“10/27/03” by Photographer Ashley A. Ross

Ashley A. Ross is a photographer and artist based in San Francisco. Her work utilizes allegorical portraiture and personal memorabilia to investigate themes of black adolescence and identify formation. In “10/27/03,” Ross pays particular attention to the issue of indoctrination and identity within the confines of her own religious upbringing. The photographs reflect an introspective and nuanced recollection of past religious experiences.The title, “10/27/03,” is a reference to the date of the artist’s “spiritual birthday” following her baptism as a child. The date serves as a metaphor for a child’s naive perception of life. The body of work similarly calls into question the impact of such stringent belief systems during such formative years and who gets to determine one’s spiritual value.

Ashley A. Ross was selected as one of the winners of our 2023 Art & Photo Book Awards! With support from Bookmobile, we helped Ashley turn her series into a book, available now! If you want the opportunity to publish a book of your own work, you can apply for our 2024 Art & Photo Book Awards here.

See more from “10/27/03” below along with our interview with Ashley!

Booooooom: What got you into photography in the first place?

Ashley A. Ross: I was always creative, even as a child. Growing up my main interests were in painting and drawing, I then took a digital photography class in high school and immediately gravitated towards the creative process in making a photograph. It wasn’t until I began my undergraduate studies where I really began to explore thematic and conceptual ideas in photography.

What inspires you to continue to make work now?

Currently, my art practice is centered on creating from a place of curiosity and genuine interest rather than following trends. As a photo-based artist, it is common to be influenced by algorithms and feel pressured to create based on demand rather than creativity. It’s important for me to establish a solid foundation in my art practice so that I can continue to produce work that I am passionate about, regardless of achievements or current trends.

Share a challenging or memorable moment you’ve experienced in your artistic journey.

Maintaining a photo/art practice will always be a challenge but I’d say the most memorable moment has been having my debut solo show at a museum last year.

Can you speak a bit about the body of work you chose to submit — what was your thought process or selection process like?

This is a series I have been working on for some time. When I submitted the work for the open call, I had just completed my debut show and was looking for another outlet to share the work with a new audience. Because the work is personal, I felt that a photo book could create a space of intimacy between the viewer and the work. Sometimes, a museum or gallery does not provide enough time for an individual to sit with the work. A photo book truly allows for that time.

Memory and memorabilia play an important role in “10/27/03.” Can you tell us about an object from your childhood that holds special meaning or significance to you?

There is an old family bible that I have access to, which is one of the images in the book. The reason for its significance is that the only name written at the beginning of that book is my Grandmother’s (maternal) name, who unfortunately passed away before I was born. It is really the only thing that I am aware of that she once owned or at least touched that I have access to.

How does it feel to see your work in book form?

Exciting! Publishing a photo book has been on my vision board for a long time! I am incredibly grateful to Booooooom for the opportunity to have my work published in a physical book.

What is a goal you’ve set for yourself that you haven’t achieved yet?

I would love to produce or direct a short film. Film is a medium that I have been very interested in for a long time, but I do not want to jump into it without having a clear purpose for what I am trying to create.

If you had to give one piece of advice or words of encouragement to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Do not compare yourself to what you see others doing or accomplishing. None of us knows each other’s story or how someone got to where they are. Focus on yourself and how you can improve.

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