After Hours 11.23.21
Discussion 7: Beats & Balance
with Tiffany Le & Ashley Kaye (AK) Solis
"My ‘coming out’ as bisexual was not the most horrific story you’d ever heard, but it did indeed suck. My parents had a very hard time with it at first. I mean, all you want is the best for you and your children, to blend in, to be accepted in a new country, and something like this happens. It’s hard. One day when I was about nine or ten years old, I asked my mother if she’d ever be okay with me being gay, ‘hypothetically’ of course. She said no. I was shocked and asked why.
She said, “In this world, gay people lose, sadly. And I would never want you to lose.” (This was before the expansion of LGBTQ+ terms)
I think about this often. From that day on, I always wanted to prove my mother wrong. I wanted to prove that people like me could have fruitful lives, that they could truly achieve anything if they were a) kind and b) worked really hard. That I could win in this world, essentially. And I AM winning. My life is abundant with friends and family whom love me and work that I enjoy. The sky is the limit, always. My parents have come a hell of a long way over the past six years, and I’m grateful for this entire journey, good and bad."
- AK Solis
Photos by Kim-lien Le
Where did your journey of the arts begin?
A: My journey began at age 10 in Chino Hills, California. I started in the beginning band program at my school [nerd alert] playing the drums, and immediately fell in love with it. My sister who is 2 years older, played saxophone in the band too, and I wanted to be just like her. I drummed all the way through elementary, middle, and high school, earning a World Championship title my senior year. The journey through music encouraged other mediums like singing, drawing, poetry, dancing on a college dance team, photography, and now videography as my main wheelhouse.
Do you still play the drums?
A: Not much. Being at a world-class level at a young age burns you out so once I graduated high school, that was it for me. At most, I'll be hacking away on my steering wheel while driving [safely].
Did you go to school for film and photography? Or are you self-taught?
T: Initially I was self taught! Youtube and Google did wonders for a while. I did end up going to UCSD to study visual arts media for cinema, but it was a lot of learning about theory versus actual hands on work.
•What has been the most impactful experience that steered you to where you are now?
A: The most impactful experience of my life so far was being in my high school's drumline. That period of time was arguably the hardest I’ve ever worked towards a goal that not many kids had; to be the best in the world. Being in the drumline felt like having a job at 14-17 years old. I’d march and drum for about 25-30 hours per week on top of class, homework and other life things. The work was rigorous, I hated it at first. I’d run laps if I were one minute late to rehearsal, practice in sweltering Inland Empire heat for hours and hours running the same 8-counts over and over again. It was always fierce competition between other schools, and mostly, ourselves. You always had to be better than the last rep. Getting yelled at for not improving since the last rehearsal was a usual thing. It was very, very challenging. Think like…less gory version of Whiplash.
BUT IRONICALLY, it was my proudest accomplishment and I started loving it over time. My drumline career completely and utterly shaped me into who I am today, my work ethic, my mantras, et cetera. It taught me to work hard and to never settle. I grew incredibly close to the other members and met amazing people in the Southern California drumline community. I was immersed in the arts and the art of music performance. As difficult as it was, I do have my instructors to thank for setting me up for the rest of life.
Get on the Move in the Moonrise Fleece Jacket
How has COVID affected your work from 2020 thru now?
A: The 2020 COVID pandemic actually catalyzed my decision to pursue video full-time. I was laid off from my corporate job, already having been emotionally and mentally disconnected and DRAINED from it all, and I knew that it was time to make the leap. When the company asked for my return, I politely declined. Thereafter, an opportunity fell into my lap and I immediately started creating videos for this dynamic dance duo in San Diego, Keone and Mari Madrid, and the real work had begun.
T: Weddings for sure were canceled or postponed, but my partner and I were super lucky during this time to have connections to people who needed to create online media content for their businesses. It was one of our busiest years!
How would you describe your style?
T: At the moment I mostly capture weddings. My style mainly is determined by the couple and the mood/style of the wedding. I try not to limit myself to a specific style and it helps keep things interesting on the editing side of things. Something I have learned with such a mass market of photographers in the area is to stand out with the most unique thing I can offer - me! Since working with a lot of different people, my focus is moreso on the experience of working with me...
What inspired you to enter the world of film and photo?
T: I remember my cousins and I recording skits with the ol' camcorder when I was a kid. It always got the parents laughing. As technology grew and our phones started getting cameras, I always loved capturing moments that I can look back on. I started creating "vlogs" back then to remember trips or commercials for my hobbies and that eventually took off into doing it for other people!
How do you balance your work and personal life? Especially working with a partner and your family?
A: I’ll let you know once I’ve mastered it…it’s hard. However, I do know one thing: it is SUCH a blessing getting to do this with my partner, Tiffany. She and I shoot various weddings and events alongside each other which makes it so convenient. We shoot weddings all over California, so if we have one in Mammoth for example, we’ll stay an extra day or two to spend time with one another!
I own a video production company with my sister called SOLFUL Studios and that’s been a journey in and of itself. Starting was difficult; my sister and I would butt heads sometimes, learning about video and business alongside each other while maintaining our full-time careers. A vivid memory I have of us was when we were in our first year of building SOLFUL, and I grew frustrated while editing a wedding film. I shut my laptop, and told her that our work was not looking good enough. She turned to me and said, “You know, this will take years. This will take years to be where we want to be, and if we want to do this right, we have to learn to be okay with that. We just gotta keep going.” It changed my mentality forever. She makes balancing SOLFUL time and sister time easy because we’re two peas in a pod. She’s the nuttier pea though.
Running your own business means you are always “on”, always making yourself available for existing and potential clients and it’s really reaaaally hard to put a cap on the work. What I am learning, however, is that if I’m not right within myself, physically, mentally, and emotionally, my work won’t be. A personal venture for this upcoming year is improving on time management and spending more time with family.
T: I'm still trying to find the "perfect" work life balance. It's so easy to jump into emails or editing at odd hours of the day, and then it eventually becomes working all day long hours at a time. Don't forget to take breaks and days off!
Stay warm in the Yakama Cropped Sweatshirt
A: I am Filipino and Spanish (a dash more than your average Filipino) -- I have heard stories of my great grandmother being this fiery Spanish woman that cursed a lot. My experience as a person of color has directly impacted my values, ideologies, and passions, however, I think being a first-generation American is something that has shaped me more. My mother and father came from the Philippines to America in the late 1980's with nothing but some hard-earned money in their pockets and a dream. They knew that they had to work twice as hard. They knew it was going to be extremely challenging. I am VERY proud of my parents' work ethic and their will to learn and adapt in a new country, much less raise a family in one. I was brought up on fundamental immigrant values such as respect, integrity, and hard work because of them. There's a word in our language called "diskarte", and it means "to be resourceful, clever, or determined to reach a goal or to do whatever it takes". I strive to have diskarte or to be diskarte every day.
What is your definition of "culture"? How does that affect you?
T: Culture is the influence of all things around us. It determines how we act and interpret what we see and how we hear things. Growing up in an Asian household, the simple act of taking off your shoes before entering a home is forever a part of me. What amazes me is watching different cultures begin to shape differently... such as the film industry and seeing more diversity on the screen.
Top 5 favorite places in North Park? (T)