Ashley Joncas is an artist, photographer, and designer currently based in Seattle. She is most recognized for her dark atmospheric approach to visuals and her distinct editing techniques. When she’s not creating, she’s most likely running through a graveyard or eating your food when you aren’t looking.
DIYP: Tell us a little of how you got into photography, and who your influences are.
AJ: I got into photography by accident, actually! I grew up as a painter and illustrator, thinking I would go into traditional art as a living. The more I studied shadow and how light hit forms for my work, I realized I needed reference photos to relate 2D to reality. When I was 18 I bought a really horrible digital camera and started doing self-portraits. From there it grew into my life passion and has truly transformed the way I approach art and life.
Some of my major influences are Hieronymous Bosch, whose Garden of Earthly Delights became an ongoing artistic fascination of mine. I admire Steven Klein as a photographer and visionary, and then Steve Jablonsky, Ramin Djawadi, and Amon Tobin as artists in music. Edgar Allen Poe is also a weird catalyst for me. His words are so cold and stale, yet full of raw truth and biting reality. When I’m really drained of inspiration I usually go to a cemetery and read his poetry.
A lot of my final photos also derive from dreams and nightmares that I have. The busier I’ve become, the more vivid and dramatic they are (probably due to stress), but most of the fire-infused images I’ve done are direct reflections of nightmares. Most of the trauma I’ve gone through earlier in life is also a catalyst, as well as various moments of rebirth from those unstable times.
DIYP: Your body of work has a beautiful moody tone to it, is this something you aim for or does it naturally progress that way.
AJ: Everything I touch always progresses into some dark vortex of mystery, unintentionally and intentionally! Inside I’m very multi-dimensional with emotion, so it’s developed into an editing style. Luckily people ask me for that now, so it’s a happy accident.
DIYP: Recently you created some cyberpunk inspired work, tell us a little more about those images.
AJ: My friend and I had thrown around the idea of shooting something Bladerunner inspired at the beginning of the year. I’m a not-so-secret science fiction fanatic and have done a lot of futuristic shoots in the past, but kind of let it slide. We both made a plan to scale the rooftops of downtown LA and create a series of cinemagraphs that felt reminiscent of the original film but revamped. I think taking on personal projects can lead to so much more artistic discovery than anything money driven, so this was an example of us just going balls-to-the-wall for an idea and creating something truly beautiful.
DIYP: For anyone starting out with the desire to create fantasy/gothic portraits like yourself, what advice would you give them about finding inspiration?
AJ: I would say to look first within yourself. I’ve used much of my own emotion to manifest the final images I create, and I think the most visually successful artists out there are the ones that are channeling from something inside themselves. I actually never set out to enter the realm of dark fantasy work but it became second nature once I let go of what society wanted me to be as a photographer. Like I’ve mentioned, much of my inspiration comes from my own life, so as much it helps to look to others for inspiration, look within yourself first. You may be surprised what lives within if you just take the time to self-reflect.
DIYP: How important is Photoshop in your workflow, would you be able to create your images without it?
AJ: Photoshop is more important to me than my actual camera. I get a lot of heat when I say that, but I think of myself always as an artist, and photoshop is the tool I need most to create what I see in my head. 60 percent of what I do is heavy in post-production, so the raw file is the canvas and base coat, and photoshop is where I can develop the masterpiece. I pray to the almighty Adobe gods every night for their epic contribution to my creative life!
DIYP: Working in more of a niche market than the typical photographer, do you find this a benefit or a help?
AJ: It’s made me stand out in terms of style. I attract people who are more in line with my point of view, but on the flip side, it isolates me. I’m not very “sellable” to mainstream agencies. I’m not in the arena of shooting weddings or head shots or anything commercial….so with those being very lucrative avenues, I’m over on the other side setting things on fire and running around abandoned buildings. However, I think with where I want to go in life, what I’m doing is necessary.
DIYP: Out of all your projects, which had the most impact on your life?
AJ: My trip to Iceland last year was probably the biggest life changer for my work and for me personally. It was the first time I’ve felt connected with the planet, with my own thoughts, and my own vision for what I can do creatively. I spent 7 days traveling through the most gorgeous terrain, sleeping 3 hours a night and shooting for the other 21 hours. For the past few years, I felt very constricted living in such a busy city and being out in the middle of nowhere with a group of artists was a breath of fresh air, literally.
DIYP: If you were only allowed to give one essential piece of advice to a beginner, what would it be?
AJ: Be strong in your voice, because it’s irreplaceable. This industry is often congested with thousands of people doing the same thing to please the world of its constant desire for beauty. Create with the voice inside yourself and it will carry you through the sea of sameness.
DIYP: What cool projects do you have lined up for 2018.
AJ: A lot of exciting things in the works! Some I am sworn to secrecy about, but for the most part 2018 will be a year of big change and even bigger projects. As far as personal work, I have 3 different series in the works that will be pushing what I do visually even further. I’m planning to get back to Iceland again too, as well as Edinburgh and Croatia.
DIYP: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time?
AJ: I see myself directing and doing atmosphere design for television and film. The more I’ve evolved as a photographer, the more I’ve come to realize that my calling is creating alternative habitats and worlds within a photo or screen. I also would really love to have a space that I can paint and work in within my own home as well. It sounds like a pretty simple dream but I’ve never truly had a space to experiment in without having to worry about making a mess or getting fake blood on the carpet (which I do a lot). The next year will be a really big transition for me, and it will set the foundation of some of those dreams.
You can also find Ashley on Instagram as @ashleynjoncas.