Hi, im ashlee
Photographer, brand designer, entrepreneurial advocate, mental health advocate, visual junkie, coffee addict, etc.
I used to give some generic answer. But now when people ask, “How did you get started in the fields of photography and graphic design.” I simply respond, “depression.” I know people are looking for some big fancy story about me always knowing this is what I wanted to do or how I have a BA in Photography or went to art school. None of that is true.
I guess if I wanted to take it way back, it was always apparent that I was interested in ‘the arts.’ When I was a kid, you wouldn't dare catch me without a notebook and pen. I wrote everything down, even things that might have seemed insignificant at the time - license plate numbers, weird phrases I heard my Nanny say (my grandmother had an imagination and a foul mouth), to-do lists, motivational quotes, etc. I kept my notes fairly organized just in case I ever needed to recall anything or relay information. Intermingled with my notes were always drawings and sketches, color swatches, and my attempts at creating my own typefaces.
For most of my life, I struggled with general anxiety; especially in social situations so, I spent a lot of time with notebooks and sketchbooks just writing and creating images. After high school, I attended Webster University. With no real idea of what I wanted to do with my life, I went in as a Journalism major because all I’ve ever heard is “you’re a great writer.”
Depression hit me like a ton of bricks the day I walked onto that campus. Classes hadn’t even begun yet. I worked on campus the summer after high school. I was miserable and slowly started to hate writing. Everything I wrote had depression ‘written all over it.’ So, I stopped. Completely and abruptly. Though my classes were forcing me to write, I needed something else.
My career started with a simple request for Santa (my parents) to bring me a fancy camera for Christmas that year. I was always taking pictures. Do you remember disposable cameras and those point-and-shoots everyone had in there ‘mirror selfies’ in the early 2000s? Yep. That’s what I considered photography at the time. I knew nothing about cameras, but I needed a hobby; a distraction. Santa came through. That was the first semester of my freshman year in college, and I never put the camera down.
College wasn’t all terrible. I met some of the most important people in my life during such a dark time. Tyrell Thompson, better known as Rell Finesse, introduced me to the world of graphic design. In the peak of his career and the height of my depression, we worked day and night to build our hobbies into businesses and taught each other what we couldn’t learn in the classroom. We took on gigs we were underqualified for to learn and challenge ourselves - and make money because you seem to get hungrier in college. Go figure. But people gave me opportunities, encouragement, and affirmations during that time that I can never repay them for.
Creating helped me survive the depression and anxiety.
My career was born out of that survival.
Creating is why I’m still surviving.