Photos of a long, hot European summer
Ash Kingston’s latest zine takes us to the South of France to sunbathe on the rocky coast and swim in the Mediterranean Sea.
Photography Ash Kingston
As we enter October, still navigating an ongoing global pandemic — the days shorter and colder — the one thing that’ll keep us warm heading into fall and winter lockdowns are memories of summer days spent with friends and family. Ash Kingston remembers one such day, well three, where he and a group of friends took a spontaneous road trip from Biarritz to Marseille, stopping along the way to sunbathe on the rocky coast and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. The photos he took during his trip, which are featured in the latest issue of his self-titled zine, capture the feeling of endless summer.
Ash came up with the idea for his zine during quarantine, as a way to keep busy and show off some of the photos he’s taken over the years. Growing up between London, Malta and the English countryside, he’s always found photos and experiences abroad more exciting than those close to home. In choosing the photos for the first issue, he decided on a series of close-up, intimate portraits and scenes of Los Angeles after dark, the images inviting the viewer to see the city through his eyes. Somewhat accidentally, though no less inspired, each the zine became a means to escape our current reality, his latest taking us on a summer holiday to the South of France.
Here, the London-based photographer tells us how his style of shooting has changed throughout quarantine and how he got into photography in the first place.
Where and when were these photos taken? And how did the zine come together?
I took them in the summer, when you could go to France quite freely. But I didn’t intend on it. I was meant to go on a trip just for fun. We started in Biarritz and drove to Marseille. Most of these pictures were taken in Marseille on one particular day, because I met Elliot and Virgile [of the band Faux Real]. They took us to this tiny little beach spot; it’s very serene and quite special. It wasn’t busy at all, but it was a happening place, if you know what I mean — people having fun, jumping in the sea, sunbathing, just lying on rocks. I started documenting that. We were there for a few days and then we drove up to a little town called Beaune, then drove to Paris where a couple more of the photos were taken.
The last zine I did was all in LA, and I spent a lot of time in New York over the past couple years, so I thought [for this zine] I’d turn those pictures into something, but it wasn’t sitting right. When I got the pictures back from France, it held a nice kind of language and seemed to flow.
In going with these photos it all feels a bit more timely. It’s almost like curating an ideal summer day through these images.
Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. Speaking to the boys after we got back from France, I sent them some photos, and that’s what we were saying. It really was a special day. We’d all been, in a way, locked up for seven months at home, not able to leave the country. I hadn’t seen some of my friends since before the lockdown. It was a really nice time, like a perfect summer’s day. We got to swim, we got to sunbathe, we ate and drank. It was good.
As many people return to a lockdown lifestyle, it’s kind of sad, but who knows when the next time something like this trip this will be able to happen! The zine immortalises that time.
It’s almost like getting a postcard from a family member who travelled somewhere exotic. It’s like a little memory book, for me anyway, that’s the idea behind it in some sense. I’m not a big fan of taking photos in England, I think just because I grew up here. It sounds really sad to say, but you know when you’re with your friends in the city you live in, you don’t really cherish the moments as much as when you’re in another country together. You never know when you’ll be back [there] again, so you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s a different kind of fun.
Was the idea to start making zines something that you came up with in quarantine?
I’ve always had the idea to do a coffee table book, but I didn’t really feel like I was ready to finish it, so I put it on the back burner. I needed something to keep myself busy during lockdown and I’ve always wanted to make something printed. I did the first one, which was a collection of older images and some new ones from this year. I was really happy with it and how things went. It was really good fun and I decided I should do another one and that it would be a little trilogy, so this is the second one. Then eventually maybe I’ll take it somewhere and do a complete version of all three merged together or something.
Where have you spent most of your time during the pandemic and how has it affected your photography and creative process?
I’ve spent most of it in London, at home, because there’s not much else you can do. Most of my work is people. In the book, some of the photos are a lot more distant than I’d typically photograph, which is up-close and intimate. I’ve been putting things in more of a landscape. It’s been good to try something new and I was happy with the result. Things have changed a lot over the course of the last six or seven months, so I’ve been inventing new ways of doing things. I’ve been shooting with digital cameras, printing photos out, and photographing them again. Just playing around with different ideas and methods.
The way you print a limited run of the zine distills that intimacy of your photographs into the book too. Heading right back to the beginning now, could you tell us a little bit about how you first got into photography?
Well, I wanted to be a chef actually, and then I ended up not being able to take the class at school. I took an art class and I loved drawing growing up. I used to be quite into graphics too, but I’d always find with drawing, if something wasn’t right I’d want to start the whole thing over again instead of trying to change it. I remember an art teacher telling me that if you want to replicate the way something actually looks by drawing, you might as well take a picture. I just prefer taking pictures, it felt more natural to me. I was quite shy when I was younger, so it always felt like a mask I could hide behind. It gives you confidence in a certain way. When I moved to London at 18, I started reaching out to modelling agencies to do test shoots, just to meet people. I started working with magazines and then that’s it. That’s how I got into it.
What’s inspiring you right now?
I guess getting out of London. It’s kind of out of my hands, but even if it’s in the countryside or wherever. Just getting out of the city and doing things that I don’t normally get to do. That and I’ve been watching a lot of James Bond films from many years ago. It’s inspiring because I’d like to get into making films. I find it all interesting because the effects that they use are so magical. The new ones are so polished, but the old ones are charming still. They’re sexier too.
Purchase Ash Kingston’s zine here.