Hipstamatic, Retrica, Infinicam; all apps designed for the amateur iPhone photography connoisseur to snap photos of legs by a swimming pool or a particularly good looking menu item and make every Instagram look as if it was somehow produced in a dark room, still dripping with fresh chemicals. All it takes is a quick snap of the HD phone camera, a tumblr post inspiration and just enough of a fascination with film to want to have pictures that look like it but that do not actually involve the same amount of effort because, well, there’s an app for that.
While iPhone photography has taken every social media-savvy millennial by storm, there’s something to be said for those who study photography as an art, not as an app, and Auburn University’s own Ashley Kickliter does just that with her own photography business, Ashley Kickliter Photography.
“[It] is…tough…during this day in age where anyone can basically pick up a camera or iPhone and call themselves a photographer,” Kickliter said. “[But] I think it boils down to the work will speak for itself. People can have their own opinions of who is or is not a 'real' photographer. If the type of photos you are taking are working for you, then hey, keep doing you.”
Ashley Kickliter Photography, previously known as Open Eye Photography, started as a way for Kickliter to showcase photos of family and friends on Facebook, a hobby that turned into taking photos of friend's families and eventually created a domino effect that turned Kickliter’s business into what it is today. With more than 1,400 Facebook ‘likes’ and new clients every day, Kickliter is excited by the exponential growth her business has experienced since its beginning. (Photo by Ashley Kickliter)
“Watching my business grow over the past few years has been such a weird but cool thing to watch,” she said. “I love looking back and seeing how much I have personally grown in my work and how far I have come from the start. I have also loved watching how my clients that have been with me since the beginning change each year. There are some families I have been photographing for four years now, and it is such a compliment for them to keep coming back to me.”
The inevitable success and growing clientele of Kickliter’s business also brought its own inevitable challenges that any working college student can relate to.
“One of the biggest challenges I have is managing my time,” Kickliter said. “Being a full-time graphic design student while running a full-time business definitely isn't easy, especially trying to have somewhat of a social life as well, but I just continually remind myself I am getting to do what I love everyday so I can't complain. I am incredibly thankful for my business, even though it gets really hard to manage it all.”
With gentle hues of sunlight or signature props incorporated into unique shoots, Kickliter effortlessly draws out the eclectic personalities of every subject in her portraits. Fashion, one of Kickliter's many inspirations, also plays an enormous role, with every outfit styled to somehow give us a better idea of who is posed in front of the lens.
“To me, fashion is important just like every other creative outlet because it allows you to express who you are," Kickliter said. "I feel like fashion is a way to make whatever statement you want to say without having to open your mouth.”
For Kickliter, inspiration for photos is drawn from all around. It can be a song on the radio, a particular lighting, or even her favorite photographers or past style icons such as Francoise Hardy, Pattie Boyd and the velvet, fringe-covered Stevie Nicks. When it comes to her own style, Kickliter is heavily influenced by the 60s, and is taken by vintage, feminine garb with a quirky edge.
“So many things inspire me on a daily basis,” she said. “I am constantly looking for things to inspire me and try not to overlook the simple things that can sometimes bring the largest doses of inspiration.”
For now, Kickliter's plans for graduation are still up in the air, but if she has it her way, she'll be on a plane to the West Coast come December.
"I have a lot of trouble pegging one word with what I want to do or who I want to be someday," she said. "In the most simple terms, I want to do everything. I want to be involved with people, photography, fashion, design and film on a daily basis. I will never be the person that is satisfied doing just one thing...I thrive in chaos and constant new opportunities. I guess having my own brand that incorporates all those outlets one day would be the ultimate dream."
(Photos by Ashley Kickliter)
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