Ashley Campbell is a Los Angeles artist working in photogaphy, sculpture, and installation, currently earning her BFA at Art Center College of Design. Her work explores the anxiety produced by lifestyle photography, and its intrinsic relationship to aspirational identification. By offering scenarios of heightened banality with soft, warm lighting and saturated color, this imagery is presented causally, giving the consumer the illusion of attainability. Yet this effect can only be achieved in highly controlled settings. The success of lifestyle photography relies on the fact that its translation into real life will fail, which creates a cycle of perpetual desire to compensate for one’s own inadequacies. So much so, that everyday people mimic this system as a means for selling their own life. The growing popularity of Instagram has made the curation of images more important than physical experience.
Campbell's projects live in a space of contradiction, irony, and dysfunction, often in relationship to the idea of the home and the domestic, using theatricality and artifice as tools for critique. The physical structure utilizes the photographic tableau, employing formal spatial dynamics that paradoxically succeed and fail at the same time. The arrangement of objects and color relationships become increasingly important as a way of drawing the viewer in. Superficially, the work resembles a Martha Stewart setting, utilizing inviting pastel colors and pleasing object arrangements. Yet, upon close examination the tableau reveals incongruities in its structure, like a composition that is slightly off, or the appearance of stains. While initially these gestures appear subtle, these incongruities provoke a sense of cognitive dissonance in the viewer—flipping the ideal domestic setting into a more perverse and confrontational image.
Commercial imagery uses highly manipulated images to sell the idea of the perfect life— something to aspire to. The work responds to this, and uses many of the same devices to demonstrate the blatant failure inherent in these ideas. For example, a photographic image can be so closely in line with how we view real life that it can, inadvertently, become hard for us to separate it as fiction. Furthermore, photography is never neutral; even a snapshot, which includes some things while excluding others, represents deliberate and often highly subjective choices on behalf of the image maker.