As we say a grateful goodbye to 2015, we have so much to celebrate. At the top of our list, is YOU! And this year we'd like to share more from the incredibly talented people in the Epiphanie community. So we're bringing back Hotshot, a bi-weekly post featuring a photographer that we're just crazy about.
Kicking it off for us? Ashley Parsons, from We are the Parsons. Ashley is warm and real and her authentic spirit really shows up in all her projects, whether it's Mornings With You, The Don't Give Up Project, or her latest offering: Reset: A 10 Day Detox for Creatives. What a perfect way to start the year, and it's only $45! Click here for more info, and here to purchase.
Predictable question, but how did you get into photography?
I got into photography by mistake. As a natural childbirth coach in my 20’s, I went to a health fair hoping to get more patients. At each of my births I would make photographs of the new family on a crappy point-and-shoot camera once the baby was born. Weeks after the birth, I would visit the family and give them a book I made with the photographs and the story all written out. The book always brought tears and joy and seemed to be one of the most valuable things I could have given them. At the health fair, I played a slideshow of a compilation of these images. At the end of the day, I had no new patients but a chiropractor who also had a booth at the health fair came over and asked if I would be her wedding photographer. After saying no, she found me online, wrote me begging me to do it, saying she would pay whatever it took. I made a contract saying “when these pictures don’t turn out, we won’t sue her” and charged them the price of a new digital SLR. They paid it, loved the photographs, and I loved making them. Each photograph I made that day felt like a Christmas present I was giving myself. I went home to my husband and said, “I think we are going to be photographers now.” and the rest is history. :)
If you hadn't been a photographer, what would you have been?
I can’t say for sure. With my education and experience in coaching childbirth, I was on a good track to becoming a midwife, so I could have seen that panning out. But in recent years my love of words and storytelling has really been raring its head in my subconscious, so maybe I am yet to be an author. ;) I am always evolving and I embrace that as a big part of my personality. I think part of my gift as an artist is to feel the wind on my face and sense where it is blowing next.
Can you tell me more about "Mornings With You" sessions? (what a great idea!)
of course! “Mornings with You” came out of a realization I had one morning as I thought about motherhood. So many of my dear friends and the women in my life are in the nitty gritty stages of being a mom of young kids. They love it and hate it. They feel too busy and they get bored. They feel like they are in constant company but get lonely. They are overwhelmed and blessed by the beauty and the mess.
I realized just how brave we moms are for walking through this season of life with very little or no praise on a daily basis. Most of the day their partners are gone while they do one thousand thankless jobs for these tiny humans who are the future of this planet. They love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. These women deserve to be celebrated for their beauty, their bravery, their worth. We all know how quickly time passes, so my hope is that these handfuls of photographs from this one morning in their lives will champion their efforts, make them feel seen and beautiful, and give them hope and joy as they look back years from now.
How do you find a balance between work/family/self care?
easy: I don’t. In my life, I have found that balance is a white rabbit that doesn’t need to be chased. I have seasons and rhythms in my life and I am learning to flow with those like the tide coming in and out. Sometimes I have weeks where I manage to spend 20 minutes a day in centering prayer, 30 minutes a day exercising, and am caught up on emails. Other weeks, our special needs son is tantrum-ing more than normal, has three different appointments at the hospital, our older boys are running track, our business is trying to pull off a workshop and catch up on four weddings, and we have guests staying in our home. it’s a clusterfuck. But it’s beautiful and messy and good and hard and imperfect and just as it should be, filled with grace.
Have you ever felt burned out? If so, what do you do to get re-inspired?
I have, and am starting to wise up to it. I think so much of our stress and burn out is self-inflicted and a reflection of a perverted relationship to the way we spend our time. It’s like we have to be in trouble before we remember what is truly essential to us. I get re-inspired by the beauty of the world, and the things that re-connect me to my inner life. I remember who the people are in my life who truly see me and let me be myself with them, and I ride my bike to their house and drink wine on their front porch. Last spring, we quit social media. We vacated the spaces that had taken up all of our free time. In the wake of boredom, I spent an hour each spring morning sitting on our front porch watching two sparrows build a nest, listening to the chorus of birdsong as my soundtrack. I read Mary Oliver and Rilke’s book of hours and Thomas Merton. I began taking long walks in our old neighborhood without my phone on me, practicing centering prayer, reading more honest books than I can count, and dancing more to loud music in my house.
To re-inspire, I have learned that instead of the knee-jerk of looking outward, I must quiet myself, slow my pace, and reconnect to the powerful currents of my inner life. I think there is such wealth to be found in those quiet places inside of ourselves where no one but God goes. They connect us to true beauty, to true belonging. There are limitless resources waiting there if we are willing to stop numbing and excuse making and carve out the space to connect to them.
What's a typical day like for you?
It’s always changing. I think that’s what I love about our life and also what I rage against. It usually involves some elements of coffee, prayer, silence and solitude, time to write in the trailer, bills, cooking food for my family in the kitchen, wine, talking with friends, cuddling with the 4 year old in our comfy bed, emails, stress, billie holiday / josephine baker, laughter, laundry, tongue kissing the husband, dancing around the living room to a record, a book, painting or playing a game with the my older boys, and some time to dream.
Where do you feel most comfortable?
I feel most comfortable at the dining room table my husband made with his own two hands, when we have an army of family and friends gathered around and everyone is drinking too much and eating too much and laughing loud.
Something you're still learning?
I’m still learning the reality that is the central current of my life: No matter what happens in the day to day, God is love, and because of that I am free to just run and fall and create and thrive and screw up and be who I was created to be, with nothing to prove and no one to impress. With this as the defining theme of my existence, I can value every other person who comes across my path as a fellow traveler being loved by that same God.
What do you find challenging about being a photographer?
The same thing I love about it: the uncertainty and mystery to it all. My brain is a bit of a think tank, always trying to be ten steps ahead. Photography allows for that at times, but much of the time it doesn’t. There are pictures that need to be made and I find myself simply being a vessel to allow those to flow out. Running a photography business allows very little certainty, as well. Because we don’t advertise or market, I have no idea who is going to find our work today and why. I have no idea how we even got here in the first place or where we will be in a year. I have found that making art and running our own family business requires a faith in mystery and a knowing that the people who find us have found us for a reason, and we have a responsibility to value their stories and serve them however we can.
I guess it would have to be our city, Kansas City. not because it’s the sexiest place I’ve ever been, but because there are people here that love like no one else we’ve ever met. the people who we get to call friends here in this city are some of the most beautiful souls I could ever meet, and they make this place the best place to call home.
What are your thoughts on blogging?
I enjoy blogging, although I am also fascinated by how the tides have turned since I first started blogging a decade ago. "Back in the day," there was such a high interaction rate with blogs. Any sharing would lead to many people engaging in a post, honoring the work and sharing their own stories. I feel like an old lady these days when I share something that’s really meaningful to me on the blog, see that hundreds or thousands of people looked at it, and hear nothing from any of them. I think, unfortunately, the platforms we have embraced in the past few years to make us more “social" and “connected" have ended up creating a group of people who consume rather than connect. Even so, I will keep blogging and joyously sharing the stories and people that have impacted my journey and our lives.
What do you think are three biggest mistakes photographers make?
I can’t speak for other photographers. But I think the three biggest mistakes I have made in my business were:
1. wasting precious time on social media / comparing myself to others
2. thinking I/we were too good for certain jobs and turning people away who really loved and appreciated the work.
3. worrying about fame or money instead of just enjoying the process of where we were at and honoring the stories and the lovely people who filled them.
How do you market your business? What has been the most successful for you?
We don’t really market our business much. Our traffic comes in through word of mouth and people who happen to stumble on our work.
As strange as it is, we start our work week by praying that God would bring us everyone we are supposed to work with and keep everyone else away.
it seems to always be answered, and we trust in the mystery.
Best three tips for someone starting out?
smell your bum.
and eat cookies."
these are the answers my small boys just told me to give you. LOL.
I think they are pretty valid. besides number 2. haha.
if it’s us adults talking? ….
choose to love and serve others more than your ego.
embrace mystery and the potential of the supernatural showing up in your work.
appreciate the beauty and/or struggle of where you are right now.
it’s been fun to share.