Customers will be the first to tell you about the quality of Ashley Marston’s photography work. But when National Geographic takes notice, you sit up and take notice yourself.
That was the case for Chemainus resident Marston last week with two selections in the magazine’s best of 2018 Your Shot recap.
“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers and such an enormous platform like National Geographic,” conceded Marston.
Her name has become synonymous with being one of the foremost birthing photographers, but she also captures amazing images in a day-in-the-life context, including a daily depiction of her own family for what amounts to a photographic diary that she compiles in books.
“These are the photos that trigger a memory, they become nostalgia,” Marston said. “In my business, that’s what I’m trying to give people are keepsakes.”
She’s always had a penchant for photography, even going back to her high school days at Chemainus Secondary School and continued that pursuit after graduation in 2000.
Marston (nee Kodric) and carver husband John (1995 grad) both grew up in Chemainus and are famous internationally in their respective fields.
Marston said she did a few other things until the birth of their son Noah in 2005 and “I picked up a camera again. That’s where it kind of reignited.”
Noah is now 13 and, following the birth of Tate (now seven) and Sofie (now six) 11 months apart in the same year, “that was about the time I started doing photography as a career,” said Marston.
Birth photography just naturally evolved after Sofie. “I was trying to find myself where photography was concerned,” Marston noted. “I just started to move my business into capturing more of the real moments of life.
“Nobody was really doing it here. That’s why I started to do it, even though it was bad timing in a busy life.”
Everybody thinks it’s the photography of just the birth itself, but “it’s really a collection of beautiful moments around the birth of a child,” she explained.
“What a wonderful way for a baby to be born with all that love and support.”
She’s also now into the fifth year of her daily project to document some aspect of her family’s life.
“Finding the in-between moments between all the chaos were the photographs I loved the most,” Marston indicated.
Nothing is scripted, however. She lets things happen – sometimes there are candid or poignant moments and sometimes just the natural interaction of a family – to capture the shot of the day.
“We’re not trying to depict any kind of perfectionism,” Marston stressed.
“This has been incredible for my clients. They’ve literally been watching my family grow up for five years.”
Changing times have obviously led to profound changes in many industries and photography is no exception, but Marston found her niche.
With birthing assignments, she’s typically booked nine months to a year in advance, but makes sure to take time off during spring break and December. Any families planning ahead might have to try and avoid those time periods for her services, she joked.
Marston restricts her coverage area from Nanaimo to Victoria because beyond that it can be impossible to get there on time when a birth takes place ahead of schedule.
Through it all, “I’ve sort of found a good work-life balance, especially where birth photography is concerned,” she pointed out.
Marston estimates she’s now done about 60 birthing photography assignments overall for clients.
“It’s always wonderful,” she said. “It’s always different. It never does get old.”