Asher Phoenix

“I’m not only increasing my own visibility as a young, successful transgender person – I’m directing the spotlight onto other LGBTQIA+ and gender-expansive humans through my camera. Queer creativity is resistance”

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F9, ISO 1250

Asher is a Los Angeles-based photographer, using their work to provide a space for others to shine – and heal. After photographing their first wedding at the age of 15, they have found great joy in watching clients light up on camera for almost a decade since. They mastered the basics through high school yearbook photojournalism, and quickly became a staple portrait photographer in their hometown.

Adversities faced as a transgender person raised in conservative central Kansas have given Asher an artistic perspective – and world view – based on love, acceptance, and empowerment. Following a 14-year battle with anorexia, they directly understand the importance of ensuring subjects feel comfortable in their bodies. The overwhelming desire is to provide a safe haven for gender-diverse people, while creating space for body-neutral philosophies.

Concert photography ignited a spark in Asher at OutLoud Queer Music Festival. They were photographing the event as an assistant, before being pulled into a back hallway for an impromptu photo session. When they saw the artist come to life from behind the lens, a passion for working with musicians was formed. The resulting pictures were used for the cover of the artist’s album, and Asher was undeniably sold on the photography/music crossover.

Without art, Asher wouldn’t truly feel alive. Life has not always been so vibrant for this impassioned creative. Photography has given them the opportunity to not only acknowledge past bleakness, but embrace it. By creating art they’re proud of, they’re actively converting dark into light.

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/125 sec at F9, ISO 1250

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 3200

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 3200

Chasing the Dream

As the house lights dim, the hum of the crowd dissipates in anticipation, and a palpable pre-show energy begins to build. Asher Phoenix waits, camera in hand. At the tender age of 23, they already possess a chiseled professionalism – built over six years of ardent practice.

“I photographed my first concert at 17. It was just a small Midwest artist, but it’s all been uphill from there,” Asher grins.

Dripping with character, Asher has examined themself to a degree that most have not. The excitement of music photography offers a certain creative zing, but there’s an even greater emotional depth to be had in a more personal portrait session.

“The subjects I’m most passionate about are the ones I can tell are uncomfortable in their skin. One of my end goals is to facilitate recovery photo shoots, promoting body liberation and positive body image. So, I’m really drawn to those who want to use photography and portraiture as an outlet for coping with how they feel about themselves.

“I gained a following on social media for some transmasc content. From that, I had a handful of people reach out to me and say, ‘I love that you’re so open about body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria, and I want you to help me feel comfortable in front of your camera.’ It’s the greatest honor.

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/60 sec at F2.8, ISO 5000

“With concert photography, it is still incredibly important for me to be intentional. I make sure I know which angles artists want to be seen from, and which they don’t.”

Given the opportunity to photograph Magdalena Bay, Asher took the same thoughtful approach – consciously aware of the performers, and the artistry of the moment.

“The performance itself was very whimsical,” Asher recalls. “They were totally flowing around the stage. That was the character I wanted to portray, and they gave me plenty of moments to do it.

“I feel like the visuals that go along with the synth-pop vibe are unique. My work is usually very dreamlike, which I wanted to maintain, as it complemented the show – but I found myself opting for a little more depth-of-field, clarity, and saturation than I usually would.

“The band had a big, star-shaped light panel behind them, which was very cool,” Asher continues. “I included that within many compositions, with a slightly narrower aperture than usual. I learned a lot about geometry and spatial awareness in the frame, from Kevin and Kenny. That really pushed my images over the edge.”

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/60 sec at F2.8, ISO 5000

Photo 2022 © Asher Phoenix for Artists Den Entertainment | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR, 1/320 sec at F2.8, ISO 3200

Photo 2022 © Asher Phoenix for Artists Den Entertainment | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/250 sec at F2.8, ISO 1250

Photo 2022 © Asher Phoenix for Artists Den Entertainment | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/250 sec at F1.6, ISO 1600

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/60 sec at F2.8, ISO 5000

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/60 sec at F2.8, ISO 5000

In a less than typical performance space, Asher found themself with scope to explore. Expanded further by a wide range of optics to choose from, they sought out a mixture of images.

“The stage was maybe two feet off the ground, so I had to get lower than usual. There was also a balcony area, which I used for experimental top-down photos. I love getting in the middle of a crowd and framing the artist with silhouettes in the foreground. Those turned out sick with Magdalena Bay. I also wanted to be sure I was getting images of the whole band, as well as close-ups of Mica, Matthew, and their supporting members. You can document so much personality with a slightly longer lens.”

Alongside composition, exposure and color remained as important as ever for Asher.

“I was wary of blasting the ISO so high that it got noisy,” Asher explains. “But Fujifilm cameras are incredible for that. FUJIFILM X-T4 offers more clarity at ISO 32,000 than any camera I’ve ever used.

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/160 sec at F4, ISO 3200

“The CLASSIC Neg. Film Simulation was great for the more colorful moments – and I loved ETERNA Bleach Bypass for something a little more unusual, altering final colors just a little in the edit. I threw green in the shadows, red in the mid-tones, and baby blue in the highlights, which gave a really nice, vintage look. That fit so nicely with the show’s aesthetic.”

After years of gaining momentum, the wave of Asher’s creative professionalism is beginning to crest. They’ve been riding it from one high to another, in the time since Magdalena Bay. Astute beyond their years, Asher articulates the lessons beautifully.

“I’ve truly learned what it means to be a storyteller. Before, I often took photos for a family to hang on a fridge, with little investment. And if I was invested in the story of more personal projects, it was a narrative I was trying to shape. Now, I know what it means to facilitate the telling of another person’s story, instead of trying to just continually tell my own through other people.

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/160 sec at F4, ISO 3200

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/80 sec at F4, ISO 3200

Photo 2022 © Alan Winslow | FUJIFILM GFX100S camera and GF32-64mmF4 R LM WR, 1/80 sec at F4, ISO 3200

“I’m back in Kansas right now, with family, and I posted to a small, community social media group, saying I’ll make portraits while I’m here. I’ve received a lot of inquiries, and am excited to be able to tell low-key stories. I’m offering one friend, who just lost her husband suddenly, a session to recreate their wedding photos with physical representations of him. That’s something I hold super close to my heart because I lost my own partner a year ago. It’s a story I’m honored to tell.

“I recently got a text message from another popular band’s management company, offering press passes for LA and San Francisco. I’m so grateful that work is coming to me now.

“The first show I photographed after the Artists Den experience – where I could apply what I learned, without having Kevin standing over my shoulder – I came up with literally my best concert photos, and then the openers hired me to tour with them,” Asher enthuses. “I definitely credit a lot of where my career is going to the guidance of my Fujifilm mentors.”