For Ransom Ashley, growing up came with a feeling of isolation, rejection and displacement. Driven by his creative spirit and big dreams to make it as an artist, Ashley felt like an outcast in his otherwise conservative and religious home of Shreveport, Louisiana. He tells Konbini:
"People in the south are generally very warm but can be equally hostile to anything that threats the existing social structure."
Searching for a sense of belonging, Ashley bonded with a bunch of other kids who felt just as outlawed by their peers as he did. "My friends and I were quite artistic, most of us getting acquainted in local theatre groups; we bonded over similar dreams of escaping the small town and pursuing our dreams that defied the conventions we were raised in."
Constantly immersed in these feelings of confusion, Ashley strived to find a creative outlet that would allow him to document, observe and learn about his and his friends' coming of age experiences in one of the Bible Belt states. Photography was the answer.
According to Ashley, at least for him, coming of age had a lot to do with depression, bullying, wanting to escape and find some meaning in all the chaos of the world. Photography helped him express those bottled up emotions, and also served as documents for self-exploration. He says:
"My teenage years were incredibly confusing for me. I had all of these feelings that I didn’t understand about who I was and who I could be. There was fear, isolation, depression, and anxiety that I feel like I poured into these images.
My friends and I were also in search of this grand experience so there is also a great sense of curiosity. I hope people connect with the emotions that my images transmit."
Ashley's photographs capture intimate moments shared with his closest friends over the years. He took his camera everywhere, to local events like the Mardi Gras and when they were just hanging out at the dam or spend time canoeing around the lake. Eventually, the images were compiled into a series named Virgins. Addressing the name, Ransom tells us:
"The term Virgins was inspired by a sense of innocence that I felt was stolen from me during my teenage experience. But also by a simultaneous sense of wonder and curiosity about what lies ahead, existential questions that were a product of my youth."
The young photographer admits Virgins served as a diary documenting all the unique relationships he's had with each subject and what were they feeling during that time of their lives.
Currently, Ransom is working on a project with Italian artist and fashion designer Nicola Romagnoli, he is also compiling a book that will explore some of the queer subcultures nestled in Shreveport, Louisiana. To stay up to date with his news, follow Ransom Ashley on Instagram.