Together with VSCO, we’re excited to feature our VSCO Voices grant recipients. The program supports five creators with mentorship and funding to help them give voice to marginalized communities in the United States through art. This year’s theme, Home, drew many wonderful applications and we are excited to be interviewing each creator that was selected for this year’s cohort to learn more about them and their projects.

In this third feature we talked to VSCO Voices creator Ash Adams. Ash is a photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Anchorage. Ash’s project, To Become a Person, examines coming of age in indigenous rural Alaska. Passionate about serving underrepresented populations, Ash believes that the uncertain concept of “home” is one that warrants critical thought and conversation.

We spoke with Ash about her ongoing project, what she is learning, and advice she would give to others. Here is what she had to say.

Can you describe your path to becoming a photographer?

Honestly, I started making photographs when I was 13, and for the most part I just haven’t stopped. After making images of music scenes and the realm of my teenage life for years (including selfies on film before there were selfies), I enrolled in Ohio University’s Viscomm School of Design to study photojournalism formally. My 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 almost a decade ago was the push I needed to go freelance and devote my full energies to photojournalism. It, along with research and writing, is all I do.

 

What’s the project you are working on for VSCO Voices?

I’m working on a chapter of a project called To Become A Person—a project that looks at what it’s like to come of age in indigenous rural Alaska. For this specific chapter, I’m working in communities that are severely affected by climate change and trying to make a visual picture for what it is like to live in a quickly changing landscape while living out the teen years—where everything is quickly changing on personal levels as well.

Why is working on this project important to you?

This project is important to me for many reasons, including that my children are Inupiat. I want to make work that represents this population—that they feel is representative of their communities—and as a way to create conversations about some of the issues that these youths face in addition to the changing landscapes.

Creators can be a force of change when they make work that informs, helps humanize controversial conversations, and reaches the broadest audience possible.

What have you learned so far working on this project?

I’ve learned that this project, more so than some others I’ve worked on, requires every bit of patience and time that I can give it. And I’ve relearned something I learn again and again: that like most intimate projects, listening and being present, is the first and most important part. The photos come after. And if I’m lucky, there’s something subtler in the imagery that rises.

How might creators be a force of change?

Creators can be a force of change when they make work that informs, helps humanize controversial conversations, and reaches the broadest audience possible.

Is there a point in your career—5 years from now, or maybe 10—that you know you eventually want to get to?

Well, first and foremost—I always want to be making work. And I want to always be pushing to dive deeper and make better work. I’d like to teach in addition to doing this eventually—which I see as something in my 7-10 year plan. But for now, I want to continuing falling in love with story and working to continually grow as a visual storyteller.

ash adams

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who’s just starting out?

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.

You can read our last VSCO Voices feature Eric Javier Mejia here. To stay up-to-date on our most recent journals and work subscribe to our newsletter.

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