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This is a heads up. Rick Ashley, photographer of the controversial “Michael” series, has a new body of work that upholds his tacit refusal to be pigeon-holed. In a veer to the Southern landscape, Ashley has created a cameo of the now nearly deserted downtown and outskirts of Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
In this body of work, Ashley reveals an expert eye for broad field and detail alike. Although reminiscent of William Eggleston’s exemplary Southern commentary, Ashley’s work utilizes more subtle colorations and the absence of people make it a sharp, modern study in color and line.
Ashley’s framing implores us to spend as much time examining the borders of his images as the fields. That the line and color patterns within those borders beg lingering observation is a testimony to his nuanced compositions.
The cheery light and gentle Southern palette belies the town’s abandonment and Ashley’s juxtaposition of bright exteriors with desolate interiors accentuate this contrast between the city’s past and present. Some compositions capitalize on this comparison by incorporating reflections, allowing us simultaneous views into buildings, through them and back, at street scenes from plate glass storefronts.
With an instinct as sharp as his wit, Ashley demonstrates a sophisticated sense of composition, color and line in his newest portfolio of images. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing it soon at a local museum or gallery. I’ll keep you posted.