Coming full circle: A dancer’s transformation

Newsroom authorby Darryn O'MalleyNov 26, 2018
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It wasn’t until she suffered a devastating hamstring injury that aspiring ballerina Ashley Ciona discovered life behind the lens. But since then, she’s never looked back.

“I grew up a competitive dancer, but I tore my hamstring at the age of 16 and was sidelined for the whole year,” Ciona remarks. “I was incredibly bored and needed a hobby, so I picked up a camera and began shooting.”

In her relatively short career, the fourth-year Bachelor of Photography student has made quite a mark. Most recently, she earned an impressive second-place finish at the International Photography Awards in New York City on October 28.

Her winning submission, a series of four dance photos called ‘Ghost in the Wind,’ finished second in the sports category at the Lucie Awards, a premier annual event honouring superior achievements in photography.

Ashley Ciona's winning photo series, 'Ghost in the Wind'

The International Photography Awards conducts an annual competition for professional, amateur and student photographers and recognizes extraordinary talents who play a significant role in shaping the future of the industry. Winners are selected by an international jury comprised of more than 70 artistic professionals, including gallerists, photo editors and art collectors.

“It’s a tremendous honour to receive this recognition – especially since there were over 2,000 photo submissions,” says Ciona. “It’s a dream come true that I’ve been able to combine both of my passions: dance and photography.”

Ciona credits her creative upbringing and competitive dancing history for her love of art and photography. She currently teaches dance at Waterdown Dancers Inc. and often captures her students as her photo subjects.

“It’s a tremendous honour to receive this recognition – especially since there were over 2,000 photo submissions. It’s a dream come true that I’ve been able to combine both of my passions: dance and photography.” – Ashley Ciona

“Everything came full circle in a way,” she explains. “The subjects of the award-winning photos are my students, and they are the ones that helped send me to New York City to receive the award on stage. I couldn’t afford to go on my own, but the team at Waterdown Dancers Inc. helped raise the money so I could attend the ceremony.”

Even though Ciona is slightly limited in her dancing capabilities due to her previous hamstring injury, she is grateful for the opportunity to teach dance to others now because it enables her to participate in the sport she loves.

Ashley Ciona

“I’m so inspired by the creativity of my students,” she says. “I think what’s helped me in my success as a dance photographer is my deep understanding of the sport. I can relate to my subjects on a profound level, ensuring I capture the essence of their movements.”

Ciona has received numerous awards for her portraiture work, including the 2017 “Best Overall Student” and “Portrait of the Year – Student” honours from the Professional Photographers of Canada. In February 2018, she mounted her first professional gallery exhibit in Edmonton, Alberta as part of the inFocus Photo Exhibit, where she took home the 2018 inFocus People’s Choice Award.

“We are thrilled to see the proactive and engaged attitude that Ashley has brought to her studies and her practice,” says Donna Braggins, Associate Dean, Design, Illustration & Photography. “Her winning image synthesizes strong technological abilities with creativity and innovation and reflects her passion for both photography and dance. We are immensely proud of our students who continue to apply their high-level, innovative skills and receive remarkable recognition on an international stage.”

Photography at Sheridan College

Sheridan’s Honours Bachelor of Photography program is the only business-focused professional photography degree program in Canada and continues to rank as one of the leading photography programs in North America. Students are provided with opportunities to fully immerse themselves in the industry through hands-on training using state-of-the-art equipment while honing essential entrepreneurial skills required to run a successful photography business.

Written by: Darryn O’Malley, Portal Communications Officer at Sheridan. 
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