evolving, as we move into our new roles. My sister, now a mother is pictured with her daughter on a bed, showing an intimate moment after waking from a nap. The simultaneous vulnerability and strength illustrates just how complicated this role is. Similarly I explore the intricacies of my own relationship with my sister, how it grows and changes over time. My attempt is to show my understanding of the complexities of our family dynamic, the journey to recovery and back again.
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