Photos inhabit almost every avenue of life. Television, the internet, magazines, and social media are dominated by illuminated pixels. The still image has become commonplace, visually ingested and forgotten by the casual observer as quickly as the press of a shutter button. Photography may simply be a vehicle for Instagram likes to some, for others it's a fine art where every aesthetic of the medium is pushed to the limit. One area of photography many forget is the backdrop. Ashley Simmons is the owner of Fine Art Backdrops and her business has moved into the old Sweet Pickins location in downtown Wadena. Her goal is to inject a painterly flair into the still images of photographers around the world.
Simmons is a career DIY enthusiast, years ago, her portrait photographer husband approached her about producing custom backdrops for his work. Simmons took to the challenge, quickly producing beautiful backgrounds of every color and texture. She kept producing the backdrops until other photographers took notice. The orders came in mass, prompting Simmons to start her own custom backdrop studio.
Fine art photography is a profound sector of the imaging industry with artists always wanting the best equipment and tools for enhancing their picturization. Simmons provided some background information about her work, stating that canvas backdrops really took off with the work of Sarah Oliphant. Oliphant is a New York based canvas painter that took the industry by storm with her masterfully produced backdrops often used in very iconic photos. Her backdrops have been used in numerous publications. Photographers clamour for her work but a backdrop from Oliphant can be expensive, which is what initially sent Simmons husband, Joshua, searching for alternatives.
"This is a huge deal to them, to have nice canvas backdrops in their portraits," said Simmons. The craft of making a canvas backdrop is a labour and time intensive process. Building a backdrop starts with ordering a quality canvas. The canvas is cut to a specific size, stapled, and sprayed with water. Then paints are mixed and applied. A great deal of planning occurs before the paint hits the blank slate. From there Simmons works through her creative process to make a custom look that fits the style of photography used by her respective clients. A finished backdrop can range from $250 to $775. It takes around one to three days to produce a smaller piece with a larger backdrop taking close to a week. Her current project has taken six days. "Every single one of these takes patience," said Simmons.
Simmons has a bevy of clients from all different walks of life. Some photographers use her work for regular portraits but she's also seen her backdrops used for still life photography and in fine art dance studios. Simmons commented that many of her clients come from Canada. Some of her work has even caught the attention of celebrities. Simmons discussed on upcoming project involving rockstar bassist, Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue fame. The rockstar approached her about producing a grey backdrop for his Los Angeles studio, a project that has Simmons elated.
Simmons has been operating her business for a little over a year. Her favorite part of owning her own business is watching other photographers use her backdrops in new and creative ways. Her unique business operates primarily online with orders and marketing taking place almost entirely on social media sites like FaceBook and Instagram. Recently, Fine Art Backgrounds launched an e-commerce site at www.fineartbackdrops.com. She can also be reached at email@example.com.