Local Photographer Turns Pain into Art, Helps Others Heal With Literary/Documentary Project

by | Jan 19, 2018 | ART

Ten years ago, photographer Ashley Loth was in a dead-end job in Texas and her on-again-off-again relationship had hit another dysfunctional tipping point. Loth looked everywhere for help and came up dry in a state where she didn’t have any personal connections.

Originally from Richmond, Loth began reaching out to friends back home, hoping something would lead to her personal reinvention. She recalled her mother’s friend, Lynn Shook. Loth had helped Shook photograph bands at the Canal Club and that was the last time Loth remembers truly being happy. She reached out and Shook was excited to introduce her to the craft.

Loth made her way home and became Shook’s mentee. Shook soon passed away in June 2009, but Loth continued to hone her craft. She used her savings to purchase her first DSLR camera that August and by fall, Loth began to put her camera to work. She applied everything Shook taught her and explored as many realms of photography as she could.

Ashley Loth

“I started pursuing the art side of photography and not just family photography,” Loth said. “I found a passion in the niche of conceptual portraiture.”

That’s when the idea sparked for her latest project, My Goodbye Letter To You. Inspired by more than one toxic relationship, Loth started writing a poem, and its one many of us can relate to.

My interpretation is my former flame, but to some people this poem has been about a family disconnect, losing a job, having a poor view of themselves, being taken advantage of, and the list goes on,” Loth said.

Five years later, the poem has gone from a cathartic process to release emotion and heal, to the focal point of both a literary and visual art showcase involving women across the country that will premiere this weekend. 

What will be new about Loth’s poem is how we read it. Piece by piece, portions of “My Goodbye Letter to You” were painted on the legs, breasts, arms and, faces of over 50 women across the United States.

“Each model picked his or her verse,” said Loth. “The project focuses on taking the victimizing out of abuse and becoming a warrior. There is life after a really hard relationship.”

To start the project, Loth, who now owns Sound Snap Photography and boudoir photography brand Pink Photography, reached out to the burlesque community in Richmond. But in time, many of the initial shots were retaken and the project began to take on a different look. 

“When I did the first set back then, it was more glamorized,” Loth said. “ It wasn’t as raw as it has turned into.”

Word spread about her project. Nearly 200 people responded to participate, and so Loth began incorporating friends and non-models into the project for a raw and relatable effect. As a boudoir photographer, Loth’s body positive perspective shines through in the final images that represent a variety of body types, sexes, ages and races.

Connections from her concert and boudoir photography also came into play. Among the models, you’ll find Jesse Hughes, frontman of the Eagles of Death Metal, and popular Pin-Up model Neptune Suicide of the Suicide Girls. The entire exhibit will be presented in black and white.

Models in her photos were able to choose the words and phrases of the poem that spoke to them.

I am hoping that people will understand that there is life after trauma, heartbreak, loss, and grief,” Loth said. “I want people to know that they aren’t what happened to them, that everyone is beautiful and deserving of love. I want people to heal.”

Richmond-based multimedia firm Humble Collective partnered with Loth to record the process, capturing moments with models as they physically and emotionally connected with Loth’s words. Some will share their own stories during the hour-long documentary, which will be shown as part of the showcase. In addition to the documentary and printed images, Loth and others will read monologues at the event.

“This is not a break-up poem, it is {a} healing process, it is choosing yourself,” Loth emphasized. “I am so grateful that this has helped so many people heal from past traumas like it has for me.”

The final photo of the project was taken Jan. 15, 2018. The subject is Loth herself, who took the photo at Joshua Tree in California as the sun rose.

“My Goodbye Letter To You” opens Sat. Jan. 20 at Fresh Richmond, located at 213 E. Broad St. 7 to 10 p.m.




Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson is a freelance writer and marketing professional. She contributes fashion content for RVA Magazine, which is fueled by her work as a stylist and blogger behind SweetSauceBlog.com. She wants to give the Richmond fashion community a voice by telling the stories of designers, creatives, and business owners on the rise. She also covers topics including travel food, business, health, and beauty.

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