Ashleigh Kane - Rocket Science

Ashleigh Kane

Ashleigh Kane is an editor, writer, art buyer and consultant, mentor, host and presenter, curator, and producer working globally across art, photography, music, fashion, travel, and beauty. She has been based in London for ten years and has been the Arts & Culture editor of Dazed & Confused since 2014. Ashleigh has been widely recognised for her work in scouting out, breaking, and providing support to new photography and art talents, many of which are now creative agenda setters all over the world.

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Photographs by Sem Langendijk

Tyler Mitchell – El Paquete, self-published

The first day I met Tyler, he had just published this book called El Paquete and he was in London for some reason for a few days and wanted to meet me. We’d spoken on email and I’d interviewed him about this book and the photographs, which are from a trip to Cuba. He said he had some photo prints with him and wanted to give me one but I couldn’t choose, so he very generously gave me three. This book was the beginning of Tyler’s career but also our friendship. It’s a great starting point for where both of us were with our work back in 2015. This was also the first time he’d shot analogue film. Of course I thought the images were striking when I first saw them, but knowing the ways in which Tyler has continued to work with colour, people, movement, shadows and light, seeing these images again, I have an even deeper appreciation for these photographs and his work generally.

Word or two – Ren Hang, BHKM

I was a huge fan of Ren Hang’s photography. He was one of the first photographers who captured my imagination when I began writing about photography. He was so fun. The freedom and nonchalance of his frames really captured the essence of a time. I never knew his poetry was published, but I think this is the only book of it. It’s called Word or Two and it’s now out-of-print. I think I bought the last two copies from the publisher for my editor and I. And I only discovered that this book existed when a writer called Christopher Soto pitched an idea to me about how on of Ren’s friends and models was working to get his poems translated into English, published, and given to his friends. The poems are short, odd, often perverse, but are so truly him. It’s nice to keep discovering moments of him. I pick it up every now and again to read a random page but I don’t want to read it all… Perhaps ever. It’s comforting to know there’s still discovery there.

Him + His – Hélène Kleigh, self-published

My friend Hélène Kleih published this huge anthology of submissions about male mental health either at the end of last year or the beginning of this one. It has beautiful artwork, photography, poetry, and more in it from friends and artists such as Akinola Davies, Iggy Ldn, Wilson Oreyama. It’s so important to have this visibility from people who work in the public eye. Hélène’s been very open about her personal experiences with mental health. Her brother was diagnosed with psychosis in 2014 and is currently institutionalised full-time. This book is an ode to him, someone (like many) who doesn’t currently have the ability to speak out – Hélène does that for him for now. She hosts these group therapy sessions, film screenings, events. She just does so much. This book is a key into a wider support network, a starting point and it’s opened up so many important conversations around male mental health.

Baron – Petra Collins, self-published

This is a recent addition to my favourites. I love the photography in it, but it was when we interviewed Petra with the artist she collaborated with it on, Sarah Sitkin, on Dazed, that I really fell into it. The images are these distorted, simulacra of Petra’s body and face, worn by her, or her sister. The images, of course, are incredible. So clever and so freakish. And the conversation is just as smart. It’s speaking about these copies we make of ourselves, online for example. Where we copy and copy and copy and then we can’t quite tell what the real version is. I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of photography, and photo apps, like Instagram, I guess, or FaceTune. Thinking about where on Earth we are going to be in the next decade, given Instagram only launched in 2010. And this was a really cool way to keep those thoughts going in my head. I really enjoy photography when it’s able to open these wider conversations up about society and Petra has always been so good at doing that.

Faces and Phases – Zanele Muholi, Steidl Verlag

I have long known about this series, but only from seeing images of it online – albeit very limited. Published in 2010, it’s a bittersweet book that celebrates and commemorates the lives of black lesbians in South Africa – full of black and white portraits and essays and writing from the people photographed. Last year when I was in New York, I was at the Brooklyn Museum and after I see the exhibitions, I love trawling through the book and gift shops. Normally, I always buy something because I’m lucky enough to get in on a press pass. On this day, I came across this book, sealed in plastic. It was around $50 and it was the only one there. I knew that this was long out of print and was selling on Amazon for a couple of hundred pounds. It was like a pinch-me moment. I love the images so much and it felt like a co-sign from the universe, a little reward. If my house was burning down, I’d take this with me.