Richard Photo Lab

Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Ashley Kelemen

Ashley Kelemen is all about immersing herself into life's adventures. Not just trekking through Southeast Asia and taking African safaris (though she's done both), but experiencing all the emotion and joy of a couple embarking on their lifelong adventure — and capturing it with her artistic, editorial eye for photography.

Today in Richard Photo Lab's Photographer Spotlight, Ashley is sharing how social media started her career, the camera that she wishes wasn't her favorite, and the component of photography that she thrives on!

Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?

Ashley Kelemen: When I first moved to NYC, I started a small tumblr blog to document my life there. Taking simple iPhone photos with my phone quickly led to a friendship with some of the amazing lifestyle photographers in the city, all of whom were very supportive and encouraged me to buy my first "real" camera. I quickly went down the rabbit hole of shooting film and fell madly in love with the entire process of creating imagery with that medium. Being immersed in that city absolutely changed my life.

Image by Ashley Kelemen

R: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?

AK: Within six months of picking up a camera, I knew it was what I wanted to do for a living. I had been working a corporate fashion job for almost eight years and felt absolutely no passion for it. Knowing that I could merge this artistic process that I had so much fervor for with what I spent my time on every day was too appealing to ignore.

Image by Ashley Kelemen

R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?

AK: Travel is a huge part of my life, and documenting the amazing places I visit is my favorite thing, whether it's people watching in Asia, the scenery in Utah, or—let's be honest—macarons in Paris.

R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?

AK: It's always a challenge to strike this balance, but I make a huge effort to shoot personal work that is unrelated to weddings or vendors. The bulk of this is travel photography, because travel inspires me more than anything else, but I'm also working on a niche project to tell the stories of some of the creative people in my life (separate from photography). That sort of project gives me a huge buzz, because telling stories is the part of photography that I absolutely thrive on.

Image by Ashley Kelemen

R: What is your favorite camera and why?

AK: I wish my favorite camera was something different than the Contax 645, but that camera has been an absolute workhorse for me from day one. I'm so comfortable with the controls and manual focus that it's hard for me to switch!

R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?

AK: When I was still very new to photography, my good friend, Alice Gao, handed me her Contax, insisting that I had to give film a try. Even looking through the viewfinder felt like a completely different experience to me, and I promptly purchased a Canon SLR to start experimenting with film in my work. The decision to buy a Contax followed quickly...

Image by Ashley Kelemen

R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?

AK: There are so many nuances to scanning, and having a good relationship and good communication with my lab has made a huge difference in nailing down my look. Also, if I'm shooting in unusual lighting situations, I know I can just make a note or give them a call and they'll adjust accordingly.

R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?

AK: I chug a ton of water, check that I've got extra batteries about twelve times, and apply a lot of sunscreen (because being a ginger photographer in Southern California is risky business!).

R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?


R: Chocolate or vanilla?

AK: Vanilla.

R: Dogs or cats?

AK: Cats.

R: Urban or rural?

AK: Urban.

R: Modern or vintage?

AK: Modern.

R: Breakfast or Dinner?

AK: Breakfast FOR dinner!

R: Warm weather or cold weather?

AK: Cold!

R: Biggie or Tupac?

AK: Biggie.

R: Early bird or night owl?

AK: Early bird.

R: Crossword or Sudoku?

AK: Um, neither.

R: Batman or Superman?

AK: Batman.

R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?

AK: SciFi/Fantasy.

R: Comedy or Drama?

AK: This is like Sophie's choice...

R: Truth or dare?

AK: Dare, baby.

Image by Ashley Kelemen

R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?

AK: A marine biologist.

R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?

AK: Taylor Swift (I'm not even sorry).

R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?

AK: The ability to beam from one location to another, Star Trek style.

R: What is your favorite word, and why?

AK: "Sassafrass". It's adorable and fun to say!