Ashley Markle on rebuilding her relationship with her father through photography
In her series, the New-York based photographer documents moments of connection with her father, from realising how similar they are to recreating scenes from her childhood.
- Olivia Hingley
- 24 October 2022
Photography is often used as a tool to explore the most personal of experiences. This is the case for Ashley Markle, the New-York based photographer whose recent series Do you know how beautiful you are? traces a period of reconnection between her and her father. The work details both the joyful moments – like her dancing to Charli XCX while her father watches on – to the more complex ones, such as Ashley realising the profound effect his absence has had on her. The series sensitively delves into the intricacies of father-daughter relationships, with a rare honesty and candour. Below, Ashley shares the details behind a handful of her favourite images.
This is the title image of the series. My dad and I were hanging out in his “man cave” in the basement, drinking and listening to music before our family Christmas Eve party. He always puts on a DVD from a live show of the 80s band Dio. This time I wanted to show him my music, so I put on Charli XCX music videos and started dancing. The whole time he was just staring at me – mesmerised but still curious with a slight smile on his face. After a while he said, “Do you know how beautiful you are?” In that moment I knew that was the title of the project.
This image is very important not only to the series, but to the growth of myself through reconnecting with my dad. Being able to observe him live his daily life has allowed me to see the pieces of his personality that explain some of the reasons why we were apart for so long. It has also explained why I’ve always felt like I couldn’t relate to anyone or didn’t belong. Now that I know my dad, I know that we are almost exactly alike. We have the same issues with depression and anxiety, and think about the world in a similar way. It’s weird to be so much like someone that you haven’t spent much time with. Now that I have him, I feel comfort in knowing he’s out there for me to relate to whenever I feel out of place.
When I was really young – even though my dad decorated my room in floor-to-ceiling Powerpuff Girls décor – I always slept in his bed with him. In the morning, when I’d wake up, he would be gone. Sometimes, he’d just be in the living room watching TV, sometimes not even in the house at all. I’d walk around trying to find him and have to wait until he came home from whatever he was doing. To this day, I make my partner wake me up and say goodbye before he goes to work because I hate waking up not knowing where he is. I think back to those childhood moments.
I read an article once about women who grew up without dads and how they were often more masculine than other women. Apparently having a father around to take care of, provide for and be a male presence for his daughter allows the daughter to fully embrace her feminine side. I definitely have had issues embracing my feminine side and I made this image thinking about all the time I’ve spent trying to be one of the boys.
This image was made as an attempt to simply play with my dad. Once I printed it and spent some time with it, it made me think about this tree my dad had in front of his house when I was little. I used to climb the tree hoping he would come out looking for me, come talk to me or play with me. Being the loner he is, he never did. So I thought of this image as a gift to my childhood self.
GalleryFurther photographs from the series Do you know how beautiful you are? by Ashley Markle (Copyright © Ashley Markle, 2022)
Ashley Markle: Do you know how beautiful you are? (Copyright © Ashley Markle, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.