Ashley Kauschinger: The States Project: South Carolina
Ashley Kauschinger and I met for the first time at the national Society for Photographic Education conference in Baltimore, Maryland. We immediately hit it off—we talked of our mutual admiration for each other, for all the amazing women that we have met and feel lucky to know in our field—you could say it was an all around love fest for sure.
I would have to make a guess here, but I think this is often how she breaks the ice when meeting new people. Of her many talents, I would include her ability to make people feel special, heard and celebrated. Beyond this she runs a brilliant online magazine called Light Leaked, gives “inspiration” lectures to her students at USC, and makes images that are steeped in meaning and research.
Ashley Kauschinger is a photographer and book artist that explores female identity and contemporary women’s voices. She received her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and her MFA from Texas Woman’s University. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally in venues such as the Light Factory and the Griffin Museum of Photography. She has been published in Chinese Photography Magazine, the PDN Photo Annual, the South Atlantic Review, and Lenscratch, among others. Her work is in the collections of Vanderbilt University and the Sir Elton John Collection.
Ashley is also the Founding Editor of Light Leaked, an online photography magazine that creates dialogue and community. Ashley lives in Columbia, SC where she is an Instructor at the University of South Carolina.
In Her Own Right
In Her Own Right is a collection of portraits, text, and audio of women in art. Fueled by a desire to create space in my work for connection, dialogue, and inspiration I photographed women that live down the street and women that live half way across the country. Beginning with my community, I am creating a platform to empower and share the voices and lives of female artists. The future of this project will include a webbing out to the communities of others based on nominations.
Historically and contemporarily women have often been described as having a talent or ability “in her own right.” Women continue to be placed in a role of muse or model in art. In Her Own Right is reframing the idea of muse by putting the female artist at the center in order to inspire and empower one another’s art making and contribute to the idea of what an artist looks like.
Photographed mostly in the homes or personally significant spaces of each artist, the series also investigates broader ideas of female identity and the choices women make in their every day lives.
I invite you to spend some time with these women and the people in your life that inspire you. Let’s listen to each other’s voices, and use our own. Let’s champion and not compete with one another. Let’s be open to new experiences and be courageous.
An audio component to In Her Own Right can be found here.
So much of what you do as an artist is in service to others, from being the founder and editor-in-chief of Light Leaked–which is all about the celebration of other artists–to being an educator, how do you feel this informs your process in the way that you make work?
I’m happy when I’m contributing, listening (and being listened to), encouraging, connecting, and making positive impacts on people’s lives. I think discovering what we have to offer to people around us, in our communities or beyond, is what adds meaning to our lives. I am always trying to search and reevaluate what I have to offer.
Of course, this is a balance. Sometimes I neglect my art practice, opting instead to talk about others or push things aside to do something for a student or fellow artist. That is part of where this work sprang from, thinking about what I am inclined to do naturally and how I can incorporate that into my working practice so that I can work on several areas of interest at a time.
This work is definitely an extension of Light Leaked in some ways. Many of the artists included I met through Light Leaked. The connective spirit and desire to learn more about other artists that LL is rooted in, has spilled over into my photographic work with this series. It does bring a new element of needing to be physically present with the artist to make a portrait. The Internet is great, but it really can’t replace the experience of talking about your lives over a glass of wine or making dinner and looking at someone’s photography collection at the table (as much as we would like to forget that).
Who is the woman in your life that most inspires you?
As many women in the project so far have echoed, my mother is the most inspiring woman in my life. She orientated me to the world and my understanding of being a woman. As I get older, I value her more and more, for being caring and respectful and for always being there for me while also giving me space to grow and learn for myself. My previous body of work was about her and she and I being both individuals and reflections of each other.
Beyond that I can’t list just one. First, because this project is opening me up to revealing inspiration from so many women. Second, because many women continue to shape all areas of my life.
My mentor, Susan kae Grant, is a model of a working artist and educator, and I will forever incorporate what she has taught me into my working life.
My tribe (every artist should have one): Allison Jarek, Ashley Whitt, Kalee Appleton, Rachael Banks, and Sheryl Anaya. We are continually there for each other through every decision and every questioning moment of what am I doing all this for anyway, no matter how far away we live from each other. Our text chains cover everything from gifs of cats to advice on what jobs are right for us and what we are working on.
Also, I couldn’t be more fortunate that I ended up in Columbia, South Carolina for the last few years where I have gotten to work with an inspiring group of women: Kathleen Robbins, Lauren Greenwald, Stef Shively, and you (Meg Griffiths!). All of which are extremely hardworking women with different perspectives on art and life that have all modeled for me passion, balance, and tenacity. I’ve grown so much as an educator and artist because of it.
I’ve definitely gleaned inspiration from all of the women that are a part of this project in some way. I will sum this up here by saying that community is important to me. I can’t make work alone, I don’t think any of us can.
What do you hope that women and men glean from this work?
I hope that through this work women, that are a part of this project and viewers of it, will find value in their own voices. Women have a tendency to feel that their voice is not important, something that has honestly been a hard part of this project so far. Convincing women that I want their voice to be a part of the work, and that it is important.
The other day I was talking to one of the women, and she commented that she was surprised she sounded intelligent during her interview, and I said, it sounds that way, because you are!
I hope that people who view this work take time to understand the perspectives of others, especially if they are male. To listen and see that empowering women and all kinds of diversity are in the best interest of all of us to have more choices and empathy. Sometimes men have opinions about the lives and work of women, without really hearing from them first. How about we listen to women, and believe them. I know and have been around many supportive men, who understand, value, and respect the work of women. To these men, I say thank you, and let’s teach that understanding to others as much as possible!
I’ve also been asked many times during reviews or artist talks, “Where are the men? Are male curators and editors interested in this work? Why don’t you also show a male perspective?” etc., etc., for work that had nothing to do with men, but somehow always need to be included.
I won’t pretend like I know the answers or even all of the questions. But this is the contribution that I know how to make. In the future, I hope that I will know how to make more.
You took a road trip to make some of this work, what was the most inspiring song that you listened to while on your drive?
My fiancé and I traveled together, and we like to yell out the answers to trivia questions when we drive. So I think the entire time we listened to just about every episode of Ask Me Another available to the point where I now feel like Ophira is one of my friends (on a first name basis)!
Posts on Lenscratch may not be reproduced without the permission of the Lenscratch staff and the photographer.
Jen Ervin: The States Project: South CarolinaJuly 22nd, 2017
Michelle Van Parys: The States Project: South CarolinaJuly 21st, 2017
John Lusk Hathaway: The States Project: South CarolinaJuly 20th, 2017
Ashley Kauschinger: The States Project: South CarolinaJuly 19th, 2017
Tracy Fish: The States Project: South CarolinaJuly 18th, 2017