Ashley and Finding Madness

Originally Published January 13th, 2017

“The only people for me are the mad ones.”- Jack Kerouac

When Kerouac wrote those words in On the Road, he was writing about someone like Ashley. “Mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, and burn burn burn.” Ashley reminds me of a female version of Dean Moriarty. At least that’s how I see her.


Ashley Beatty Kopang, aka “solidashes” is a photographer, painter, art enthusiast, bartender, motorcycle rider, under-water explorer, dog mom, and I’m sure many many other things. I’ve known her for a relatively short period of time, however I’ve found her to be an incredibly interesting person. She has a very unique style to her photography, like a wedding dress that’s been pulled from a fire. All singed, blackened, and muddied by water, smoke, and ash. I’m sure every piece has an equally burning story behind it. Her fascinating persona is only magnified by died bright pink hair and the tattooed tree branch that stretches from her right upper shoulder all the way down to her wrist.



When I met Ashley she was behind the register at a local record store. We started talking and I quickly discovered she was a photographer. We swapped info and she was instantly excited by a photo I had taken of Ashley (my wife) surrounded by a ring of, wait for it, fire. Ashley reminds me of myself in many ways, her house is full of eclectic art pieces. Her studio is naturally a giant chaos. And, she’s never satisfied with staying still. Since becoming friends with Ashley and her husband Mike, (which I’ll talk about in another post) I’ve had the opportunity to photograph her several times.



For this particular shoot I wanted to capture Ashley in her darkroom/ workspace and show off some of the amazing work she creates. I kept things simple. I shot with my (new at the time) Fujifilm x100t which has a fixed 23mm lens. I used one speedlite and a 60 inch convertable umbrella. After fumbling around with my new camera, I got the lighting where I wanted it and snapped the photo I saw in my mind of Ashley when I was first planning the shoot.


Very rarely do I get the exact photo I see in my mind.

I get close and spend time tinkering in my head about what I should have done differently. I’m trying to break this habit by forcing myself to pause and truly be in the moment. I snapped a photo and saw glare on the picture frame behind her. Pause. Move my light. Breathe. Take another photo. Pause. Recompose and take another photo until I get exactly what I want. I’m sure if you’re reading this and you’re a creative, you understand how hard it is to get something from your brain, to your hands, to the world. When this happens take time to reflect and enjoy, be in that moment.

Leonardo da Vinchi said, “The most noble pleasure is the joy of understanding”. I believe realizing your true vision is equally enjoyable.

Its why we do what we do.


Apart from learning to use my new camera and experimenting with lighting, I’m continally working on my ability to create a comfortable experience for my friends and clients. Here I captured a candid smile from Ashley as she was explaining one of her favorite pieces of artwork on display.

Another aspect of our shoot that I would like to note is the fact that we had been shooting for sometime before moving down to the studio. I was warmed up after doing a portrait session with Ashley and Mike. Its worth noticing that most of the really great images I capture seem to happen midway through a shoot, after I get into that “flow state”. Its something to consider during the creative process.


“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” -Allen Ginsberg

I’m always inspired after spending time with Ashley and seeing all the new ways she pushes herself to create. I’m making it a goal to surround myself with other mad people. Whether its art, music, writing, speaking, laughing, eating, or just living life; I want to be mad about it. I want to be one of those people that just falls over dead doing what they love.

We wrapped up the shoot with a portrait of Ashley and her cat in front of her latest painting. I could not be happier with the images we made. When you get a chance please check out her work, blog, and upcoming art shows at or on instagram @solidashes

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