Over the course of the past decade, Ashley Champagne has photographed thousands of high-profile musicians, models and business professionals. But lately, she’s focused her lens on a far less polished or poised subject: Children.
“Working with kids is a lot of fun because they’ve got such personality and very little insecurity,” she laughs. “But it can also be more challenging if they aren’t willing to cooperate.”
As part of her Little Icons photography project, Champagne has captured the unique mannerisms of hundreds of young people between the ages of four months and 16 years.
The project started in the summer of 2016 when Champagne needed a large piece of art for her home. She wanted something beautiful, meaningful and eye-catching, so she naturally settled on printing a large-scale photo of her daughter, Elliot.
But Champagne didn’t want just any photo of her daughter. She wanted one that captured her little one’s bold personality and attitude. She dressed Elliot in plain clothes and snapped a photo of her in front of a simple backdrop. With the click of the shutter, Little Icons was born.
The resulting photo, a close-up of Elliot with wrinkled brows and mouth slightly agape, is raw and authentic. Unlike a school portrait or family photo, it combines Champagne’s fashion and editorial expertise to capture her little girl’s personality.
Champagne was so pleased with it she knew she had to help other parents access the same sort of authentic beauty. “I knew immediately I wanted to help other parents have photographs like it,” she says.
Today, she operates Little Icons through pop-up shops across Canada and the United States. Working with local businesses in each city, she sets up series of 20-minute-long shoots and offers appointments through her website.
When it comes time for the photos, Champagne just asks parents to keep wardrobes and hairstyles as simple as possible. “We tend to decorate and put personality on our kids in photos. I didn’t want Little Icons to be like that. I wanted it to be more authentic,” she says.
After the session, Champagne hopes the resulting photo will be proudly displayed at home. “Seeing their own photos that large really helps kids feel valued,” she says. “So my hope is that this project helps to teach them self-worth.”