Swinburne graduate uses art to explore her cultural identity
Ashley says that her passion for creative arts led her to pursue her undergraduate studies at Swinburne.
- Swinburne design graduate Ashley Chau created The In Between, a photographic narrative as part of her capstone project
- This project was an opportunity for Ashley to explore her Chinese-Australian cultural identity and helped her find a sense of belonging
- Ashley says that her time at Swinburne has led to some amazing opportunities beyond the classroom
Swinburne graduate Ashley Chau says that her time at Swinburne has provided her with avenues to explore her identity on a deeper level. This was especially evident through her capstone project, The In Between (2022) photo series.
Ashley, who studied a Bachelor of Design majoring in Photo-media and minoring in Communication Design says that she has always been a creative person.
“My dad – who funnily enough also graduated from Swinburne – is an illustrator and has been the biggest influence on my love for the arts and design since I was a kid,” Ashley says.
As part of her capstone project, Ashley created the photo series The In Between, which not only pushed her creatively and conceptually, but also led to some amazing opportunities.
“My capstone project was a really great way to end my degree. My tutor nominated myself and a fellow classmate to be part of the 2022 Antipodean Student Photobooks.
“I was also linked to a photographer, Chloe Bartram, who I worked with in designing her photobook, Abandoning Light. All these opportunities from my capstone project and my amazing tutor have been the highlight of my time at Swinburne.”
Ashley’s origin story
Explaining the thought process behind her photographic narrative, Ashley says she was exploring her cultural identity as a second-generation Chinese born Australian.
“In Melbourne, the population is made up of people from culturally diverse communities. Growing up in such a diverse environment can have varying impacts on your identity. For me, it was difficult to figure out how I fit into both cultures, feeling part of both but belonging to neither.”
Working on this project allowed Ashley to explore both parts of her identity and helped her find a sense of belonging in the ‘in between’.
“This project showed me that the ‘in between’ can be a positive space – it presented an opportunity for me to blend both cultures in a cohesive and harmonious way, thus creating a third culture.”
Deep diving into two different cultures
The photo series is a collection of portraits, still life and landscape photographs delicately crafted to represent the fusion of Ashley’s cultures.
“The portrait photographs are of members of my family, who are second-generation Asian Australian citizens themselves. I printed two separate images of my subjects on transparent vellum paper, shredded them into rows and columns then carefully wove them back together to create a double exposure effect on paper,” Ashley says.
“The result is two different portraits in one image – both different images that do not fit perfectly, but work together to create a cohesive visual outcome.”
“The still life photographs are a blend of Chinese and Australian culture markers. Both these photographs were given the same treatment as the portraits, however, in this instance, the images illustrate the seamless blend of two cultural markers that are working together, despite them coming from two different backgrounds.”
“Lastly, the landscape images are taken from polaroid film, which was then peeled apart then transferred onto a different piece of paper, creating a very fluid image. The subject matter I chose was the culturally diverse environment where I grew up, setting the scene throughout the photobook.”
Ashley currently works as a Junior Graphic Designer at Nikki M Group, where she has been soaking up knowledge about illustrating, typesetting, photography and design.
“I want to continue growing, learning and creating as a designer. My goal is to one day have the knowledge and skill set to set up my own design studio.”
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