Ashly Stohl's "Charth Vader"

Interview by David Carol

Charth Vader, the alter ego of Stohl's youngest child, hangs out at an arcade.

I was first introduced to Ashly Stohl's work through a mutual friend, Aline Smithson. I saw some very interesting photographs of Skateboarders from Cuba and California, but I was immediately taken with her Charth Vader images. I thought they were cute, charming and funny. Once I learned about Charlie's vision issues I understood the photographs were about a lot more then just humor and fun. Ashly addresses this in our interview. I present to you the words and photographs of Ashly Stohl.

DC- Okay, the first question must be...Who is Charth Vader and is he friend or foe?

AS- Charth Vader is the alter ego of Charlie, my third and youngest child.  Charlie is  the baby of the family - he's sweet, funny, and lighthearted, but he has always been obsessed with Darth Vader.  Just like his brother, Charlie is visually impaired.  He has a condition called Ocular Albinism, which means that even with glasses, his vision is limited.  While this can be a great disadvantage, it makes him "see" the world in a totally unique way.  

Charth Vader is  a little guy in a big world, and is constantly frustrated by how little power he has.  He is willing to use his Jedi powers to get what he wants.  I think that Charlie is going to need that kind of persistence in life - hopefully for good, not evil.  

DC- Tell me about the origin of the Charth series and where you see it going.

AS- This project started as a joke.  In between shooting, promoting, and showing my work, I started taking pictures of whatever Charlie was doing in this Vader mask.  These pictures got more attention than my "serious" work, and were so much more fun to shoot!  We started a blog, and an Instagram, and it took off from there!

Right now, I am finishing up shooting for a Charth Vader book.  The profits from the book will be donated to the Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, which is one of the leading centers of it's kind in the world.  Charlie understands that we are doing this to help other kids with problems similar to his.  It's been a great way to teach him about helping others.

DC- Its imagination time now Ashly. You can visit three cities in three different eras and you get to bring a camera with you. Where and when do you go and what do you photograph?  

AS- 1. Brooklyn when my grandfather was a kid.  I'd like to hang out with him, get in trouble, get a egg cream, and then a  hot dog at Nathans.   Maybe I'd skip the flight home and go get a job with Weegee.
2. Venice Beach in the 1970's. 

3. I don't know - can I do something more productive with your time machine, like stop the Holocaust or 9/11?
DC- I really like your skate boarding photos from Cuba and Venice, California. You seem to be very "inside" with the skaters. Were you a skater? Whats the deal?

AS- I don't know if I would say I'm "inside" - more like always on outskirts.  When I was a kid, my dad would take me to Venice beach every weekend to rollerskate, and I would watch the skaters there.  My elementary school was a famous secret skate spot, and when I was rollerskating there after school, they would climb the fence and skate.  It seems like I've always been there on the periphery, watching skateboarding but never participating. 
There's something wild and free about skateboarding that I love.  You can see someone's personality in how they skate.  I love photographing people moving, and doing something with passion; that's what excites me.  

DC- Name your five favorite foods and five foods you would never eat.

AS- Food has everything to do with context - the company and the setting are as important as what you're eating.  That said, here are my top 5:
1. Pierogies at Veselka
2. Guacamole and chips (with a margarita, preferably outside on a summer night)
3. Peanut butter
4. Chocolate, preferably combined with #3
5. Tacos - off a taco truck or a stand.  Not so much in a restaurant.

1. Raisins
2. Raisins
3. Raisins
4. Raisins
5. Raisins

Thank you Ashly Stohl! 

More photos from the "Charth Vader" series:

All photos © Ashly Stohl 2014



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


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