Uncovering Columbus: Ashley Voss (@coreroc)

Classification: Coreroc: The camera itself is just a tool of mine—just like a paintbrush that I use to explore and create my artistic visions. I sharpen some tools more than others for the desired results, but never leave myself with just a flat-head screwdriver. So in that sensem the title photographer would simplify the overall process of my of my work. Even when I present my photos in physical form, I make wood frames by hand, mount the photos, then paint, stencil, and pour resin over them. So even the photo is but a step in my process.

Origins: As an artist, it becomes imperative to wear many hats to find actual success. Outside of needing to be a great at marketing, an artist usually works as their own graphic designer and documentarian. That’s pretty much what landed the camera in my hand. Originally, as a graffiti artist, the film camera was near mandatory to catch the artwork right after completion and before the art was damaged or the city buff crew wiped it out. Digital cameras and internet marketing and the need to have the strongest image to promote my creations caused the demand to learn my camera as an actual tool for my art path. I also have this irrational fear of photo-realistic art from a drawing and painting perspective, so the camera allows me to create realistic scenes that my mind’s eye sees, yet in a way that my artist ADD gets instant gratification.

Technique vs. free-form:
The medium of long exposure photography as it applies to light graffiti is a super complex formula that can have so many variables to hone in. Just the light source itself requires thought in how the tool is created and how that relates to the end result. Throw in the need for good photographic composition and an array of camera settings needed to play in the dark, and it begins to add layers of complication. The addition of portraiture to long exposure is its own animal teaching the model to almost take not a single breath for sometimes 10 seconds for the light pattern to happen before the flash pops to create the portrait.
I believe that the complexity of the process —­along with the fact that everything is an experiment until you find that diamond in the rough­—is exactly what makes me chase this art form. I personally believe that as an artist most of our joy lies in the process itself, rather than the finished project. In this way, process-rich mediums speak to the deeper, more developed creatives.

Tools: So the simple tools like a flashlight have gone to the history books, although it was very impressive when Picasso was using primitive tools this way. My resume [shows] a background of electronic manufacturing, so I use my talents there to DIY my own light sources that vary in size and shape and are fully remote-controlled and partially programmable. I can make these tools that I call “light painting brushes” for around $15-30 which gets me 80 percent of what the $500 Pixelstick can do, which they sell as a photographer’s tool. Applying the light to plexiglass is another method of presenting it to the camera that creates a very painterly result in the camera’s eye. As for the steel wool spinning, the normal rig is simply a kitchen whisk attached to a string. To create more complex patterns, I’ve developed a perfectly counterbalanced two-whisk rig that I attach to a cordless drill. This opens the door to a ton of new styles, but it’s finding new ways to bring the two elements of fire and light together that keep me exploring new options and designs.

While you were sleeping…  
I had the freshest donuts from the southside Buckeye Donuts at 3 a.m. You can get the best bacon in town at 1:30 a.m. and a drink from Little Palace, and if you bust ass from anywhere on 270 at 3:07 a.m. you stand a damn good chance of getting some Mikey’s Late Night Slice in like 32 different places. In case you aren’t a foodie, the Scioto Mile is the best thing to happen in Columbus in a while, and it’s exceptionally beautiful and quite peaceful after dark. If you need a bit more adventure the Blood Bowl is always fun, too. In case you aren’t aware, it’s a graffiti-covered sewer tunnel that runs under high street in Clintonville. The bass notes from cars hitting the sewer lids matched with the trickling water build the theme music for the bats that live down there that upon lights instantly test your spontaneous limbo muscles.

New artistic horizons: The thing I love about spinning fire around public places is that it reaches inward to my deviant side a little bit and feeds that graffiti artist passion of thrill, risk, and sight-specific art that could potentially get you landed in jail if not approached correctly. The same way that my eye wandered through the city [as a graffiti artist] looking for spaces that needed a touch of color, I now look for shapes and objects that would assist the lights to make a unique image.
What’s next? You always rep your city in one way or another. I wonder what way you’ll uncover a new Columbus years from now…..

Up next: [This month] I will have a small collection of dresses that will be a collaboration with Kelli Martin to get auctioned off for the Alternative Fashion Mob.  I am also working on a day-and-night documentary that dives into my artistic process, but also the city that supplies the canvas for my creation here in Columbus—a good friend T.J. Boster of Flowline Media is in charge of that one. The documentary started as his senior thesis project for CCAD, but it appeared that we opened Pandora’s box, so filming and documentation has been ongoing for over a year now and includes some of my biggest public art projects.