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ASH ALLEN INTERVIEW

What’s your Instagram name?

 

soft_shvde

 

What does that mean to you?

 

It’s meant to convey and conjure a feeling that represents a moment where our physical world overlaps with another plane of existence. Like a spiritual plane of existence. 

 

How did you get to your current form of artistic expression?

 

It started on a technical level with my interest in print. I was doing a lot of screen printing, and during the pandemic, I found cyanotype through researching online and trying to teach myself new skill sets during the pandemic.

 

What is cyanotype?

 

Cyanotype is an ancient method of printmaking. It’s always blue, and the first print I made with it, I was immediately obsessed. It was the most beautiful blue. I found it soothing and stimulating. 

 

 

Tell me about light and how it interplays with your composition.

 

I always feature light in them, like rays of light coming down or somebody being bathed in light or interacting with light in some way. It’s beautiful to me because the exposure process, the technical process of creating the images, is light and water — they are the two most important components of it.

The pieces are created with light and then rinsed with water. To me, that’s vitality. When I think of vitality, I think of light and water. On a physical level, physical vitality. Water represents healing and light and the ecstatic nature of what’s going on in those pieces.

 

You grew up near water, right?

 

That’s another thing. I grew up by the ocean, which has always been my element: the ocean, the water, the beach. I grew up in the Tampa Bay area in Florida. I spent much of my time growing up by water and the beach. It always calls to me. When I’m there, it’s like everything in me aligns.

 

How did your creative process evolve?

 

In the beginning, my work was more erotic, mainly just because I was finding images from vintage gay porn and manipulating them and exposing that. I began to want to photograph my models and push the work in a direction that would also create more community for myself. 

I have used the work in some ways to meet people and interact with other photographers, artists, or people doing something that I find attractive. Now I do photography.

Do you think of yourself as a photographer?

 

I guess I am literally a photographer. I’m taking photos of people, but it’s something that I’ve yet to be trained in. I’ve never taken classes, or I’ve never really set out to be that, but I am doing that. I take it everywhere with me, but this is simple.

 

What type of camera do you use?

 

 

This is FujiFilm FinePix, F31FD. It’s from the early 2000s. I love the quality of the photos that it takes. It looks like a film photo, and then my images are so manipulated. They go through such a process that it doesn’t matter. I don’t need a crazy photography setup or a lot of lighting or a lot of things like that. 

 

Who’s a good model for you? What shines through?

 

I choose my models because I sometimes want to connect with them more. It could be about friendship, somebody I’m interested in for some reason. I tend to like shooting gay men and other people in the queer community, creating work that I think is inspiring.

Sometimes, somebody’s work will make an impression on me, and I want to shoot with them because there’s something there. I want to create an archive of photos of people who stood out to me during my time here in New York. I like featuring people who inspire me.

When I’m editing, I’m almost falling in love with the person I’m editing the photos of. That person becomes an obsession for me, at least when I’m working on their image.

 

Describe how time and labor mix with your creative process. 

 

Sometimes, it unfolds in the editing process, where I change the developing time or contrast the transparency, or I tweak and edit little things.

It’s a long process because I have to prep new canvases every time that change happens, which takes a day. They dry overnight, so it’s like when I’m working on a project with a specific person, it takes a while. I would say anywhere from one to two months, sometimes three, but that’s the hard part for me. It’s not the result of the image itself. It’s the amount of images that I’m working with.

How do you know when a piece is finished? 

 

A feeling. It’s like a personal feeling. Sometimes I will cry, or sometimes I have an emotional response to it that’s always like a sign for me.

 

Do you listen to music when you create?

 

Yes. Ambient, real slow, sometimes very meditative music.

 

Your outer persona looks like… don’t exactly get Enya.

 

I was listening to Enya on the way here. That’s the last song that I liked “Orinoco Flow” by Enya.

 

“Orinoco Flow”? You seem more “hardcore” than that.

 

I know, people say that a lot. People will say, “Do you like heavy metal?” I’m like, literally no.

 

What is your dream life like?

 

My dream life is really active, sometimes too active. I believe that dreams are the subconscious mind communicating to the conscious mind through symbols for me. It’s like things that are underlying or that you might not think of in waking life in the form of concrete thoughts. 

There are things that the subconscious mind bleeds over into the conscious mind, but it’s in symbols like my dreams. 

 

What scares you?

 

It’s weird because lately, not much. I’m in a period of time where many of my viewpoints on core things in relation to the world and life are in a state of flux.

I have always had a fear of growing old alone, but I was recently reminded that I’m surrounded by many people who love and support me and show up for me in many ways. 

I realized that I had love all along.