K: Hi Ashtin! Super stoked to have you as our #KaleidosGal this month! Thank you for spending time to talk with us! :)
AP: Hello! I'm happy to be apart of this. Thanks for having me!
K: When did you first learn of your passion for photography? What is it that you love to shoot the most?
AP: My very first magazine subscription was Teen Vogue when I was 12 and I would study those photo spreads for hours, just mesmerized. Feeling inspired, I did a photo shoot with a Polaroid 636 and asked a friend to model. She wore a white dress with little daisies and a dried flower crown from a wedding I was in as the flower girl. I absolutely adored those photos. I think back on it now and it was horrifyingly bad BUT in that moment, I felt so proud of what I created even if it was just for fun. Now, I love to photograph portraiture the most. Faces in dramatic light really inspire me. I also enjoy shooting contemporary architecture.
K: Was it easy for you to pursue a career in photography? Or was it something you had to muster up the courage to do?
AP: I struggled with the idea of pursuing photography full time for fear I would never be good enough. I didn't have an amazing camera or a wide collection of top of the line lenses and had zero formal training. "Fear is not your master" was something I scribbled in my journal and it subconsciously became the motto for myself. When I decided to make photography my full time gig, it was one of the hardest seasons. I was getting a crash course in business, budgets and forcing myself to learn as much as I could by taking photos constantly and assisting photographers I looked up to. That time definitely helped shape me into the photographer and worker I am today. I faced (much) trial and (many) errors but my love for this art never completely dissipated. A fellow photographer friend, Chloe Horseman, sent me that quote recently not knowing how significant it would be for me to read it. Still so relevant years later.
(Photo by Ashtin Paige)
K: What did you do before your career in photography? Have you always known you wanted to be a photographer?
AP: I worked in coffee shops and had some management roles in retail before (and while) I became a photographer. I became a full time photographer when I was 23. I know that I've always been drawn to photography but I haven't always known that's how I would end up making a living. I actually thought I was going to be writer and told myself that it was the only practical way to make a living as a creative. Gosh, I was so wrong! I remember writing short stories, essays, poems and even songs at a very young age. While I really do enjoy writing but it was something I had to convince myself of pursuing passionately. Photography was just the opposite. I adore photography but struggled with believing in myself to make it happen. FUN FACTS!
K: What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone interested in taking the plunge to pursuing a career path in the creative arts industry?
AP: Don't. Give. Up. YOU CAN DO IT! There were so many times I questioned myself and in those times, it seemed to be easiest to give in to defeat. Take the time to refine your craft. Learn from others, creatively and professionally. Don't be afraid to ask for help. That definitely was more than one piece of advice. Sorry....
K: You're a mama to a beautiful, little girl! Once you became a mama, how did you manage to balance your career with motherhood? What are you learning most about the process of finding balance?
AP: Hmm, I'll let you know when I completely figure that one out. Ha! There are moments when my daughter, Gemma, and I get to have adventures together. Paint, play outside, go to story time at the library and maybe get the occasional sweet treat just because. And then there are moments where she's been watching way too much TV and has been coloring on the wall for the last hour and I'm too buried in work to even notice. Sometimes, I get this wild notion that I can do it all...all at once! I have to remind myself that stepping away to be a mother doesn't mean I'm any less of a hard worker or vice versa. I've come to the realization that feeling torn as a working mother is normal. It's okay. My version of balance has been how present I am. I'm constantly learning that resistance is another way for me to control everything around me. Learning to be flexible and know that my rhythm might be different than another's. Being present, though. Truly does wonders for me. Conversing with my husband and asking him questions about himself, his work, his thoughts. Listening to Gemma when she is trying her hardest to tell me something and I have to spend 20 minutes figuring it out. Taking time to make myself drink more water throughout the day no matter how much editing I have to do. In all of these ways, I'm choosing balance.
(Photos by Kenzie Maroney)
K: Do you have any daily rituals or routines to help maintain that balance?
AP: I 100% still keep a journal. Writing is something I've saved for myself and I like it that way. Meditation has also helped me understand that sometimes, the pursuit of balance is just as effective as obtaining it. I feel as though I can maintain balance for a short time before something disrupts it. In those moments, I tell myself to breathe and be.
(Photo by Bradley Ryan)
(Photo by Kenzie Maroney)
K: Alongside being a full-time mama and photographer, you also co-founded a digital publication called At Her Table. The purpose of this publication is "to eliminate the barrier between dreaming and doing by fostering a community of women that empower and celebrate one another." Sounds amazing! Tell us a little bit about how At Her Table got started, where it is now, where you want to see it in the future?
AP: I cofounded At Her Table alongside fashion stylist, Elliott Sikes and videographer, Lindley Atkinson. We wanted to recognize the women who were putting their dreams in motion. It's so easy to get caught up in daydreaming life away and delaying taking action. Currently, it's a digital publication that features local women in Nashville. While Ellie and I oversea the photo shoot, we have a some wonderful contributors who write copy for each feature and help with hair + makeup on shoot days. AHT also hosts what's called Supper: At Our Table. It's an intimate dinner gathering that brings the online community together offline in hopes of forming meaningful relationships. Ellie and I always strive to make the evening beautiful and intentional while still feeling safe and honest. All of our vendors so far have been women-owned businesses too! We recently added a team member, Kathryn Wolle, who is the Director of Supper. She is now the head of the events department and we are really excited about it. AHT had the opportunity to partner with an organization called Hey Gal Pal. Last month, we joined forces to host an all female panel of girl bosses called Feminars. Women of all ages and industries came for a special Q&A with the panel to ask any questions about running a business. It was so inspiring! We want to empower women to empower other women so however we can do that, sign us up! In 2017, we will be bringing our Suppers to different cities like Memphis and Brooklyn --which is very exciting. Long term goal: A printed publication with features from different cities. Could you imagine?! A book filled with women's stories cover to cover! Someday...
K: You also seem to have a passion for supporting independent fashion, more so ethical fashion. Why is it important to support ethical fashion and when did you make the choice to become a more conscious shopper?
AP: I have a sweet spot for small business owners in general. I support as many as I can when I can because what they are doing is brave. My eyes were opened to the truth behind fast fashion after watching The True Cost at local leather shoe company, Nisolo. Not only are there men and women risking their lives to make garments at a low price, but the waste that fast fashion contributes to and what it does to our environment made me take a second look at what I invest in and frequently I invest in it. Vintage shops, thrift shops, secondhand clothing shops are all ways to support a cleaner earth. I don't shop nearly as much as I used to because of this; instead, I try to invest in garments that are made honestly and that will last for some time. That said, I don't want to paint this picture of myself that all of my clothes are ethically made. To be transparent, if you were to go into my closet you would find some brands in there that are not part of the ethical fashion movement because, personally, I believe throwing those garments in the trash would be adding to another problem. When I tire of certain pieces, I do closet swaps with friends. I'm also a huge fan of the vintage clothing shops that are popping up on Instagram. Being aware is key but I am not one to give anyone a judgmental lecture for their fast fashion threads. We can all contribute in different ways.
K: Who are some of your favorite independent designers who are mindful of ethical production?
AP: Many of them are in Nashville, actually. Nisolo, Amanda Valentine, Elizabeth Suzanne, Jaime and the Jones, Lilyan James and Emlee. Morton & Mabel and June Park (for Gem).
K: Who are your favorite style icons?
AP: Audrey Hepburn, Alexa Chung and the Olsen Twins. French women. I'm drawn to silhouettes that make me feel feminine with a little bit of an edge.
K: Tell us about this amazing new photo book you have been working on that will be released next fall!
AP: The Book of Mama! You can probably tell by now that I love supporting women. (#girlpower) Being a full-time working mother in a creative industry, or in any industry for that matter, is challenging to say the least. In Nashville, I'm surrounded by mothers who are pursuing their dreams while still having a family. During my pregnancy, I thought my life as a photographer was over before it ever began. I thought I had to give up my dreams to be this totally different person. While Motherhood has radically changed me, I'm still that same person who has desires and passions. Pursuing those passions doesn't make me any less of a mother. I've met with some working mamas countless times when I needed advice and encouragement or I needed to vent or just be hugged. Being a mother is hardest job I've ever had but by far, the best. My hope is that by photographing these amazing humans and creating a book, I can provide a tangible index of badass-ery for moms everywhere as proof that it can be done. Working your dream job is possible.
K: Any other upcoming projects for you?
AP: With AHT, we are gearing up for our last Supper of 2016 in December and making plans for 2017. After doing my first art gallery event with Fashion Happening Nashville last month, I've been asked to do a few more similar galleries next year with an agency based out of LA.
(Photo by Kenzie Maroney)
K: You are originally from San Antonio, TX and after a week long visit to Nashville, TN you made the move there in 2011. What drew you into Nashville? And now that you've lived there for 5 years, what do you love most about it now?
AP: Before that week long visit, I knew that Nashville was where I wanted to be and it was more affordable than New York or Los Angeles. At the time, San Antonio didn't offer much in the way of the arts in general and I craved a change in scenery. Once that visit was over, the community left a lasting impression on me and I knew I had to make the move. This town has had, and is currently undergoing, a lot of change but one thing that has been unwavering is the kind people who abide here. It's always felt like home to me.
(Photo by Kenzie Maroney)
K: What is your favorite local coffee shop?
AP: To meet: Steadfast. To work: Revelator Coffee. To hang: Crema.
K: Favorite local restaurant?
AP: I'm hooked on Proper Bagel for breakfast. Mas Tacos for lunch. Fifth & Taylor for dinner.
K: Any secret gems in Nashville we should know about?
AP: Bastian is my new favorite spot in the Wedgewood-Houston area. The atmosphere is fun and relaxed. The decor feels intentional and approachable. There is a doorway concealed by a curtain that leads to their restaurant and separate bar. It's pretty incredible. Also, Old Glory in Edgehill Village is gorgeous and their cocktails are superb.
K: What is playing on your speakers right now?
AP: I change it up a little every week but right now:
Take Cover by Foreign Fields
Real Emotion by Paper Route
Love & Desire by Myzica
K: Ashtin, thank you so much for spending time with us, for sharing your insights, your encouragements, and your story. We are so inspired by your genuineness, talent, and heart! We are looking forward to your future projects and hope that you'll bring At Her Table to the Northern VA/DC area one day!