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People have the capacity to be good. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on the good in the world when the bad seems so prominent.
But there is good out there. There are good people that do good things, and I want to help bring that good to the world.
I recently interviewed an amazing person named Ashley Kidwell, who is someone bringing good everywhere she goes.
As a talented photographer, Ashley found a beautiful way to bring the good vibes from the music she loves to help benefit others. In this case, preferably dogs
She takes amazing pictures at her favorite reggae shows, has the bands sign them, and then auctions them off for charities and non-profits. (Since she’s such a dog lover, many times it ends up being one for dogs.)
I first met Ashley doing this at the One Love reggae festival, and was immediately inspired by her ambition and drive to spread the peaceful music in meaningful ways.
I’m so happy to have had the chance to interview her, and hopefully inspire more people to take action and create beautiful art that benefits the world. Hope you enjoy, you can visit her Facebook page here
Hill Kid Brendan: How did you initially get started doing photography?
Ashley: I’ve always taken photos and documented memories, but using a DSLR camera is new to me. I bought my first Canon Rebel in 2011 on my first travel assignment. I travel for work and wanted a ‘nice’ camera to document my travels. I knew nothing about cameras and just bought one on a black Friday sale. I still don’t know much about them and only last year did I start shooting in manual mode.
Hill Kid Brendan: When did you start photography in the music scene?
Ashley: Almost a year ago, the end of October 2015, at an Iya Terra and New Kingston show in Sacramento. I was going to the show and both bands are friends of mine, so I asked if they minded if I tried taking photos. They kindly let me, but I was so nervous I think I only took about 20 photos all night.
Hill Kid Brendan: What was the hardest part about getting started in your craft? How did you overcome it?
Ashley: The hardest part was finding the confidence to just go out there and try it. I’ve been a fan of these bands for years and seen most of them perform many times across the country. They are my idols and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of them. I just stuck with it though, focusing on those who were supporting me rather than getting discouraged.
Hill Kid Brendan: What gave you the inspiration to begin offering signed photos for non-profits/charitable organizations?
Ashley: I was trying to decide why to even keep taking concert photos. A dog rescue, Boxer Butts and Other Mutts, posted an album on Facebook of random things for auction that were all donated to raise money. That gave me the idea to offer photos to fans, and having them signed made them more desirable.
Hill Kid Brendan: What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
Ashley: Gosh, every part of this. From the support I receive from other reggae fans – they recognize me at shows and send me private messages sharing their kind words; support from the musicians – at Cali Roots when Eric Rachmany signed his photo he said, “I love what you are doing”, and of course the auctions, no one is better than the other they are all important and every time I post one I fear no one will bid, but they keep exceeding my expectations. I have raised over $1,000 this year which was a big milestone. That was my goal for the whole year and I reached it just over half way into 2016!
Hill Kid Brendan: What was your favorite show to photograph? Why?
Ashley: Every show! Literally every time I see a band live I’m like, “ah they are my new favorite!” New Years Eve shooting Slightly Stoopid was a big one for me. I was new and looking back my photos were quite bad back then, haha but they gave me access and I had a great time from vibing to the music, to the photos, to running into Scott Woodruff and Alific in the crowd, it was a great night all around. Then SOJA was huuuuge for me. They are the reggae band I grew up on (besides Bob and Sublime of course). They are the first reggae band I saw live and I listened to them for years before I knew who any other reggae band was. Then what do you know, Stoopid and SOJA toured together all summer. I drove over 8 hours to Florida so I could catch 2 shows, and I had such a great time that I booked a flight and went to Cleveland and Detroit for that tour too!
Hill Kid Brendan: What is your favorite part about what you do?
Ashley: This was going to be a tie between 2 answers but I read ahead to an upcoming question and will save one for that question. My favorite part is getting so involved with the reggae community. I have become friends with so many of the musicians I love so much. Never in my life did I think people like Jacob Hemphill and Eric Rachmany would recognize me.
Hill Kid Brendan: What is the most challenging part about what you do? How have you overcome that challenge?
Ashley: Getting access to shows!!! Some managers never respond when I reach out to take photos. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the people who I became friends with before my photography I would never get access. I would shout out who have helped me but luckily the list is wayyyy longer of who has been supportive and responsive than who hasn’t.
Hill Kid Brendan: What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?
Ashley: Raising money for charities 100% without a doubt. When I have the artist sign their photos I ask if they have a charity they want me to use, and I will gladly donate to them. Ever since I adopted my dog I have become slightly dog rescue crazy though so that is my charity of choice. I follow so many on Facebook and the dogs in need are endless. Every day puppies needing adopted, dogs abused horribly, shelters at capacity begging for rescues to pull, rescues asking for fosters and donations. I had no idea of everything that went on before my dog. Raising awareness has been equally if not as important. I have had several people reach out to me about helping find a specific dog from rescue.
Hill Kid Brendan: What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Hill Kid Brendan: What’s your go-to band for a great day?
Ashley: I have a go-to playlist. I listen to almost every band in the scene, so its rare that I play one band back to back unless its a brand new album release. My “irie” playlist has over 400 reggae songs, all in random order. The top 10 are my favorites so they change periodically. Currently they are: Tribal Seeds – Love Psalm (that has been #1 for years), SOJA – Tear It Down, Stick Figure – Vibes Alive, Maad T-Ray – We Tired, The Green – Rootsie Roots, Slightly Stoopid – Come Around, Common Kings – No Other Love, Iya Terra – Stand Strong, Alific – Under Arrest, and Hirie – Boom Fire
Hill Kid Brendan: What’s your go-to band for a tough day?
Ashley: Depends what kind of tough day.. I work night shift so if I’m struggling with being grumpy and/or tired I listen to Dirty Heads to perk up. If I’m sad with the world I listen to Mike Love. Otherwise, I’m usually in a good mood with my life nowadays, but Fortunate Youth would be the best for uplifting myself if needed.
Hill Kid Brendan: We believe everyone is an artist or has the potential to be. What does “art” mean to you?
Ashley: Art is about being creative and expressing yourself. When you share your art with others, you give them a piece of you.
Hill Kid Brendan: If you could give one piece of advice to other artists and creative people who are pursuing their dreams, what would it be?
Ashley: Find what you enjoy doing and then get good at it. You may take excellent photos, but if it doesn’t bring you joy don’t do it.
Hill Kid Brendan: If you could give yourself from ten years ago advice, what would it be?
Ashley: 10 years ago I was in college having the time of my life. I may have made some stupid decisions along the way but nothing major. I am very happy with where my choices in life have brought me, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Hill Kid Brendan: If you could give one message knowing everyone in the world would read it, what would it be?
Ashley: Do something to help someone else today.
Thank you Ashley for the inspiration Visit Ashley’s Facebook Page and give her a “like”!