THOUGHTS

THOUGHTS // Things I Want to Share 7/11/2019

The way summer came so gently makes these 100 temps welcome.

I got to walk around Ogden with Audrey Christensen today and it was so nice. She is so fully colorful and kind and strong.

I wonder if I’m dong right by my kids.

I love my friends. My children love Gygi’s children and this week they had a bicycle, Riverwoods adventure together- without parents.

I have clean carpet and that feels important and I love the way the room looks with all the furniture moved out.

We drink Stump water now and the intention of doing it this way makes me so happy.

Brian Eno’s “For All Mankind” album is streaming on NPR and it’s lovely.

Watching Matthew’s Backdrop Workshop attendees learn yesterday. We play but I wish I were a painter. Maybe I am, yet.

This little musical prodigy makes me believe in messages that come encoded in children to save the world. Her talent and power had my jaw on the ground last night. Watch HERE.

Shawna is here helping Jody move and it’s so fun to be together. I became a little attached to Jody’s old house and the kids and I felt sad telling that place good bye.

I am gearing up for a weekend of shooting women for Sundance Seen and I feel so grateful.

I got to check bees with McKay before sunrise on Wednesday. I feel so much reverence for bees, honey, wax, the land. My work is so good, I love doing it.

I am meeting Keira Shae Schultz at Rawtopia tonight to show her the portraits I took of her last month.

Matthew made me a great salad last night while I worked late and that’s a gift. I love people serving me food, it’s a deep love language.

SHARED // "From Afraid of Risk to Fearless and Free" D'Arcy's Play it Brave Podcast

 
Ashley Thalman- Play it Brave podcast

Wow. I knew when I was speaking, looking into the encouraging, space-making eyes of my friend D’Arcy, that I wanted to go deep, share truthfully, and allow my creativity a new space to be shared and seen. When we finished I felt light, heard, supported, and my body buzzed with a joyful intuitive high. I knew we did something amazing together and I felt and feel ever more today, deep gratitude for D’Arcy.

I am happy to share this with you and I would love to hear your comments and feedback on the topics D’Arcy and I explored together. Ready? Listen HERE

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THOUGHTS // Sight and the Soul

 
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Advanced pterygia spread across the delicate whites of my eyes. They grew slowly and I had grown used to them. Non cancerous nuisances. Late at night or after a day in the sun I lived with one eye shut at a time, eye drops in my bag, red eyes always.

The surgeon removed the growths, applied a chemical wash to burn off any stubborn remains, and then patched my eyes with amniotic stem cells . Life cells, mother-made, stitched into place.

I needed 24 hour care. I doubted it when I planned for it, but when I woke, stitched and disoriented, I was unable to use my eyes except in pained blinks. I needed help and I knew it.

My friends and family made my home a sanctuary of showing up, reading, music, bathing, food and laughter. I couldn’t see so I pulled them close. I smelled them. I touched my children, I held them. I held my friends, they held me. The people I loved confessed things to me, I broke open, they worried over me, they cared. I touched the hands of their husbands and their kids. I ate, dressed, and slept with a blindfold. I moved slowly, fondling my way through my home, and around my bed for ice.

I thought I would be “back” after a long weekend but that wasn't so. I lay healing, laughing, sobbing, and silent for two weeks. The timing was everything. I was in the early stages of my divorce. I was having a moment and my body held me still enough to heal. Plans were made, schedules adjusted, my people rallied around.

Years of guilt leave their mark. I had always thought things would get better. I thought I would be better, follow the script, ignore, forgive, try, and repent. I worked my way through my mess with therapy, change, prayer, screaming, hiding, Barbie, perfectionism, cleanliness and godliness. I thought having kids would change things. I killed us with kindness and nicety. I struggled. I lied to myself. I didn’t want to see, so I shadowed my knowing body and it listened, enlisted cells to multiply over my eyes. To cover me. Atrophy, blindness. The body listens.

This is not a metaphor and neither is my story. It’s a truth hard told. The body and spirit are the soul of woman. The body is a form of sinew and genealogy. The memory of triumph and trauma are written on spirit and body. The soul animates the form.

We are what we eat, we digest what we see, we hear who we are, we taste the flavors of the land, we feel our relationship to animal, flower, and flesh. We are carried by a network of ancestral memory, organized systems, and instincts that cope and fail and fling us against our blindness hoping to shake us new. The body speaks.

In the state of dis-ease we need ceremony, community, and procedure to let go. We need to learn something new. I never knew mother love or holy home until I got my “new eyes”. I didn’t know my body before, the flow of sensed energy, or our reliance of sister supporting sister. I didn’t know that water in my deep tub, taken in through sore-sighted peeks, could speak calm blue. I didn’t know that behind my closed eyes was a world that grounded me and that within a terrifying dark is support and sight. But I know now. I see it.

THOUGHTS // Expansion & Boundaries

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Today I sent a direct, boundary making text that terrified me. I was scared to do it, I sobbed, I hit send. I made space for it, I celebrated my bravery, I forgave myself for not doing it earlier. I wanted to run and ignore it (a chronic habit) but I sat in it.

For a long, long time I held back, silenced. So I took some time today mourning my old niceties, my old seventy-times-seven cheek turning sacrifices of sanity.

Having spent the majority of my life “killing with kindness” I can say with reasonable certainty that this method is just an inherited recipe for feeling like shit. Whose being killed with kindness here? Who is killing?

You know that story about the mother that passes down the recipe that calls for the ends of the roast to be cut off before being cooked? The daughter asks “why” and no one knows, do they? Well Grandma does. She’s so matter-of-fact, “We cut the ends so it would fit in the pot!” Kill them with kindness is like that. It is a means of survival, a utility in times of lack and scraps. We’ve got bigger containers now. We do not need to trim ourselves to find grace and pride.

We can speak with fire.

The new recipe for power and growth and dealing with challenge is getting really fucking okay with what we are. It means refusing to act the part of what we think we are supposed to be. It means saying “no”. It means admitting that you stumbled out of your marriage after it almost killed off the best parts of you, and that being okay with that means that you are healing.

Healing doesn’t come in making a home for every stray energy that comes. Abuse won’t be killed with kindness. Boundaries are not made through excuses and blame and spiritual bypassing.

Belonging and boundaries are not found in palatable “nice”. Belonging is found on a limb brothers and sisters.

Splaying ourselves holy and perfect via kind killing is a trap laid to keep us small. It’s a habitual horror that checks a box of phony tiny drowning quiet. And you and I deserve more than that.

THOUGHTS // I Know How You Feel

 

I know how you feel. When you’re photographed by another woman who shares love for and with you, when she is grounded with experience and can support worries and insecurities- it shifts something.

Self love looks different for everyone. Here’s what it looks like to me in this moment: women, a shade of rust, rocks, sage in desert landscapes, my partner at home with the kids and dinner sending encouragements, doing something nice for myself even when I have lots of reasons not to, leaping into the unknown ultraviolet risk. It means receiving for myself, what I love to give others.

Thank you Lindsay for your eye and talent.

And yes, this suit is silk and yes, it’s been in my closet for two years waiting for me to step into it. And yes, it’s the most gorgeous thing ever, cost too much at a time I was walking a penny line and yes, I made the right choice.

THOUGHTS // SOUL MATE LOVE

Love is immeasurable. Though we’ve probably kissed a million times, and our word count is Brittanica in volume our love is yet building.

Where is love stored? Where did our love begin? Is it karmic? Is it healing the unseen inside? Does it transform our cells with the comforts of belonging, and the tremors of taking a chance?

Is there a dimension where acts of kindness and passion create something only the soul would recognize? What is that feeling of recognition?

The shedding, stepping in, claiming, healing, letting go, trusting, sobbing, laugh-crying love is only so good as we let it be. And the forever invitation is to let it be everything.

These portraits were taken on a spontaneous vacation to Kanab, Utah. Thank you for being my traveling companion and artistic match and best friend.

THOUGHTS // SAFE OR SELF-LOVE

 
Ashley Thalman

Every day I ask myself some form of this question: “Do I want to live the safe version or the self love version?” When I hear the voices, as energy come through me I ask, “Is that my fear or my intuition?” When I choose safe/fear it helps me fit in real nice with scripts and prescriptions. When I chose self-love/intuition I go beneath the mess, above the ego and I remember that this life I’m living is energetic and that not knowing invites creativity and expression.

I’m inhabiting a never before and never again form and that makes me worthy of risk and worth of belonging.

Self love comes from honoring and exploring what we’ve always been keeping under wraps. Do I want to continue carrying the constipated consequences of what I haven’t had the guts to face or do I want to explore and learn by being the real and entire me?

This portrait was created by the endlessly talented Lindsay Stewart.

THOUGHTS // Bio Before, Bio After

All through March I watched D’Arcy Benincosa’s site reviews. Each review was so sharp, each one exposed the fact that so often we are not willing to go deep and actually distill what it is we offer as photographers. While D’Arcy and I do not share the same professional aims, but we share the need to do what we do, and to do it well. Each review revealed something new and true that I wanted to implement. I need my site visitors to clearly know what I do and why I do it.

Inspiration is found in the doing, the work begets the work and the answers to what we are working on. On April 20th and 21st I hosted a portrait event at Ultraviolet Studios. I photographed 6 women just as I always wanted, just as they deserved. I photographed them with the care and intention that I want to be seen and loved with, that I am so often and luck to be loved like. Matthew and I painted backdrops, I purchased pretty fabrics, a little stool, I rented a new fancy-ass camera and I invited them in. I spread food, I saged, I set intentions, I surveyed myself and my clients, I cleaned, I played music and I welcomed them in.

Throughout the process of preparing, planning, executing, editing, and sharing my results I found what I was looking for. I saw my work reflected to me in the most honest and heart-centered conditions.

When I’m with a client, I want them to feel good. I want the experience to be memorable. That means I have to prepare them for what I do, and what I don’t. I will support them, affirm them, straighten them and see them but I am not going to photoshop them to plastic. That alone means that I exclude a large population of clients who need photos and that defines success. What we don’t and won’t and can’t do is just as important as what we do and can do.

I dread being for everyone but I fear being for no one. That’s some real shit. I hate the idea that what I want to share isn’t going to be received, or that it can’t find its audience and that’s why it’s critical to show who we really are as artists. We need to practice the siren call to summon the ones who want what we have to share.

I liked how succinct my previous bio was. It reminded me of well, everyone else. It was on par. But I’m explorative, not succinct and take it or leave it I want clients to be prepared. My newest bio signals what I offer and I’m so relieved that I found the words and attitude and encouragements I needed to write it.

For posterity I've saved the before-

BEFORE::

For more than a decade Ashley Thalman has worked behind the lens in collaboration with both commercial clients and family clients to create timeless, truthful images.

Naturally comfortable and confident, Ashley is also an informative and careful professional, whose fun-loving and flexible humor enable her to preserve the stories of your family, home-space and relationships so you can treasure the image heirlooms for years to come.

Please email or call with feedback, questions, project ideas, or collaborative partnership inquiries.

AFTER::

“Ashley will find your soul. Her images are stunning because she creates space for vulnerability, and photographs you as you are. This is not for everyone, but it should be. You will not be void of wrinkles or cellulite or rolls, but you will recognize that they are part of you and that you should love who you are, where you are.”- Errin Julkunen-Pedersen

I see you, for you. By providing a portrait experience that values the candid over the contrived, connection over concoction I create images that document and celebrate the truth. I am not interested in creating photos that use you as a prop with dispensable parts. I will not betray you like that.

With more than 10 years of professional experience I have learned to co-create comfortable, empowering, and permissive environments fo, and with my clients. This collaborative approach sets my clients at ease inviting me to document their lives and the lives of those they love most, as they are.

Whether our session takes place in your home surrounded by family, in a wide desert that calls you home, or in my studio filled with your favorite music and foods I promise an experience that honors the entire and perfect you.

I make my home in Ogden, Utah with my greatest inspirations; my partner Matthew and our four kids. In 2019 my Matthew and I opened Ultraviolet Studios, a production and event studio space. I prefer my food clean, my art unsettling, my travel with cactus, and my weekends filled family, friends, nature, and rest.

THOUGHTS // Birthing a Bio

I updated my website bio this weekend. It’s hard to write your own bio, even for someone who loves writing...especially in first person. Each word is a magnet and mirror, a focused signal aimed to connect.

It takes a strong community and heaps of bravery to aim right. The new economy recognizes our interconnectivity, our community, our inspiration, and empowered singularity. I have grown attuned enough to niche these last few months and I could not have done it without my people. I’m filling this post with tags to the ones who have directly and indirectly helped me find my words.

To @lindseystewartphotography who made this beautiful portrait of me and many others for myself and my brand. My @mattpetersonphotography match, wise and wild who liked my Bumble bio just fine. @heybefab for welcoming me to a weird and wonderful new town, @angel4ogden who is keeping it great, @myyeslife for the support and showing up. @darcybenincosa with wisdom and vitamin water and her site reviews that push me hard.

@incrediblejulk for her work and kindness and for essentially writing it with the help of her shape-giving testimonial, for @awakeandbreathe for telling me with tears, and to our @hellorachelswan for the introduction. Thank you @segostrega for tarot and wisdom.

@madelinebeeton for saying and doing the thing, @mandystyled for gathering and shining (and my hair) For @lindsayjill12 for singing kindness, for @mrsupdike for sisterhood unsung, for @stephawkes standing so confident and spontaneous, @mirandaprtr for knowing without words. For @_lavenderkitchen and new friendship. For @aandcosalonspa for support and great skin. And to Mette Harrison for illustrating how much it means to have them know you before you show up.

And lastly and firstly, to my daughters, I’m doing this for us.

THOUGHTS // Perfectionism and Resistance

 
Ashley Thalman and Painted Backdrops

I lost it last night. I tore into myself and called myself names and gave myself labels that I have worked to keep away. Nothing was safe. My dreams, art, roles, my heart, friends, my skin, my past, my gifts, beliefs, my paths-all under attack. The resistance is real and it builds, attacking in quiet and even triumphant times.

And you know what? When I’m in the middle of all this, it actually feels “right”, it feels “true”, like this loathing is the actual reality. It is convincing. Pressfield says, “the resistance will bury you.” And in the truest sense it is real, it’s the other half of the whole.

Polarity demands the expression of itself, perfectionism be damned. Its very job is to bury us. And no one and nothing is exempt.

Last night I let it all out, tears and words, regrets and horror in a blended whisper of my own messy me. My Matthew match held still and listened as it all came exploding out in a terrifying and quiet breathless ache. No interruptions, no solutions. His steadiness takes work. To feel terror and disgust and to allow it to fill a room and believe that it will end and be alchemized to a new life takes work. Being buried and resurrecting from that burial, takes everything from us to ensure surrender and then survival.

This morning I feel clean. I feel like a more self-loved version of myself. This way, is the only way. Polarity, contrast, the bitter for the sweet. The resistance builds, we beat it back, it demands that we sit with it sorrowing in boundless grief. The seasons and sun rise and we with them, initiating us and proving us as we move along the cycles of life, death, and life again. 

THOUGHTS // Beaconing Humus

Maddie Beeton by Ashley Thalman shot just beyond the Ultraviolet Studios property.

When spring brings

these green spears, heralds of rising life,

I ache, awake.

I want to slip myself under that emerald blanket where

roots weave through wet humus,

to listen.

To revere what the dark made holy,

to set my womb down

against the dust of life and death and life again,

to ground myself in the resurrected nourishment,

to find the quiet where loss gives rise to life.

THOUGHTS // Collapse of Belief

 
Photographed just after I visited an LDS temple for the last time.

Photographed just after I visited an LDS temple for the last time.

It is no secret that Ashley Thalman is no longer LDS. It is also no secret that some of my most profound memories, relationships, experiences, and growth came as a practicing true-believing Mormon. And I was true. I served a mission and deeply felt the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation and it gave me hope, helped insulate me through child abuse and neglect, a parent's death, and a painful marriage.

It has been a hard and rewarding road learning to navigate spirituality on my own terms while wrestling with the pain points that very aggressively, very unexpectedly destroyed my foundational belief in Mormonism's core concepts and culture. I did not "fall away", nor was I "lead" from the paths and prescriptions of Mormonism or the Gospel. I did not read "anti". I just took my gospel doctrine calling seriously and leaned in hard to what I thought Christianity was.

It would be an understatement at best, and dishonest at worst, not to say that my faith crisis hit me with the force of war. I felt like I was exploding, imploding. I collapsed under the weight of it. I aches with screaming and sobbing and moaning. This went on and on for well over a year.

Groaning in heaves of crying, praying, begging. "Please, let it be real." --- "What is the point anymore?!"---- "What happens when we die!" I ran. I ran so hard and far and fast that I ran my knees ragged and the torn cartilage evidence is audible. 

I tried, I read and researched hoping to find a loophole, a wormhole to bring me back all my assurance and knowing. I versed myself on the finer points, the broader foundations, the intentions, the culture, the history and yet, I could not unsee what I had seen. I wished I could and still I couldn't. I was not wrong but I didn't know that. I made myself wrong and felt deep pointed pains of loss and grief. 

There is a difference among the disaffected, between those of us who never felt the true-blue depth of Mormonism, and those who did. It is the divisible difference between leaving a casual boyfriend/girlfriend and divorcing a person you were deeply in love with and committed to for 20+ years.

I taught gospel doctrine for about 6 months following the collapse of my belief because I hoped that somewhere in Ashley was a spiritual gift to reconcile not only myself, but all the pain the church and its culture had caused, with all the good of all the people who relied on it and were committed to it. 


But then I mercifully moved. I left the branch I had belonged to for 6 years and I stopped going. I have never been back. I started telling friends, told my family, experienced a lot of freedom not having to hide anymore and once my divorce was final, I sent in my official resignation letter and had my records removed from the church. This entire time I had an army of ex mos, jack mos, liberal af mos, mo mos who all loved me. But even still I had to learn to love the me I never planned on becoming. I had roadmaps of unorthodoxy, exit, resignation. I had Reddit. I had tools. I had a therapist but some are not so lucky.

I know this hurts to read for some of you. It would have hurt and worried a previous me. I do not share this to "leave the church, but not leave it alone". I share it to humanize something happening that is not one dimensional. You see, I never foresaw this path for myself. And because of the alchemic work I have done to accept, embrace and grow from all this I have become someone I was always afraid I could never be. And I love her. And I'm grateful that I'm not LDS and at the same time I am grateful that I was. And that's flippin' hard to work through and not everyone can say that. 


So, here is the point of this long long share. And a little invitation... Our culture of Mormonism is filled with countless people who, like I once was, are running and aching and sobbing and begging and hoping to reconcile their faith. They are everywhere. For some, even once reconciliation and relief comes, they stay. The reasons are myriad and each one is real and worthy and shitty and isolating and painful beyond what I can explain here.

These people are teaching gospel doctrine, they are bishops, they are your daughters-in-law, they are leading auxiliaries, working at the COB, at BYU- all wearing the costume, walking the walk, because it is too painful to leave, too expensive, too emotionally costly, too dangerous. And sometimes if may be because of things they have heard you say. It may be that they are so certain that your love is limited to their 10% and temple recommend that they keep this huge grief from you, resigning to live as a shadow. And you don't know who they are because this is a well-intentioned culture that encourages us to "doubt out doubts" and therefore we erroneously "doubt the doubters" and that hurts people terribly.

Years ago when I was very "in" and I was hoping to gain insight on how to empathize and create safety for those who were out, or verging on it, a therapist invited me to "BE CURIOUS"- be empathetic. 
That is where the magic begins. And if that feels safe, and you can follow the inclusive lessons of Christ a bit deeper you will deepen. It will profoundly enrich you to embrace others. Maybe you will find that you would be okay having a family member or friend who is changing shape. Open your mouth and reaffirm their place and security as someone you love and trust who can love and trust you.


My dad said the most beautiful thing a few years ago, "I trust that you had good reasons for leaving and I still think you are great." That is ideal! If you can't say it with integrity, start by withholding your judgements about those leave because you never, ever know who will leave next.

AIRPORTRAITS // Mo Amer

 
Mo Amer at Edmonton Alberta airport by Ashley Thalman Photography

It was an October Monday in the quiet Edmonton airport where I met Mo. It was a chanced meeting and, like foreordained companions, we passed through TSA, through the sad terminal architecture, through the heavy-handed duty free gift shop- as a pair.

Taking cues from time and place, we chose a corner where the light was right, a place to talk and share. In that place we were seen and we saw each other. The truth is that Mo blessed me by being seen and showing up like he did. Connection, kindness, consideration, and fantastic light is all around us. And Mo, he’s experienced, artistic, deep, and funny. It has been so amazing in the last year and a half to see and watch Mo’s light and depth shine in a world that needs his voice, needs his generosity and humor.