Morgan Ashcom was born and raised on a farm in Free Union, Virginia. From an early age he used a video camera to document his friends skateboarding, but over time his interest turned from the moving image to still photography. His series West of Megsico uses Skatopia, a small anarchist skateboarding community in rural Ohio, as a space to synthesize the natural world with his own imagination and experience.   Mossless: Do you skate?Morgan Ashcom: No, not anymore. I skated from the time I was about 12 years old until I was 26. I had broken a lot of bones and was starting to feel twice my age, so I stopped.   What did you make of the atmosphere at Skatopia? I can’t really give a proper description of the atmosphere, and I am sure that my photographs don’t either. I was interested in making photographs at Skatopia not because of a cohesive atmosphere that existed, but because I felt free to take risks.   How is Skatopia perceived by its neighbors? There appeared to be a general environment of live and let live.  
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  You attended Hartford’s photography MFA program. Can you tell us how that works and what you thought of it? The program is designed as a limited residency, meaning you have a great amount of freedom to choose where you want to live and make new work. My year was a particularly international group: there were students who lived in Iceland, Japan, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and all over the United States. Everyone got together three times a year. We met at the University of Hartford for two weeks in the summer, New York City or San Francisco in the fall, and Berlin, Germany during the spring. Wherever we met, the faculty would arrange studio visits or critiques with artists and curators in the area. Outside of the in-person sessions, we were shooting and working on our own while video conferencing online for critiques or meetings with our thesis advisers.


NEW on Paper Journal: Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa speaks to photographer Morgan Ashcom about his project and photobook, Leviathan.

‘Originally I was drawn to Skatopia because I saw two opposing scenes that I was familiar with. One was the urban skating culture I was part of for over thirteen years, and the second was the rural farmland surroundings of my youth. These two cultures had existed separately for most of my life but there I found them converging in harmony.’

Charlie Simokaitis wins CENTER award

I was really pleased–and happily surprised–to see the photographic work of Charlie Simokaitis win second place award from CENTER. Happily surprised because I’m sometimes disappointed at the sameness of much of the winning work in the different awards events. Not the big awards, like the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, but many of the others. So often it’s exotic person porn, or exotic place porn, or one of a few other familiar tropes that are easily digested with little after-affect.

I was also pleased to see that first place went to Morgan Ashcom, who I also know from the Hartford Art School MFA Photography, and who’s work is a rich depiction of humans forming their own lives in the world. It’s marvelous photography.

When I think of the work of Charlie and Morgan, Bryan Schutmaat, J Carrier, Dorothee Dies, Daniel Reuter, Georg Parthen, Sebastian Collett, and so many others whose work has been recognized recently in shows, books, and awards, I am impressed by the caliber of photographers attracted to the still-young Hartford Art School MFA in Photography. It’s pretty humbling.