Exploring Leadership with Ash Bowland

Belgian Photographer Ash Bowland at the Library Europe
Belgian Photographer Ash Bowland at the Library Europe

Earlier this week we were lucky enough to have local artist and our April Young Woman to Watch Ash Bowland host a workshop in Brussels, delving into the art of “feminist” photography. Ash is a young artist with a passion for the female perspective in self-portrait photography. In 2014 she had a major breakthrough when she exhibited Female Gazing at the Bozar in Brussels.

Through her presentation, Ash inspired us with her views on the place of women in today’s society. She hit the nail on the head when she said that there is often a lot of competition among women, stressing that we need to be kinder to each other, rather than fight others to reach our personal goals. Hear! Hear!

One image sparked a particularly passionate discussion among participants:

Oppenheim

Meret Oppenheim “X-Ray of my skull”, 1964

Is it supposed to mean that the only thing differentiating a woman from a man is jewelry, showing that we are all just humans (and that there are no differences?) or does it mean this person is proud to be a women and doesn’t care to bend the rules of society by wearing metal jewelry while being X-Rayed?!

This was just a flavour of the kind of discussions we had as Ash talked us through compelling works of art. As with many of the pieces, they were all open to individual interpretation and the viewer’s own experiences. In any case, we all left feeling inspired, having had fruitful discussion through the medium of art. A different kind of discussion on gender.

Ash is a hard-working young woman with great dreams and greater potential. She is a passionate artist who is not afraid to make art her life. Characteristics that will take her anywhere she wants to go! You can get to know Ash a little better below. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for her work in the future. No doubt people will be discussing her work at workshops in the decades to come!

Ash

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I started going to Sint Lukas in Brussels when I was 16. There I studied audiovisual arts. My parents are not involved in anything artistic, so I never grew up with this information. It was actually when I fell in love with a boy that I got in contact with photography.  After two years of discussions with my father I finally went to study arts. After that I kept on following the path of photography and during my Master year, under the very nourishing wings of Liesbeth Decan, I really found the courage and the will to choose the path that I am walking on today.

How much courage did it take to set up your current business/project?

It was a no-brainer to be honest.  Although this practice requires a lot of will-power and commitment. Will I ever be able to create a situation for myself where I live comfortably by working for myself and my images?! I am quit the pessimist, so I guess not. But I don’t care, because I believe this is my nature, I cannot get along with life without the practice of images. It asks a lot of commitment, energy and work, but courage is something images nourish in me.

What were the biggest obstacles/triumphs?

Obstacles, until now, have always been 1: money and 2: people. I never have enough money to get my projects worked out without too many compromises, which could harm the quality of the work. Or I work, until I can no longer, to get everything together, but then lose all creativity and insight to complete the project. I balance on a very dangerous line which makes me very determined and direct -because I believe these are the qualities, then, to survive that situation-  which is very difficult for other people to cope with. These characteristics are ones that are not always appreciated by people, whom I need, to take my artistic career that one step further. It might seem that that’s precisely what those people are looking for. But it’s a mistake believing that. That’s the thing with humans (and their relationships)…

I want it all and that asks a lot of me, but I am prepared to give it my all.

How do you ensure work/life balance?

I don’t. I need to work as a waitress to make money. Do research, make images. Study to be able to stop being a waitress and do more research and more image-making. And next to those three full-time jobs I try to keep my relationships healthy and rich. I go swim or run to clear my head, but the time where that really helped is long past. I want it all and that asks a lot of me, but I am prepared to give it my all. Even if that means that there is no longer a distinction between work and life. I am paying the price now, hoping that one day the reward will be mine to grasp.

Who is your inspiration?

This one is very difficult to answer.  I have many inspirations and most of the time they are not people, but images, ideas, words, etc.. But I guess the most inspiring people in my life are my parents. They started from zero and built up a life, together, which they desired. They have worked like crazy, all their life. They were ambitious and intelligent and that’s how they we’re able to get where they wanted to be. I can only hope that I have the same willpower as they do.

When I see them today, I admire the way they grabbed life by the balls and took control over their future. They made the impossible possible. And they still do…

Be intelligent and create opportunities

What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to pass on to other young women?

Don’t, ever ever, believe it’s only talent you need to become an artist. Work hard, live hard! Eat, breathe, hear images. Let them take over your life, so one day you can take over their lives. Really, hard work is the only thing that brings you there. Be intelligent and create opportunities, don’t sit and wait for that one person to pass and give you your future on a silver plate.

Would you do anything differently?

That’s a question on which I am not ready yet to answer yet, because -I guess- I still have to make these decisions which could potentially change everything. I still need to walk a long way.

What will the next 5 years look like?

Exciting! I hope to be able to publish my essay about the meta-picture and off course to expand my project Le donner à voir. To have the ability to dig even deeper in the material that I am researching and finding ways to translate those ideas in seductive images who are able to communicate, in a proper way, with the readers. I guess the next years will be hard, but rewarding. It will all be about the images, the image and the image.

Please follow Ash on www.ashbowland.com or www.facebook.com/ash.bowland

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