You know the saying. When life hands you sand, reenact Hawaii circa 1960. At least that’s how St. Louis photographer Ashley Gieseking remembers it. After one of her client’s photo shoots left her with access to a large sandbox, Ashley couldn’t pass up the chance to create her ideal beach scenario for a personal project.
Even though Ashley started with a fully stocked sandbox, she still found herself bringing sand to the beach.
We already had the sandbox and the sand setup from another shoot, but of course I decided I wanted different sand, so we had to source white sand.
Because this was a personal project, the preproduction was mostly just designing the set. Ashley had the freedom to pick and choose how she wanted to style the shoot without having to cater to a client’s needs.
I did lots of thrifting to find the right props and I felt this shoot could not happen without a live animal, so we made some calls and found a local pet shop that loaned us the chameleon.
During the shoot, Ashley worked to find a balance between her desired aesthetics and propping to keep a natrual look to the shoot. She also dealt with the challenges of working on a sandy set.
Sand is incredibility frustrating to work with. It gets on everything. If you move something, it leaves an impression, so we were constantly smoothing and trying to keep it off the food and props. The chameleon was also an interesting challenge. I don’t think sand is their natural habitat, more of a tree dweller, so he kept climbing upward on everything. We had to coax him pretty hard to walk across the set.
This being a personal project, Ashley had the opportunity to experiment with different techniques. She stepped away from her diffused lighting style and tried some harsher sources that were out of her comfort zone. She loved the results of the experimental lighting and plans to explore this style more in the future.
With any personal project, I want my own aesthetic to come through and for people to feel connected to the images and in the process connected to me as a photographer.
Ashley is using these images for her latest print mailer. As we say goodbye to summer, she is looking forward to getting started on her next project.
To view more of Ashley’s work, check out agieseking.com.