Coming-of-age in America’s bible belt

Girls smoking, sitting on yellow trucks and inhaling the spring breeze — it sounds like another Sofia Coppola film or John Green novel, but, it’s daily life amongst Louisiana’s youth, captured by photographer and cinematographer Ransom Ashley, as he goes back to his roots to reconnect and face the demons of his coming-of-age. 

Ashley’s upcoming project, titled, Louisiana, takes inspiration from his previous photo-series Virgins — both retrospectives to his teenage years and shown here together. While Virgins explores self-tranquility within a hostile community; the contrast of the cold and warm tones within the images depict the bittersweet gap between adolescence and adulthood. Whereas in Louisiana, Ashley returns to his poignant beginnings to rekindle a turbulent relationship with the place he calls home, revealing that his “primary objective was to create images that contained emotional narratives” that were relevant to his life.

 

The decision to name his series after such a personal place in his life, he explains, was because it was the “epicenter of an identity struggle,” for him. He confesses that growing up he always felt that he didn't fit the mould of other boys his age. "I was never interested in sports and most of my friends were girls so I was bullied very heavily for my differences while growing up," he tells us. "I just remember always being artistic and soft-hearted and all of these things were, for some reason, synonymous with being gay at my school and that is also something there is a great hostility towards where I'm from. Because of these experiences, I do associate Louisiana to a cruel close-mindedness as much as I associate it to a warm hospitality. Therein lies the confliction.”

Even now, after a move to LA, the photographer's work pays homage to his Louisiana roots. Although he does admit that leaving his hometown exposed him “to the differences of people that come from vastly different places than me and also to the beauty of culture and learning from people that may not look like you or believe like you but are similar to you in that they too are a product of their own human experience.”

Ransom Ashley is currently exhibiting as part of the 53rd Annual Juried Competition at the Masur Museum of Art, LA.

As published on Dazed Digital