Confluence Magazine is pleased to be a sponsor of the inaugural Storyteller’s Photo Conference (May 5-7, 2019, in Miami, FL, USA) and as part of our sponsorship we’re featuring interviews with the keynote speakers because every single one of them is an incredibly talented, insightful photographer with an ambitious array of additional projects in their back pockets. Today, an interview with Ashleigh Raddatz, photographer and founder of Documentary Family Photographers (DFP).
Confluence Magazine: Can you tell us about a long-term personal project you’ve worked on (either finished or still in process)? How long did you / have you work(ed) on it?
Ashleigh Raddatz: To be honest, this past year (2018) I let my personal project(s) kind of fall by the wayside because I had a tough year with anxiety, panic attacks & mental health in general. Usually photography and creative projects of any kind have been an ideal way for me to push through those darker days but this year was different for some reason. I finally realized I had to put my camera down for a bit because it seemed I was using it as a tool to avoid facing my reality which in turn, amplified my issues. I am finally feeling ready to pick up where I left off.
I am picking my "Culture Shock- Streets of Europe" (still a working title) project back up and I am psyched about it (the good kind of psyched, ha!) I have been working on the project since 2016 and it's been ever evolving.
Confluence Magazine: Why is the project important to you personally? Who else might find the project meaningful?
Ashleigh Raddatz:When I first moved to Europe, I was not expecting much of a culture shock but hot damn, was it ever. I was hyper-aware of the differences and surprised by certain similarities, coming in as an Expat with expectations which were clearly off base.
From mannerisms, to how close people stand to you, to lack of diversity compared to what I was used to in California (although this is changing), to their genuine kindness once you get into the inner circle, to the drinking culture (one drink of alcohol and they give themselves permission to let loose. The stoic mask falls off and they get pretty wild)... So much here was different. And of course, we can't forget about the fashion... socks and sandals are out in full force come Spring.
This all became important for me for a couple of reasons. First is, I find it fascinating. Everything around me is different from the first 25 years of my life so I really want to take it all in and also to be able to reflect on it over and over again as the series organically evolves.
Second, it helps me find my footing and open my mind to things. I was so naive to how people lived outside of America. There are so many layers to the various cultures and way of living here, I find something new, still after living here 8 years. But really, it gave me a deeper understanding of "And in the end, we are all just human". Because although there are vast cultural differences, on a human level, we are really all much the same.
Even though on the surface things may appear different, we are much the same. We are all just trying to find our own way in this thing we call life. Whether that is through religious practices, fashion choices or going balls out on a scooter across a bridge in Prague. (See image.)
Confluence Magazine: How did the project challenge you and help you grow as a photographer?
Ashleigh Raddatz: This project has allowed me to look at my own biases and any pre-conceived notions I have about culture and humanity in general. It challenges me to let go of what I have heard or read and to just be in my surroundings. To absorb what I can and let my subconscious be the guide rather than my conscious. It pushes me to connect with people, whether that be verbally or in passing with our eyes. And in turn, I see pieces myself in each of them.