Sunday, August 10, 2014

Looking back at ASE Photography

This August marks my third year as ASE Photography, and it's certainly been fun to watch my photography skills and portfolio grow. Living in Asheville, I've enjoyed some amazing opportunities to work with other local artists and business people who have helped me improve my art and expand my brand. In celebration, I wanted to look back at the work that began my career. Below are some examples of my favorite work.
A beautiful May wedding at Yesterday Spaces.
                                 A beautiful May wedding at Yesterday Spaces.
I worked my first wedding for a teammate in December 2012 and immediately fell in love with the style of photography as weddings are the perfect fit for my aesthetic of capturing love and genuine emotions. Visit my wedding site to see more wedding photos.
Fashion shoot in the Historic Montford Neighborhood
                            Fashion shoot in the Historic Montford Neighborhood
When Jaimie of came to me asking if I could take photos for her fashion blog, I delightedly accepted. This led to a beautiful partnership and a lot of fun hunting through Asheville for creative places to shoot.

Judah and the Lion at the Orange Peel in February.                                          Judah and the Lion at the Orange Peel in February.

Last winter, I joined the Orange Peel House Photography team. Great live music AND photography? What's not to love.
Advertising photos for my friend's home listing on Airbnb
                      Advertising photos for my friend's home listing on Airbnb
I've always loved interior design, so when my friend asked me to photograph her home capturing its essence for promotion on Airbnb, I jumped at the chance. Not two weeks later, I started working for Morehouse Interiors in photography and social media and have loved every minute of it.

Joining the Ask Asheville team has offered me the chance not only to see and learn more about this beautifully unique city, but also to connect with numerous local business people. I'm looking forward to continuing my work with Gary as Ask Asheville's signature photographer.


Being a summer intern for The Laurel of Asheville meant getting my work - both photography and writing - published for the first time, and what a whirlwind it was.

The upcoming school year also marks my third year as head photographer for the UNC Asheville Athletic Department. As a UNCA cross country and track athlete and sports enthusiast, photographing my fellow Bulldogs never feels like work.
Getting back to my photographic roots with film
                              Getting back to my photographic roots with film
Finally, I have found my photographic "voice" illustrating the necessity of art in all our lives. The photo above is from my latest project documenting my personal experiences in places that are overly photographed, such as the beach, using multiple exposure on film. You can read more about the project on my blog,
I hope you have enjoyed a taste of my work. Feel free to contact me at to set up a photo shoot. Or visit my online gallery to order from some of my favorite images I've taken in my photographic adventures.

-Adrian Etheridge

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Not Your Typical Wednesday Night Supper Club

I had just gotten home from work yesterday, put on comfy clothes, and dived into bed for a quick nap before my second run when Gary (of Ask Asheville and G Social Media) called asking if I could come photograph an event that evening. Of course, I immediately began crafting an elaborate excuse, but then he told me more about this event; a rooftop dinner at the Social Lounge and Tapas Bar. Chef Anthony Cerrato of Strada was to prepare three special dishes (appetizer, entree, and dessert) to pair with three cocktails featuring new, special liquors. Oh, and Gary would pay for my dinner. Well, you just don't say no to a free dinner, especially of this caliber, so of course I said yes. And was very glad I did!

That's Gary and his phone in the background. It's pretty funny attending a dinner with  [multiple] networking and media people because just as much of the dinner happens online as it does in person.

To say that the Social Lounge is known for their cocktails is an understatement. Voted the #1 Cocktail Bar in Asheville by the Mountain XPress, as a freshly-21-year-old I was interested to try their drinks. I had a workout the next morning, so I only sipped each, but it was a fun experience tasting each special cocktail with its respective delicious dish.

We started of with a one of my favorite types of upscale restaurant appetizers - prosciutto-wrapped figs.  Stuffed with basil whipped goat cheese and topped with a chianti glaze, each savory-sweet creamy bite melted in my mouth. Social Lounge's signature "Butter Cup"  (Vanilla vodka, pineapple, rosemary, lemon and cinnamon ) played sidekick to the figs, and this was definitely my favorite drink of the dinner. Its fruity sweet and sourness paired nicely with that of the fig, and only left me more excited for the next plate.

Purus Vodka (100% Italian wheat) is becoming the talk of the town around Asheville, and our second drink featured this special liquor. With its recyclable glass, soy ink, and water-based glue, this Go-Green company has obviously found its niche in Asheville.

I was expecting good pasta - it's a renowned Mediterranean restaurant, after all - but I was not prepared for the creamy, wonderfully starchy noodles topped with rich pork jowl that I immediately scarfed down. Paired with a "Moscow Mule," (Purus Vodka, lime, fresh ginger) an adult limeade in my opinion, this dinner was a little better than the leftover stuffed peppers I'd planned on heating up.

Dessert has a special place in my heart (and stomach) so I impatiently waited for our hazelnut pana cotta. If you're a fan of Nutella, this is your dessert - perfectly sweet and rich pudding topped with whipped cream, and a couple nutty garnishes. Our dessert cocktail featured Mystic Bourbon
(represented among the eaters on the rooftop.) The elderflower and honey bourbon with a hint of orange paired nicely with the chocolate (orange and chocolate sure do know how to tango together.)

 Brooklyn did what I only thought about - licked the whole ramekin clean! The pana cotta was simply that good.

Great food, great views, and a beautiful evening (60s in July, who'd've thunk it.) Thanks to Chef Anthony, Gary, and the Social Lounge for a wonderful dinner!

Check out Ask Asheville to read more about our dinner and the Social Lounge's future events!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Under the Sea: Summer Photography Fun

Sometimes the best way to love your own photography is to put it away for a while, especially if you've been critiquing a project for too long. When you pull those old friends back out of the virtual filing cabinet and reacquaint yourself with them, you often see the photos in a new light and realize you could have been happy with them in the first place. 

A couple years ago, I hit a mind-block with this film shoot. Right after I uploaded the scanned files to my computer, I spent an hour or more looking back and forth through the album trying to tell myself that the excessive graininess and the "incorrect" focus were artsy effects, that they added interest. At the time, the message would not get through, but now I realize that I was correct. As I was culling through my external hard drive trying to find sneaky ways to create more space, I stumbled across this fun underwater session and fell in love for keeps this time.

These ethereal little models are, in fact, my cousins, and this shoot was a far cry from the high-drama, high-tech (I used an $8 Fujifilm point-and-click disposable waterproof camera) underwater shoots that grace magazine covers. But, that does not mean I had any less fun shooting it.

I fervently believe in the importance of teaching kids to love and embrace art, in any medium they choose. I also strongly believe in enjoying artistic pursuits - the "art" disappears when it begins to feel like work. So, while babysitting one warm afternoon when they were chomping at the bit to cannonball into the pool and I was itching for the click of a shutter, I decided we had the perfect opportunity for some creative fun. And what splash the idea made!
To be honest, half of my motivation came from the need to occupy these two crazies. I thought we might wrestle out a few funny action shots of the kids cannonballing before they got bored and started splashing each other (and me.) But I gave my cousins far too little credit, they rose (and sank) to the occasion in true energetic-child fashion and turned out to be wonderfully fun models.

The difficult thing about underwater photography is that the photographer and subjects have to compose themselves and the shot while chlorinated water fills their eyes, taking into account the lighting, body positions, facial expressions, and overall composition. (Oh, and you can't breathe. Perhaps a snorkle would have been a good investment.) Nonetheless, we braved the elements, first just practicing holding our breath under water long enough to get a decent shot, then having the kids jump into the water to explore what bubbly results we could get. By the end of the roll when we'd really hit our creative stride, we tested the capacity of our lungs with both subject and photographer swimming to and fro, but mostly toward each other, taking more care in creating interesting compositions.

The end result was a series of beautifully grainy, somewhat unfocused, bubble-filled, blue-saturated shots capturing the unbridled amusement of an afternoon of family swimming. The kids even enjoyed themselves enough to hug each other for my last exposure.

An afternoon time-killer, a way to get kids outside and active, an introduction into art - and a fun one at that - for said kids, and a beautiful keepsake for years to come; photography in all its versatility is truly the art of the people.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fun in the Sun: My Story

"If we don't tell our own stories, no one else will tell them." Lately, I've been reading Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, a collection of anecdotes from the author's radio show Studio 360 showcasing and investigating various noteworthy creative people's artistic processes. Filmmaker Mira Nair's discussion about using her personal history to inspire her films stuck out to me.

 I rarely turn the camera on myself, instead focusing on telling others' stories. However, there is something to be said for remembering your own narrative. So this year when my family took the annual beach trip, I brought along my trusty Vivitar 3800 and a couple rolls of Fujifilm color to document the vacation. I didn't want to just take the typical beach selfies and ocean shots that troll the Instagrammaverse, but I wasn't striving to capture any mold-breaking photos either (although I certainly wouldn't throw them out.) I wanted to just capture the essence of fun and relaxation, however I saw it. Because I can't just casually take photographs of family fun at the beach (for better or for worse I had to turn it into a thought-out series; one of the hazards of spending too much time in photography class, I suppose) I decided to see how my family takes on a beach vaca versus the rest of the burnt-to-a-crisp ocean visitors.

To do so, I layered generic "beachy" shots with images of my family, myself, or things I found interesting, sometimes even just with other "beachy" scenes. I did this through multiple exposure, meaning I shot the roll and wound it as far back to the beginning as I could go without completely winding in the film for development (I probably made a rather funny site standing on the beach camera in one hand, grasping the reel with the other, intent expression on my face, turning the reel ever so painstakingly as I tried to feel the tension to know how far I'd wound the film) and then shot the whole roll again. I had to, of course, take into account that layering exposures in-camera necessitates shutter speed and aperture tweaks to avoid overexposure, so the whole experiment was fun and a bit nerve-wracking since I didn't really know how the photos would turn out.

I was very happy with the quality of the photographs overall - a pleasant aesthetic change from the sharp and color-saturated digital shots I tend to capture - and am especially pleased with the 1960s quality of color that the multiple exposures created. That the exposures did not overlap exactly within the same plane makes them all the more imperfectly interesting, the darker lines simply create a geometric frame. It is the story that these collaged images tell that I'm most excited about. Of course, the narrative probably means more to me than it does to the general public, but sometimes the more personal the images to the photographer, the more relatable to the audience. Scenes of playing in the ocean, reading on the beach, enjoying time spent with family - all normal beach activities - interwoven with visual metaphors for my propensity for daydreaming (guess which surreal photo that is) and distaste for large crowds, create a collage of what comes to my mind first regarding the beach.

A lot of artists don't like explaining their work, rather they let it speak for itself. There is nothing wrong with that. But, to me, there is a kind of vulnerability in telling how I conceptualized and perceive my finished project, allowing the viewers to decide for themselves whether they see the same message. What's more, as a soft-spoken observer, I rarely share my thoughts candidly, instead choosing to illustrate them through photographs and vivid writing, an art in itself. This series, capturing my personal experience in a place by overlaying generic popular images of it and personal experiences there, is one that I intend to continue in my (hopefully soon) world travels in a pursuit to devour culture and drink in art of societies around the globe. I create art not solely for the joy of the creation (though that is certainly part of it) but to share that joy of my creative experience with others, to show the importance of art in all of our lives. So in continuing this series, I intend to share the beauty of personal artistic experiences (relatable to all) with whomever will listen - and see.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Positively a Negative Critique

When I first began shooting film, I greatly admired Ansel Adams' work, for no other reason than its appreciation by the masses. Yet, as I've grown as a photographer, I've slowly joined the ranks of "cynical artists" rather than being a purveyor solely of beauty. Artists - photojournalists especially - seem to have a collective reputation as skeptics, yet whether this image fits may really be in the eye of the beholder. I explored this concept - that art which is critical of culture is often construed as negative, but can have a positive message - through an experiment in "New Topographics," or "man-altered landscapes" as the pivotal 1975 exhibit at the George Eastman House dubbed the style.

The beauty of New Topographics lies in its irony, originally depicting urban and suburban American landscapes with a critical eye, commenting on civilization's "progress" and its (negative) effects. Though the style came to prominence almost 40 years ago, in this age of "green initiatives," climate change debate, and other seemly tree-huggerisms, this social commentary has truly caught hold - now with the added twist of media and technological analysis.

In my personal interpretation, I played upon the theme of [digital] photography and technology's impact on the viewing of landscapes. Photography has the ability to tell a story to the world of subjects many or most people would never know, and this applies especially to landscape photography.

In the first image, I wanted to show photography's ability to tell a story, even one not entirely truthful. With the ability to crop out unwanted information, a photographer can tell their version of a story, tailored to fit their motive. For instance, in my examination, I shot a still of my digital camera set up at the top of The Cut in Asheville overlooking the city with the mountains surrounding. Although the film capture shows the juxtaposition of man vs. nature, the viewfinder of my digital camera shows my ability to crop in closely on the mountains to show only nature, cutting out man's "destruction" (as some would call city-building - although I personally love architecture, culture, and all the bustle that cities have to offer.) True to the New Topographics style, while the photo shows a majestic landscape, beautiful in spite of and because of the contrasting geometry of the city, the addition of my camera creates a social commentary on the photographers' (politicians,' scientists', anyone's) ability to spread only a partial story.

My second image shows the increasing commercialism of photography, now the medium of the masses, and its decreasing difficulty. By overlaying the image of a computer screen on top of a landscape, I wanted to again show the basic contrast of technology (man) vs. nature.  The Google screen displaying a search for "how to photograph a landscape" is meant to demonstrate how lazy technology allows picture-takers (not everyone with a camera is a photographer, in my humble opinion) to be, with the ability to simply ask a search engine how to photograph a landscape or to find landscape images to emulate, rather than going out on an artistic adventure of their own. 

This final image is my favorite, possibly because it took me three hours to print correctly, and maybe because of the rich quality of the contrasting darks and lights. In this diptych, I picture two dissimilar scenes; one a landscape photo opened on an iPad which sits on a bed, the other an actual view of plants with a mountainous backdrop. This again is supposed to show technology's laze-inducing nature, where anyone with an internet connection can "visit" exotic and foreign lands vicariously through others' photos from the comfort of their own beds, instead of traveling there themselves. (The Cut may not entirely be exotic, but it is quite a steep hike to the top.)

As an added commentary, I shot these photos in black and white film (35mm and not large format 8"x10" like the first New Topographics photographers, but closer to the basics) on my fully manual camera in an attempt to distinguish the photos from its digital counterparts which I critique. As I said before, the beauty of art is its differing interpretation based on the viewer, and this series can be either positive or negative, both or neither. Photography has come a long way since the first cameras (arguably camera obscuras, which were quite literally holes in walls that let in light to show an image, although the image could not be "captured" in the traditional sense) and many would argue that this progress is a good thing. Technological progress's modus operandi is to create shortcuts, to generate comfort, to manufacture ease. For many, this is everything. For others, a little hard work - developing their own photos rather than transferring them from an SD card, for instance - is the fruit of life. New Topographics is about bringing these choices into visual perspective. Skeptical or hopeful, destructive or progressive, like much of photography, your opinion is all a matter of vantage point.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Unveiling One of my Favorite Photos

Last month, I worked a beautiful wedding at Yesterday Spaces just outside of Asheville. It was my first wedding of the season, and with almost a year of photography practice under my belt (literally - at this wedding I got to use my new camera belt!) I was very excited to see what I could capture. I couldn't be happier with the results: The 9 hours of photography granted me a resounding 500 "good captures" to edit.

Out of all of them, this sweet shot of the happy couple kissing, in their own little world under her veil, is by far my favorite. While I will post a longer blog next week talking about my wonderful experience in general, I'd like to dedicate a post solely to this one beautiful image.

A day or so before each wedding, I typically spend a couple hours scouring the web "studying" so to speak, compiling a shot list of ideas that I think fit the couple's personality. This involves a exploring a variety of work from exclusive wedding photographers to magazine tears of local weddings, albums of my Asheville colleagues' work to creative photos on Pinterest. One of the ideas I came across more than once during my latest pre-wedding cram session was that of the couple kissing or smiling under the bride's veil. I thought the idea was creative and interesting, not the same old couple's shot, and knew that I had to try it with Katie and Ethan.

Of course, I wanted to put my own spin on the shot. Most of the other photographers' images were dramatically wide-angled, which was certainly beautiful, but to me appeared editorial. In my own work I prefer intimate - often close-up - shots catching the emotion of my subjects, especially in wedding photography. This image proved the perfect shot for the intimate style, and I've fallen in love with its personal and private quality, the couple's pure happiness raw and open, as though we the viewers are intruding on their jubilant moment. To me, this photograph epitomizes my style of photography, capturing genuine emotion so that the couple can remember for decades to come how happy their wedding day was.

I'm a one-woman wedding photographer, and since I cannot grow any more limbs, I typically don't have the ability to hold a reflector. Luckily, nature decided to be on my side the day of the wedding, thank goodness, and the light yet cloudy day provided this beautiful natural glow. With front light streaming in to highlight the couple's heartwarming kiss, and enough fill light to subtly fill out any harsh shadows, my natural lamp helped me create this quality capture. Even better, the light lent itself well to classic black and white. In general, I favor boldly colorful photos, but in this instance the black and white softens the scene slightly, bringing the focus directly to the couple's kiss, while making it more dynamic because of the timeless factor.

I take hundreds (sometimes thousands) of photos per week and am typically happy with little more than a handful each batch. Even less often am I so pleased with an image I write a whole blog post on just one shot. But this is one of the few times I've made a photograph that I would say epitomizes my style.

For more images from Katie and Ethan's wedding, click here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Home Preservation: Photography Style

Somewhere between aspiring to be a math teacher and pursuing my dream as a professional photographer, I wanted to be an interior designer. Color schemes, coordinating patterns, furniture placement and utility: Decorating a room for someone else (or just myself) is as much an adventure in learning about the person as it is in applying paint and situating bedside tables.

Well, those interior design aspirations only lasted about a year, but through photography I've gotten about as close to that aesthetically-inclined career as I can get with my mirror and lens tools. And by that, I mean that among my many other photographic pursuits, I have begun framing other peoples' spaces (homes, restaurants, offices, hotels) capturing the essence and personality of the room.

This weekend on my visit home, my good friend/coach/mentor Kate asked me to help her with a project to showcase her home for advertisement for rental on Airbnb. (If you haven't heard of Airbnb, check it out, it's a way for home, condo, or apartment owners to rent out extra space for travelers.)

Kate's plan is to have two newly-remodeled  bedrooms (yes, kids, this is what happens to your room when you move out, apparently) available for rent, so we started upstairs with them. I've nicknamed one the "orange" room and one the "blue" room. The "orange" room - obviously not just orange, but many coordinating warm shades of red, coral, and brown - was her son's old room, but is now a spacious guest room complete with a cozy entertainment alcove. The openness of the room made it very easy for me to photograph.

In addition to taking wide-angle images of as much of the room as possible, I like to capture vignettes that showcase the space in a more abstract manner. When I saw the reflection of a part of the room in this ornately-framed mirror, I knew this would be a descriptive vignette.

The "blue" room - with beautiful white, gray, yellow, green, and brown accents - was marginally my favorite of the two rooms, but only because of my obsession with the color blue.  I love making color-focused images that showcase my favorite part of interior design (basic color scheme is often the first thing people notice when walking into a room), so this room appealed to me because of Kate's play with the light and airy blues and white with just a hint of sunshine yellow. In fact, Kate and I joked about me just staying in that room the next time I come to town instead of my parents' house. (It was a joke...mostly...I'll come by the house at least once, Mom, I promise!)

I find bathrooms very difficult to photograph, not only because of the limited space to maneuver, but because of the subject matter. While it is an important feature, it is often rather difficult to make a toilet appear aesthetically pleasing. (Maybe that will be my next personal project. I'll call it "Majestic Toilets.") Yet, because it is important to show renters the bathroom they have to look forward to in this beautiful space - as opposed to a grungy hotel - I tried to take a photo showing the different shapes and lines playing together in the room.

Kate generously plans to allow renters access to her pool table and kitchen, so these were our next stops on the tour. I had not yet gotten a close-up of anything, so I took the opportunity to focus on the billiard ball slightly blurring out the background to make the photo a little less cluttered while still showing everything in the room.

Kate has one of the nicest home kitchens I have ever seen, so capturing a couple photos to do it justice was quite a difficult task. By showing the details of the brick bar sides as well as a wide-angle shot of the whole space leading back to the entertainment room, I tried to show some of what the kitchen has to offer.

Our last stop of the tour was the deck. On a warm spring day, this would be the perfect place to read a book while smelling the flowers!

On my way out I grabbed this cute shot of her pup, Duncan (or "Dunkin" - she's a doughnut fan) to show to renters what kind of dog they would get to play with while enjoying their stay.

I had a blast with this shoot because I got to photograph beautifully decorated rooms all while catching up with one of my good friends and enjoying the afternoon. As I learn more about capturing the personality of a room, I hope to expand into the real estate market photographic for home owners looking to sell, or for decorators looking to showcase their work.