“I was still too young to verbalize the catharsis that came with clicking the shutter button, proof of your presence, and relief from the memory reel stuck on replay from the origin event that occurred several months prior, from whence Goo Rot initially crawled from her primordial slime, when my dad almost shot my head off when my mother divorced him for his new meth hobby,” is how photographer Samantha Ashcraft tells us she got into photography when he tried out her uncle Bill’s camera in 1999. Her uncle eventually gave her a camera and she dove into analog photography from there. Trust us when we say that from there, the story and how Samantha developed her creativity get very fascinating.
An artist’s creativity and unique style is borne through trial-and-error, patience and adversity. Making art by any means necessary is alchemy actualized. And I’m not casting shade on photographers with access, everyone should explore whatever tools help you create your vision within your means.Samantha Ashcraft
When Samantha’s father passed, she started her Flickr account. She learned from this that your time with loved ones is all that matters in life. To her, the feeling of film and what it delivers can’t be matched by digital. “Film can transcend dimensions- second, third, fourth- and simultaneously records and confirms your reality, something I came to appreciate when my psyche and adversarial circumstances began to snowball,” she tells us.
Samantha is big on minimalism — and she’s huge on the idea that no money or gear can compensate for substance or talent. If anything, she thinks it can be a deterrent. She started out on 35mm and loved the Yashica Electro 35. She’s also used Olympus Pen-EE half frame cameras, a Holga 120, and others. But these days, she works on a Polaroid i-type camera. Her true essentials: a pack of film, yellow filters, green filters, and some scotch tape because the filters don’t even fit the camera.
But had you interviewed me two years ago, you would’ve heard nothing but pro-instax wide evangelist musings for it’s affordability (in spite of Fujifilm’s corrupt practice of implementing planned obsolescence into the five or so instax wide bodies I bought and broke over the last eleven years) I came of age when the Polaroid Corporation went bankrupt, and Impossible Project film being cost prohibitive as it was, I couldn’t afford the heartbreak. The emergence of this i-Type generation is an absolute game-changer and my favorite enabler.Samantha Ashcraft
For several years, Samantha struggled to define her photographic identity and sense of self. And so she’d dive into Flickr, going down rabbit holes in the search for inspiration for her self-taught artwork. Ultimately, she got into expired film and multiple exposures. “…it’s a practical guarantee of your work embodying an inherent uniqueness that’s nearly impossible to replicate,” she tells us. And we’ve got to agree! How many photographers feel brave enough to tackle the multiple exposure method? “Multiple exposure work is a lot like beat sampling with music- so many layers that make up a mood, rendering some classic throwbacks and fumbling around with syncopation…So it’s all an effort of seeking atonement in integrating myself and (my) subjects with the surrounding/ seasonal flora and fauna.” For Samantha, she believes her work is an ode to the Earth — which she feels very sorrowful for.
“I do my learning through brute-force living and visceral experience.”
Her more recent work has taken on more specific tones for good reason. Since the overturning of Roe Vs Wade, she’s used more red, yellow, green, and blue tones in her photos. She references this to some work she did back in 2015 which had similar tones during a 7-week-long medicinal abortion that she says saved her life. It was an incredibly dark time in her life.
Admittedly for her, it’s hard for Samantha to put all this into words — and she’s been working on being less cryptic about her descriptions. She says that it’s part of some major scars she’s had — some of them involving a previously violent partner. “…everything I make is a testimony to my resiliency, fuck-you-I’m still-alive,” she tells us. “And it’s been a real trip to flip this old tired narrative of mentally-ill starving artist to the more-stable-and-well-fed artist. I wanted to see what I could make under ideal conditions.”
Obviously, Samantha is huge on expression — and considers AI an Absolute Evil Incarnate. “…it’s not art if a human isn’t contributing some level of blood-sweat-tears,” she tells us. “A.I. just machine-learned every piece of human-generated art and regurgitates our efforts.” She shares the same sentiment around film presets and the lack of authenticity.