Get To Know: Ashley Connor
New York-based director of photography Ashley Connor is one of our absolute favourite cinematic artists right now. She has had feature films premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, Sundance, and TIFF, has built up an incredible collection of shorts, and is the eyes behind a ridiculous proportion of our most beloved music videos, each of them different, yet all of them totally beguiling. We first came across Ashley's work via the Jenny Hval 'Innocence Is Kinky' video, and when we noticed that she'd also shot the videos for TORRES' 'Three Futures' (which she also directed), and Alex Cameron's 'Stranger's Kiss' featuring an incredible performance by Jemima Kirke, we knew we had to get in touch.
How would you describe your cinematic style?
I think my style shifts depending on the project, but I know my work sings most when I let the emotions of the story / music / etc guide my decisions. I also think 'intense' is a word that gets thrown out a lot, I like bold colours - definitely not a desaturated kind of woman.
Do you play favourites with the kinds of films you make? Or with any of your films in particular?
I don’t really play favourites. In fact, I actively try to avoid doing films that seem too similar to something I’ve already done. In terms of favourite films I’ve worked on, each one has its own special place and it’s fun to look back and remember what was going on in my personal life while I was making certain movies - a visual diary, so to speak.
You have a number of consistent collaborators, both directors and artists. When working with those collaborators do you feel like each new piece of work builds on the last, or do you come to each project totally fresh?
It depends on the collaborator, but you can’t disregard your past and inevitably every new piece of work builds upon the last. For example, my longest collaboration has been with Zia Anger and we’ve spent almost 12 years learning some hard lessons on a number of different projects, from music videos to films to workout video shoots. Sometimes we yelled or cried or laughed till we fell over and, ultimately, it is the most intimate collaboration because we’ve melted into a gelatinous mass and our brains have essentially fused.
Film is still such a male-dominated industry, so we were thrilled to find that you’re the eyes behind so many of our favourite music videos. Have you had many female role models over the course of your career, and if so who are they?
I’ve had many many female role models. I usually mention Maya Deren or Agnes Godard (one of my favorite cinematographers, most well known for shooting all of Claire Denis’ films), because they’ve been hugely influential to my work - but lately I’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of gratuity towards ALL female filmmakers who’ve come before me. The level of sexist bullshit we’re still dealing with is shocking, but then I start to think about how much progress has been made in the last 10 years and I can’t even imagine being a woman trying to shoot or direct back in the, well, really just at any time. I bow to all the warriors for paving the way.
We’ve noticed that, with respect to your music videos, you’ve only worked with women and genderqueer folk over the last four years or so. Has that been a conscious choice?
I’m not sure it’s entirely conscious but I'm deeply invested in subverting certain tropes of female empowerment/female objectification for capitalistic gain and it is usually reflected in the way I shoot. It’s too easy to create beautiful images of beautiful people and I want a fuller spectrum of what we’re told is beautiful or normal. This includes representation of nonbinary or genderqueer artists and giving them the space to present and explore and take ownership over their image. So many music videos bore me, so I at least try to choose projects that are attempting to create some friction with the narrative we’re all being sold.
How much do other art forms inform your own process?
I’d say a lot. I follow the Deleuze/Guattari rhizome theory in that sense - we all absorb and repurpose everything we learn or see, so I believe it’s all part of the influence.
A song that gets you up in the morning?
Dolly Parton 'Hey, Lucky Lady'
A song that soothes your soul?
John Maus 'Hey Moon'
Francis or Sofia?
Your favourite book?
Buenos Aires by Christopher Doyle
...and now the big one: cats or dogs?
Dogs, forever and always.
Check out Ashley's most recent work with Torres, 'Helen In The Woods', released just a couple of days ago.
Thumbnail photo credit: Andrew Bradford