Ash LaRose is a Burlington-based photographer whose images explore the beauty–and vulnerability–of young women. More so, she uses the camera as a means of exploring feminine identity, both her own, through self-portraiture, and that of others, friends and strangers alike. Though she aspires to celebrity portraiture, her images of unknown women force the viewer to examine the face in front of them for points of connection rather than tabloid recognition.
“Sometimes I look at a woman and I get captivated,” she told me. “Not with a man’s gaze, but sometimes you’ll look at a woman and know that she has the power to wrap someone around her finger, to influence someone, to get you. It’s still something I’m trying to figure out, but it’s an idea that I’m intrigued by.”
It was the exploration of feminine beauty and identity that gave LaRose her first break: a featured spot in a juried exhibition at Cooper Union entitled INDWELLING: Living in a Female Body. Joyce Tenneson juried that exhibition. “I was one out of 150 chosen from entries submitted from around the world. I got the email, and I was ecstatic. Literally my face started turning blue.”
The young LaRose is finding it increasingly difficult to capture those rare, unguarded moments though. “I try to make women not look like sex objects. I look at modeling web sites and all the girls are doing what I consider generic poses of woman contorting their bodies in sexual poses. A model I worked with starting posing like that and I had to stop her. I’m not interested in that.”
Raised in Queensbury, New York, ten minutes from Lake George, in what she classifies as “quintessential hometown America,” LaRose was drawn to photography upon returning to community college after a particularly difficult year. “There was a black and white course. I actually remember the exact photograph. I was doing a light study of my friend. And I did a shot of her with a silk blindfold and I was developing that shot in the tray and I said to myself, ‘You know what? This is a lot of fun.’”
She came to Burlington to gain exposure in a small city with a vibrant arts scene. It’s not an atypical bohemian life. She currently splits her time between her passion and the paycheck: serving up hot caramel macchiatos at Starbucks, then hitting up the galleries on a day off. And LaRose is eager to get out there, whether it means hanging her art at the hot bar in town or at an up-and-coming gallery space.
The free moments are also spent exploring and collecting little things – pin-up posters and old furniture, old movie posters…inspiration.
“It’s funny because my parents are big antiques collectors, and I used to protest that I wanted a modern home with modern furniture. Now I like those things. Worn things inspire me. Objects with stories.” The same goes for her studio space, which is filled with objects to draw out a model’s inner spark – wigs, flowers, necklaces, an old silk slip. And a reflector…
So what’s the next project LaRose would like to sink her teeth into? “Photographing men. With men you’re not capturing beauty in the same way,” she says, “Unless you’re Jude Law and groomed like a poodle from head to toe.”