The study of photography is a continuous, lifelong journey, says Ashley Eriksen.

“You could ask many people to photograph the exact same thing, but someone could see it in a different light and it could be groundbreaking,” she says.

Mercury in Retrograde – Fiber based selenium toned print

Eriksen, the web and new media coordinator for the University Relations & Marketing office at Missouri Southern, recently marked a milestone in her own journey.

Two of her photos are featured in the 43rd annual PhotoSpiva exhibit at the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts in downtown Joplin. They were selected from more than 600 entries by photographers around the country.

The first, “Mercury in Retrograde,” depicts a close friend sleeping in his car; the other, “Commotion,” was an accidental double exposure taken at a New Year’s Eve party.

Commotion – Fiber based selenium toned print

It marks the third time her works have been selected for the juried competition. In 2018, she received third place for her body of work and the People’s Choice award.

“I think it’s an honor,” she says. “PhotoSpiva may be local, but it’s still a national juried exhibit and recognized as one of the longest running photography competitions in the U.S.”

Eriksen has long gravitated toward black and white photography, which she says can strip an image down to its essence.

“I feel like color can sometimes distract from what you’re trying to communicate,” she says. “There’s a thing called a distinct print, where you have the blackest blacks, the whitest whites and a thousand tones of grey in between. Photographing this way allows you to capture the true concept of an image.”

She develops her own film and hand prints her photography in the custom darkroom she and her husband created in her home.

“My darkroom is modeled after one I worked in for nine months in Sweden,” she says.

There, she studied and worked with internationally renowned photographer Örjan Henriksson while an MSSU art student.

Her appreciation for the tradition of photography has taken her on a journey through the history of the medium. She is one of a small number of photographers who still practice the early collodion process.

“Think Civil War tintypes,” Eriksen says. “It’s the original form of photography stripped down to its basics. I met a gentleman who is one of the top photographers in the field who was willing to teach me the process.”

PhotoSpiva is on display in the art center’s main gallery and will run through May 18.