Photographer Spotlight: Ashley Osborn On Creativity, Growth And Rising Up

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of shooting with the AMAZING Ashley Osborn – one of the best photographers in the midwest – who has an extremely extensive and impressive resume as well as a very unique and sophistocated style. Ashley is one of the most amazing photographers I have ever had the opportunity to work with. Her photos and personality are equally as captivating, but what I found extremely cool was her desire to help others and learn along the way.

Ashley Osborn shooting Kitten – Photo by Joel Pilotte

You just completed your first full US tour (A Skylit Drive/ For All Those Sleeping/ etc) with Pvris! How was it?

It was amazing. The entire tour got so close and treated us like family. It was all of our first full US run so we were incredibly scared going into it but everyone took such good care of us. I have so much love for everyone on that tour. It was truly such an honor to be apart of it and being able to watch PVRIS grow has been phenomenal. SO many positive vibes! So thankful that I had the opportunity!

I know you’ve said you love helping to develop bands through your photos. Can you explain a little more about that?

Yes! The easiest way I can explain this is by using PVRIS as an example. It’s been amazing being able to work with Lynn (vocalist) on creative concepts and the band’s image. We both have incredibly weird minds. So for the Rise Up tour they told me what they wanted and I got to do it for them but put my own spin on it. If you check out the photos from the tour they have a common theme and purple tones. I love starting from the bottom with artists and working with them to create the image for themselves that they want. It makes me so happy when artists give me creative control or even just a voice. Sometimes it’s scary when they give me that power because it’s a lot of pressure. Image is very important. It’s a representation of who they are as a band, as people and their music.

Lynn Gunnulfsen of PVRIS

Do you prefer shooting live music, behind the scenes, portraits, or full band promotional photos? What are your favorite places to shoot? What are some of your favorite shoots you’ve done?

This is so hard to answer. I definitely have to say that I love shooting behind the scenes / documentary work the most. I love creating moods. When artists trust me enough to let me into their personal space and capture exactly how they are feeling in their most vulnerable moments (especially before a show) it’s honestly beautiful. It’s an honor. There’s vibes and feelings that can’t be described by words so I try to put them into perspective with images. Favorite shoots I’ve done would have to be GOLDHOUSE’s ‘Back To Life’ EP album artwork and the T Mills promo shoot we did earlier this year. GOLDHOUSE came to me with these crazy ideas. I love working with Grant so much because he trusts me and basically lets me edit and do whatever I want when we shoot. As weird as that sounds, it’s really freeing. It’s always so easy to work with people who trust your vision, you know? And the T. Mills shoot was a blast! He’s such a genuine guy. He has such an awesome creative vision. He went into the shoot with so many ideas and he was so easy to work with. I love how the image came out.

Chiodos – Warped Tour 2013

Who are your favorite artists to photograph? And what accomplishments throughout your career thus far are you most proud of?

I love shooting either HUGE shows with crazy production (Macklemore, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato)! There’s always so much going on. The biggest accomplishment for me so far in my career was definitely shooting Fall Out Boy. They are the reason I even picked up a camera (in 2009) and then they went on hiatus and they’ve been my favorite band since I was 12 (haha). It was just a waiting game. I can’t put into words how much I love photographing them now. They are so much fun to shoot and have so much energy. Shooting Skate and Surf was also an incredible opportunity! I was one of the official photographers. Everyone that worked on that festival… was the NICEST person I’ve ever met. It was a dream come true to fly out and shoot it. Regardless of the rain it was the best weekend of all time. Another surreal moment for me was definitely this summer at Warped Tour. My first huge photo gig was warped back in 2010. I got to shoot at the Chicago and Minneapolis date and I was SO EXCITED and I had no idea what to do with myself (hahaha). I remember standing at main stage and seeing a photographer up there (now my pal Tom Falcone during Anarbor in Chicago) thinking “Holy s**t, I’m going to do that one day.” In Minneapolis I was just in awe. I was so excited to be shooting with my little baby camera. I remember taking it SO seriously like my entire life was on the line (I have no idea why). All I did was think about how much I wanted to shoot on main stage one day. So this summer when I had the absolute honor to hop on the tour with Chiodos for a few days to photograph.. I can’t really put that into words. Being on stage shooting and looking out in Minneapolis (where I’m originally from) made me get all weirdly emotional. I guess I had spent years wanting that opportunity and the fact that I had it was honestly the most fulfilling moment of the year for me. I can’t put into words how incredibly thankful I am for these opportunities.

Macklemore – May 2013

How have you grown as a person and an artist since you first began your career as a professional photographer?

I don’t know if shooting when I was at 15 year old at shows with a crappy point and shoot really counts. But I’m going to pretend like it does. Like many others, music has always been my escape. It’s always fascinated me. I put everything I have into my photos. To me they are not only photos of bands but they are moments in my life that I am capturing. When I was 18, I got my first DSLR. I had severe depression and I was the darkest place I have ever been. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, was severely bullied in high school and was just over life in general. That’s when I moved to Chicago and started at Columbia for Marketing / PR. Photography just always felt right for me. It was always as escape and something I could put all of my sadness into and focus on when things were really hard in my life. When I moved to Chicago I got more opportunities to photograph and started figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. I’ll be honest and say every year was a blur for me up until 2013. I’ve had so many ups and downs but I think the last few months for me have been the best of my life. For the first time I feel like a real person and I feel like I am LIVING for myself and as the person I want to be. As weird as it sounds I think the Rise Up tour completely changed my perspective on life and who I am as a person. I had a lot of time to just think. I don’t view things or people the same way that I used to anymore. I’m content and patient, I don’t worry about dumb things I can’t control anymore. I feel like I aged 10 years on that tour and now I feel like a real adult. I’ve just rid negativity. I used to feel so alone and see photography as a competition. I don’t feel that way anymore. I guess to say the least I just want to learn from my past and be the happier person I am today. All I can do is show that I’m trying with my actions.

What’s it like getting to work with some of your favorite bands? Who would you like to work with/ work with again? And have you ever had a moment where you fangirled or had to try really hard not to?

I haven’t had the chance to work with one of my favorite bands – yet. But I did get to work with LIGHTS who is one of my favorite artists of all time. I was super super nervous! But she was the easiest person I’ve ever worked with. Also, working with Anthony Green. Circa Survive is one of my favorite bands. He was the most genuine person I’ve ever had the honor of working with and to this day that was one of my favorite shoots. Haha! No way. When I go into shoots I’m completely chill. I don’t think I’ve been really excited about a shoot since I first started. I see it as work and networking. Making an impression that lasts, you know?

LIGHTS – November 2012

Working with you was fabulous. You’re such a fun and easy going person. Can you name a time someone was rude to you and how you handled it?

Awwwww, thank you so much! I try. People hate getting their picture taken so I feel like part of my job is making the environment comfortable and fun. Where do I begin? As a professional I’m not going to name names. However, there was this one time where I had a shoot at a venue with this HUGE solo artist. It was supposed to be an interview and shoot for the cover of Highlight Magazine. All day his TM was texting me. One second the shoot was on, the next the shoot was off, and it kept going back and fourth until finally he decided he “felt like” doing it. I went into the shoot and he was an hour late, completely stoned out of his mind. Then we started shooting and he kept telling me what to do, wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say, made it very clear that he was doing ME a favor, etc. It was the worst five minutes of my entire career. I’ve never felt so embarrassed and insulted. Then he said, “I don’t feel like answering your questions now. I’ll do it later. We’ll call you… maybe (laughing).” And I replied, “Here’s the thing. This was a cover feature for the magazine I co-founded. As fun as this has been… The feature is no longer happening and I’m leaving. Have a great show.” I just wasn’t going to let somebody treat me like that when I had gone an hour out of my way to do this feature. The TM kept apologizing profusely (one of the coolest TM’s I’ve ever met). There’s a fine line between being professional and being a human being. I will never let somebody disrespect me like that. I actually worked with this artist about six months later and it was a completely different experience. I think he was going through a rough time or something. Either way – he got his act together.

I know a lot of people aspire to do what you’re doing. What advice to you have for beginners?

I just did a huge blog about this. My #1 tip for beginers is that you have to have a website/professional portfolio. That blog can be seen here.

I’ll be honest and say when it comes down to it. I don’t really have a “plan.” I don’t think you can in this industry. I mean – you can have a general idea of what you want to do but you can’t map it out because things are changing 24/7. I thought I’d be on tour full time next year and nothing is set in stone. Everything in the industry is last minute and all you can really do is mentally prepare yourself for that. Right now I’m just working my, excuse my language, ass off and shooting as much as I possibly can while working a full time job as a barista (which I freaking love). This life is not glamourous. There is not a lot of money in it. I have bills to pay and loans to pay off. I technically dropped out of school because I wanted to take time and focus on photography. School wasn’t feeling right. As much as I want to just drop my life and travel – it isn’t possible. So until that’s possible I’m in Chicago just working and waiting for the right offer to come along. I just try to put this entire thing into perspective for kids who think the industry is glamourous. Haha, 50% of the bands you go see have jobs when they aren’t touring and make barely any money. It’s rough. But I have faith in myself. For the first time in my entire life I truly believe in my vision and I believe that I do have a future doing this. It’s all about the climb and patience.

Ashley Osborn by Matt Vogel

Something I never really realized when I was starting out is that you really do get what you pay for when it comes to photos. Do you have any advice for new bands?

Hmmmm.. my thoughts are this are interesting. I think some bands make the mistake of doing what’s convenient over shopping around and searching for the right artist to work with. Does that make sense? Most would rather work with their pal than try to find an artist that matches their creative vision. Which makes sense. It all goes back to feeling comfortable.

On the other hand, I think every photographer is different. I don’t like talking about this topic but I can say that for me personally… of course getting paid is important. But I’d rather work with a band who REALLY wants to work with me but is on a budget than be like “NO YOU HAVE TO PAY ME X AMOUNT OF MONEY OR I’M NEVER GOING TO WORK WITH YOU.” I guess I’ll never take it that seriously. I’m not that person. I’d rather make a connection, have a good time and build my portfolio… than make that extra X amount of cash. If you give me a small amount of money, I’m still going to give you something to use. I want to work with everyone I can because I think that makes your creative brain stronger and more diverse. The day I stop seeing photography as fun is the day I quit.

The Atlantic – December 2012

If you could create a dream tour and shoot the whole thing, what bands would you put on it and where would this tour be? It can be throughout any countries or specific venues that stand out to you – even a world tour!

EUROPE. PLEASE. All I want to do is go to Europe/The UK. 3000-5000 cap rooms. Insane lights. Lots of space for me to hide and shoot. I don’t know what bands I’d put on it but hypothetically let’s say it’s all of my favorite artists in the metal/warped tour scene that I love to shoot (Chiodos, letlive., Bring Me The Horizon, Issues, Of Mice & Men). OR bands like Twenty One Pilots and New Politics who totally kick ass. Or a bunch of up and coming rock bands and a full US tour – just because I love working with up and comers!

What’s coming up for you next year? What are your goals for 2014?

I honestly have no idea what I’m doing yet. I can confirm that PVRIS and I will be working on cool stuff next year. Other than that I’m working on a lot of potential tours but it’s all a waiting game.

Goals for 2014 are to continue to be a happy and better person. I want to work on discovering more about who I am through my art. I have a series I’ve been working on that I wanted to release next year but I might wait until 2015. TOUR TOUR TOUR TOUR TOUR TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL. I really want to do a photo book. I hope to find a warped tour slot. I want to keep doing new things and I want to change the game. I just want to grow in all areas of my creative life… not even my creative life. Just life in general.

Crown The Empire

You can fall in love with more of Ashley’s work here!

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Instagram: ashleyosborn