Featured Photographer: Rick Ashley


Rick Ashley

Marblehead’s Horrible Parade
and the kids that love it.

Why wait until Halloween to dress up your kids and parade them through the streets of town when you can do it on the Fourth of July?

I became a fan of Rick Ashley’s “Horrible” photos when I first saw them several years ago. What struck me was their humorous blend of all American hometown fun and misguided child humiliation. To me, the photos seemed strogest when viewed as a group and, to that end, Rick has just published as a hardcover book via Blurb with over 40 of the photos.

The text consists of newspaper articles that begin in 1887 with a mention of the “Antiques and Horribles – March of the Procession of Celebrants Parade” and end with the “Annual Horribles Parade“ at the 2012 Fourth of July Marblehead celebration.

Here’s Rick’s introduction to the book:
A Horrible Adventure

Since the late 70s I have been photographing the Horribles Parade in Marblehead. After seeing recent Horrible photographs on my website, a friend, who is both a collector and curator of photography, noted, “This is a book.” And now it is. It is a collection of photographs from the last six years, which are not meant to be an historical portrait or full document of the Parade. I photographed what I saw.

While editing, I realized these photographs needed context. I soon discovered that most people in town knew as little as I did. After a few days scouring the Internet and perusing Abbott Library’s microfilm collection, I realized this is a job for a historian, not a photographer. Most of the text provided in the following pages comes from newspaper clippings, along with a few anecdotes from local historians and multiple parade organizers.

I asked Rick a couple of questions about the photographs.
PW: Did you get a sense as whether it was the kid’s or the parent’s idea to be part of the parade?
RA: If you look at photographs and movies of the parade from the 40’s and 50’s, you see a line of kids dressed in all manner of costume marching along the adult lined streets of Marblehead. Years later, as parents wanted their younger children to participate in the parade, you began to see adults accompanying the children. Many of the photographs I have taken recently show adults out numbering the children in the parade. I hope to be camera-ready for the parade, in which all are walking and no-one lines the streets.

PW: Were the kids in the photos really as miserable as they seem to be or did you have to do a search for your subjects?
RA: Starting in 2006, after a hiatus of several years, I began photographing the Marblehead Horribles Parade again. Each year I would download the photos, make a quick edit, and move on. After several years of photographing, I started to compile my favorites. It was at that point I noticed that the kids expressions ranged from bored to despondent. Each year was the same. I know my own proclivities so I looked at all of the photos that I had taken; no change. While compiling the photographs for the book I decided to check some local news photographs to see if I was presenting a “fair and balanced” look. I am at least as confident as FOX News that I have done exactly what I wanted.

Just the Facts:
Marblehead’s Horrible Parade
and the kids that love it
Rick Ashley
Hardcover, 70 pages, Large Format Landscape
40+ color photographs
Available at Blub here.

Photoweenie Editor’s Note: Rick was kind enough to allow me to design the book. It is the third book of Rick’s photographs that we worked together on. The other two are 94 Pleasant Street and Prom Couples.

You can see more of Rick’s work here.