Exposure: Ashley Markle

Gem Fletcher talks to the photographer about her process, in which she works with family members to examine their complex relationships, challenging all participants to face up to uncomfortable truths

On a sunny day in September, photographer Ashley Markle met up with her father, Bob, whom she had recently reconnected with after a decade of not speaking. As they walked around Mosquito Lake in Bob’s native Ohio, they paused by the sandy shore, and Markle laid her camera down on a rock.

Standing a few feet away, Bob was caught off guard when Markle ran and jumped at him, snapping a frame as she collided with his body. The image is a sucker punch to the gut, laying bare Markle’s trauma of abandonment while Bob braces for impact, unsure whether to hold her or push her away. “That image felt so powerful when I first saw it because it felt like I was taking a leap of faith,” the New York-based artist recalls. “I was opening my soul to him for the first time.”

For anyone with complex relationships with their father, Leap is one of those images which makes you feel seen while simultaneously poking at an open wound. It is a chaotic tour de force made more potent by Markle’s audacious faith that despite being estranged for over a decade, her father would be there for her – that he would catch her.

Top: Threshold; Above: Leap. Both images from the series Do You Know How Beautiful You Are