Capturing Joy with Photographer and Influencer Ashleigh Reddy

In these times of uncertainty, one thing we know for sure at KIM+ONO is that we are always stronger when we stand together. That’s why we are picking some of our favorite entrepreneurs and artists to feature over the coming months. These women are truly forces for good in the world. We hope that no matter where you find us, whether it’s online or at our kimono store, you don’t just find a kimono robe you love, but a message that makes you feel uplifted, empowered, and inspired. Today we’re featuring a woman whose message does just that.

Meet Ashleigh Reddy: a photographer, straddling the titles of both entrepreneur and artist with her work. She has a story like so many of you in our community. The pandemic has caused her to pivot, stay flexible, and look for the joy surrounding her amidst the chaos. Whether you’re an up and coming photographer or not, Ashleigh’s story is truly a beautiful and powerful testament to the power of a woman’s spirit to go after love and to capture joy, no matter what.

Stay Reddy Photography
Photo by Ashleigh Reddy

Your Instagram profile introduces you as a “photographer capturing joy.” We absolutely love that ethos. What does capturing joy mean to you? And how do you bring that to your photography?

Thank you! My friends actually helped me come up with my bio. I felt like I needed to have a clear and concise description that people could quickly read once they saw my page. For years, my business cards have read “I capture moments” and I realized many of those moments were joyous. Capturing joy is partially me waiting for specific moments and partially me engaging & connecting with my subjects. I think I bring to my photography a curiosity about people and human emotion which often manifests itself as joy.

Ashleigh Reddy

Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Reddy

During this incredibly challenging year, how has the mission to capture joy transformed your work and, perhaps, transformed you?

I became extraordinarily sick at the end of January with a mystery illness. My biggest fear at the time was not being able to photograph during a busy week for me, but I somehow pushed through (though I should have stayed at home and rested). After a large job, I felt progressively worse and ended up checking into the ER where I was hospitalized for 5 days and I found out I had a severe case of viral meningitis.

Shortly after, my work came to a screeching halt at the beginning of March because of the pandemic. I entered into a dark, dark place where I felt helpless. Those feelings intensified after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others came to light. In response, protests around the world galvanized quickly. I attended & photographed a few local protests and noticed that there was so much pain being shared online. I knew I didn’t have the capacity to only show pain, so I decided to do what felt right to me, and I knew would feel good to other people. I started posting photos I’ve taken over the years of Black joy. As I looked through my images, I realized that within my work, there were so many happy moments. From photos of travel to music festivals, to even corporate work - I found myself drawn to people's joy. Talking to folks online and having conversations with friends, I knew that this was something people needed. This time away from my regular photo work has made me realize that. 

Ashleigh Reddy
Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Reddy
You’ve overcome a lot to bring you to where you are today. You were fired from a job at the same time you were mourning the loss of your father, and from that time, you immersed yourself into photography full time. What do you think you learned during that difficult time that allowed you to jump into your passion for photography? 
Photography is something that has always made me feel good. I’ll never forget the excitement I experienced when learning how to develop images in the darkroom in high school. I knew pretty early on that photography was what I wanted to pursue as a career, though I wasn’t sure how.
2009 is the year that was simultaneously the worst year of my life as well as the most transformative. I was working a non-profit job during the day and photographing on nights and weekends. After I was fired from that day job while grieving the loss of my father just a few months prior, it became clear to me that I had to do something different.
I fell into a deep depression and needed to stay busy to keep my mind out of a dark place. I was doing freelance makeup occasionally but ramped up my hours because I needed to make consistent money. I also enrolled in photo classes at the local city college and that is what literally got me out of bed on most days. It was the one thing that excited me. It was something that forced me to create. To collaborate with my classmates. I learned that I had to keep going and stay active to move through the pain. While in school, I continued to photograph nights and weekends on days I wasn’t booked as a makeup artist. After a few years, there came a point where my photo business had grown significantly. I had to make a decision about whether I wanted to continue doing makeup or follow the path of photography. My heart knew that while I loved makeup, I felt more fulfilled being behind the camera. So I took that leap into a full-time freelance photography career.
What I learned, as cliche as it sounds, is to follow my heart. I could have continued to pursue makeup, but I knew deep down that wasn’t my calling. When I thought about myself in 5 years, 10 years, I knew that photography was definitely the path I wanted to follow. Ultimately, I had to do what made me happy. 
Ashleigh Reddy
Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Reddy

Who and what are some of the influences that have inspired your work? 

My family, specifically my mom and brother inspired me to get into photography. My mom took tons of photos of us when we were kids and she gave me my first camera when I was 8. I felt a huge sense of responsibility to not only take good photos but to not lose the actual camera! :) We grew up with images lining the walls of our home and it just felt natural for me to create my own memories.

My older brother took film photography in high school and was the reason I ended up taking that same class once I entered high school. I thought it was so cool that he was making his own images and I couldn't wait to try it myself.

As far as working as a professional photographer, I haven’t spent much time studying specific people. This is mostly because of the bulk of my work being corporate and tech events, which is fun, but isn’t necessarily the most creative. I’d say lately, as I’ve had more time on my hands, I’m inspired by Black photographers worldwide. 

How do you balance the artistic side of your photography with the more practical, logistical aspects of running your own business?

Over the years, I’ve learned that to truly grow your business in a sustainable way, you need to have a strong business sense. Putting together systems of organization helps to free up your time for your creative ventures.

Ashleigh Reddy
Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Reddy

If someone is starting out in photography, or any creative or entrepreneurial venture, what advice would you give them at the beginning of that process? 

Do your research! Explore all the options If you’re starting out in photography, find out what excites you. Assist other photographers. Try taking images of things out of the ordinary. Take online courses. Most importantly, just create. Don’t worry about the business side of things too much until you have an idea of what it is you want to pursue and maybe a portfolio of work to show once people are considering hiring you.

Stay Reddy Photography

Photo by Ashleigh Reddy

What has running your own business taught you about your own dreams and aspirations?

That the only limits are the ones I place on myself. I knew early on that working for someone else would essentially mean a cap on my salary and capabilities. Working for yourself has its own set of challenges, but ones you usually have control over. 

What gives you hope?

Black people. 

Throughout hardship, Ashleigh finds a way to keep capturing joy and that’s why we are so grateful to feature her today in the journal. Find out more about Ashleigh and see her work on Instagram and her website!

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