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Meet Asia Denise Shelton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Asia Denise Shelton.

Asia Denise, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Like most people my age, I’ve been taking photographs for as long as I can remember. However, It was never something I took seriously as a career or life passion until college. My freshman year at Columbia College Chicago I took a darkroom class and just completely fell in love.

I threw myself into it completely. I eventually left the department after being wooed by Art History but I never stopped taking photographs. I went on to study the history and theory of photography, film, and new media and wrote an undergraduate thesis exploring the ways in which the embodied act of photography and active looking enhance our sense of experience and participation with the world around us.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In many ways, yes and no. I’ve struggled with mental health issues and experienced a lot of loss in my family over the years which can put a toll on anyone’s practice. However, I’ve been very blessed to have a solid support system. There’s a lot of mistakes I’ve made that I wouldn’t make again but I’d like to believe I’m learning and growing from them. I’m definitely working on becoming more assertive when it comes to my time and compensation as well as setting stronger boundaries when mixing business with friendship.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m currently working as a commercial photographer at a fragrance house in West Hollywood as well as freelancing and developing personal projects on the side. I shoot for eight different brands so everyday is something new. Each brand has its own unique concept and visual aesthetic so it’s my job not only execute it but to also continue developing each brands visual identity constantly. It’s a fast-paced working environment that I really enjoy.

On the other hand, my personal practice is rooted in both observing and being in the world. I’m fascinated by the transitory nature of daily life. The work that I create doesn’t concern itself with greatness but instead zeroes in on intimate moments. Some of the things I’m interested in are the spaces people live, the things they adorn themselves with, private conversations between strangers, children playing and trees.

What were you like growing up?
I was raised partially in Atlanta, GA and Akron, OH. I was fortunate to have parents that were really supportive of all my interests and was a very active child. I took drawing classes, dance, ceramics, piano, played tennis, African drumming, went to numerous summer camps, and on many family trips. Sometimes I was maybe too active!? I loved school but found myself tired and bored by anything that didn’t immediately interest me. I loved history and reading and that was pretty much it. I ignored my teachers and read books in classes I wasn’t supposed to. I had a real disdain for authority very early on and it followed me all the way into college, for better or for worse.

I was always doing something, especially in nature. My mother loved to take my sister and I on camping trips and hiking. When I was in the third grade, I went to visit a family friend who lived in Puerto Rico. We would spend whole days in the ocean throwing our bodies into waves and one day, I fell asleep on the beach for hours and got my first sunburn. I can remember hiking through the rain forest with our moms and resting at an old fortress in the clouds. It was the first time I’d ever stood in a cloud before. We flew kites on a sunny day by the coast and watched thunder and lightning storms on a nearby island. It was the first time I can remember feeling simultaneously frightened and in awe of the beauty of nature. It all sounds very syrupy, but I think those moments within nature are my most precious.

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Asia Denise Shelton

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