Ashley Osborne, better known as A.O. is a Los Angeles based photographer who is passionate about creating more representation in the media through her love for creative directing. In celebration of Black History Month this year, A.O. published her debut photography book titled Reclaiming The "Mother Road" — a project inspired by a lack of representation she noticed while researching imagery of the historic Route 66. With the photography book, she uses storytelling and fashion to highlight the experiences of African-Americans who traveled along Route 66 during the Jim Crow era when the country was still very much segregated. The story A.O created includes original photography of two stylish black women along the route in California narrated with insight to A.O.'s learnings about racism, survival guides and inspiration she found in the process.
We became familiar with A.O.'s powerful visions when she was featured in DARLA's #14DaysOfLove Project last month. She discussed how she incorporates love and passion into her work and what keeps her driven on the path to making Dreams And Real Life Align:
"The thing that keeps me most driven to achieve my goals is my faith in God. I believe that all the work I do is for a greater purpose and that's truly what drives me to keep going through the ups and downs that come with being a creative. My goals are big and I have a vision of myself literally creating a more positive future with my mind, my hands and my voice. What I love most about the work that I do is my intention behind my work. When it comes to my art, everything I create starts with an intention; a purpose that I can articulate. I truly love people and making them feel important and that's what fuels my passion for creating beautiful images and telling the relatable, inspiring stories of people of color, especially women. I think this is something we've been missing in the media for a long time; a spectrum of representation for multi-dimensional women of color. Women are incredibly dynamic and I believe we need to see more of that in our mainstream media. Through my work, I hope that in the future, no little girl will be able to look on TV or in a magazine and not see herself represented and reflected. I hope that I can remind people that they are important and their stories matter. I hope to lift the esteem of the people I work with and shine my light in their lives by impacting them in a positive way. I hope to continue paving the way for us and to be a representation of a Black Female Creative who followed God in creating the life of her dreams and positively changing the world." — Ashley Osborne
A.O. continues to inspires us with "Love + Light" through each project she creates. She's a young woman on her way to making history, for sure. Check out our recent conversation about Dreams And Real Life and how she has let passion guide her in discovering her true purpose.
How are you feeling today? What’s going on?
I am feeling amazing! I’m off work today and I’ve had an amazing weekend. Right now I’m about to go day drink a little bit with my old friends that I met when I studied abroad in college, then I’ll come back and work on some edits and my personal projects. I’ve got to work tomorrow so I’m just looking forward to having a relaxing day. It’s been a very energetic weekend.
That’s good, it’s always great to have a relaxing Monday!
Right! It’s my favorite day — only because I don’t work on Mondays, haha.
What’s your day to day like? You work for OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) right? What’s your role there?
I’m a Social Media Coordinator within the social media and marketing department. Outside of that, I do photography, of course.
What age did you get into photography and realize that this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve always had an interest in photography, ever since I was little because my dad always used to take pictures of us when I was a kid — on disposable and film cameras... So it’s pretty much been an interest my whole life; I’ve always admired it and loved it. I loved getting magazines when I was a kid, just to look at the images in them... But it wasn’t until I got to college that I really started. I got a point-and-shoot camera just to take pictures around campus. I didn’t really use it that much, besides for when I first got it.
It was my senior year, my last semester of college, and I needed some electives to finish my degree requirements. I took a commercial video class and I really liked it. I had no idea what I was doing, haha. I didn’t know anything about operating a camera and in the class they didn’t really teach you anything about how to use the camera, they just kind of gave you projects to complete with timelines, deadlines, and the resources to make it happen. I really liked the class and that’s what made me interested in getting a DSLR camera; I got a Canon Rebel when I graduated in 2015. I would use that on and off but I didn’t really start shooting and taking it seriously until I moved to LA in 2016.
I had my first photo shoot that I got paid for in October 2016. That was my first, “Oh I can get paid to do this — cool,” moment. It was dope but it was a long process in finding the thing that would make me want to stick with it. I was trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to take pictures of. Was it going to be landscape and things in nature, was it going to be a niche like food or automobiles? I found that it was people that I loved taking pictures of, and that’s what helped me hone in and really focus on photography the way that I have been, now, for a long time. I found an intersection between the skill and my passion, which is people.
What’s a significant project you’ve worked on?
I would say, to this date, that one of the most significant projects that I’ve worked on is the Reebok “Always Classic” Spring/Summer 2018 campaign. It was so crazy how that happened and I’m still mind-blown about it... I was approached by an agency, which is really cool because my original background is in marketing, advertising and branding so I’m aware of how that process works. I got laid off from the job that I had in June, so I was freelancing with photography, Postmates, doing social media stuff — anything I could use my skills for. I was putting a lot of energy into working and trying to make something out of nothing... Then I was approached by this agency that had Reebok as a client and they asked me if I wanted to participate in the campaign as a photographer and I was like, “Get the f*ck outta here! Me?? Of all people? How did y’all even find me? I don’t even have 10,000 followers on Instagram!” I got the e-mail and I was like, “What?? This is crazy!” I talked to them and they were like, “Yes, we’ll send you the shoes and the budget.” And here we are.
I also got to work on the project for the City of LA for this initiative called, "LA Originals" which is to support local entrepreneurs and small businesses that are based in LA. I got to create the website images for the pop-up store that they put in Century City Westfield, which is the new mall that just opened up a few months ago.
I would say those are like two of the most significant projects. Besides, of course, my job. I’m actually a freelancer at my job but this whole experience has been really dope — getting to do events with Oprah and take pictures there.
Wow, you’re literally living the dream with that position.
That’s literally how I feel!
Are you like a big Oprah fan? I watch Super Soul Sunday EVERY Sunday morning, haha.
Yes! It’s unreal, it’s amazing. I’m like, 'what is next??' It has to be Beyonce.
So what are your plans for the future since you’re just kind of freelancing and doing your creative thing?
You know, I think about that all the time. Just more creativity; keep on creating, keep collaborating with people. I have so many ideas for different platforms with different messages. Just create and exist because I feel like everyone I’ve been connecting with lately has been on a similar wave — like, "Let’s do this and be positive about it. Let’s encourage each other and let’s inspire each other. Let’s have everybody living the dream... Let’s all live the dream."
That’s what I want in the future. I just wanna keep on creating with people who want to live the dream. That’s the real plan. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to look or where it’s going to be… But that’s how I want it to feel. I think about the future at times, but I can’t do it too much because instead of fully being present, I’ll be too focused on making the vision happen that I want in the future. I just have to keep it somewhat broad so that I can focus on doing a good job right now, where I’m at; just being present for every moment. All we have is right now.
That’s the way to go. Sometimes I’ll drive myself crazy, just thinking about all I want to accomplish in the future but it really all comes down to being as simple as to just keep going in the direction you’re moving in.
Exactly! My senior year of college, that was me all year. Having so much anxiety about what I wanted to do but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. You really just gotta be still, be present. Life will just move you wherever you’re supposed to be going.
What’s some advice you’d give to the younger version of yourself?
OMG! It would be to, "Sit down and focus on the things you have a natural curiosity for, because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing." I didn’t always trust myself; what I was interested in and who I was. Me learning more about who I am and why I’m here and things like that is what has played a big part in bringing me to every moment that I’ve experienced thus far. I didn’t realize that until recently.
I would tell myself, "Keep following the natural interests. Don’t force anything. Don’t think that just because you see someone else doing what you could be interested in, that, that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing too." I feel like even when we do that, we look at people like, ‘Oh they’re already doing that, so that means I can’t do it too; there’s no room for me, there’s no place for me.’ But, no. Keep feeding that curiosity, keep feeding those interests and you’re going to figure out how it all comes together, the deeper that you dig into it. Just keep going deeper into yourself.
Right. Sometimes we get so caught up in searching for things outside of ourselves when all we really need to do is listen to that inner voice.
Exactly! Practicing and learning how to do that; being comfortable spending more time alone is important. I would also tell myself to not be so hard on myself. Like, “You’re doing fine.” I used to (and I still do) put so much pressure on myself to do really well at everything but 'Chill out — it’s not that deep.' Especially with the work that I’m doing, it’s supposed to be fun and not too stressful.
What do you want your work to represent to the world?
I want my work to reflect the beauty that is in people. I want people to look at my work and see themselves in it; see how beautiful that they are and just how great everybody is. I want my work to make people feel good, and great, and just feel something! I want to make people from all different backgrounds and life experiences feel something. I would prefer for them to feel good but I don’t have any control over that, haha… But that’s my intention — to make people feel good; make people feel love. I want to make people feel like they matter and that they’re important.
How would you spend the perfect Sunday with no rules or restrictions?
I would honestly spend it the way I spent yesterday; yesterday was a really good Sunday. A perfect Sunday would be spent creating in a beautiful space with beautiful people with lots of weed and good fruit; watermelon and pineapples. Where we’re just worshipping God, creating in the image of God… That’s a beautiful Sunday for me. Whether that’s on a beach, in the mountains, in the desert, in my backyard, in my living room, anywhere. That’s a perfect Sunday; getting a message or getting inspired!
[these things take time.] the poetry book available on amazon.com.