I put on a uniform every day. I smile when I’m not happy and promise to do things I don’t enjoy. I refrain from being honest for eight hours and count the minutes until I can shed the habit like skimmed skin.

For this series I asked my subjects to put on an ill-fitted polyester suit and I directed them to struggle, to clench their fists, manufacture strained smiles, appear ready to run. I told them they were trapped but had no place to escape to. I was voyeur to my own agonies.

I have been relieved to find that my subjects are experiencing their own catharsis while participating. I wonder what woman has not felt the obligation to deliver what is expected of them, regardless of their own desire. We are conditioned to oblige, we are expected to acquiesce. We all have to pay the rent. This series is the progeny of that burden.

- Ashley Leonard

They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Like most people, I have one at all times. Sometimes I'll just leave my phone at home and enjoy an untethered walk to the store. Inevitably, those are the walks which feature a dead animal, a pack of nuns, or an armageddon-worthy storm cloud, and I curse my foolish choice and my old-timey need for detachment.

I love taking pictures because I have a miserable memory. Being able to record an image of a path I walked, or a sky I drove beneath allows me to relive a moment otherwise forgotten. More than that, a picture makes real a crow taking flight, or a pile of beautiful trash. In response to the scientific side of the philosophical question "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?", the magazine Scientific American stated, "If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound." That's how I feel about the extraordinary instants I experience. If I don't capture them, they do not exist. And if they do not exist, what the hell have I been doing all this time?

Born in Vermont and based in Los Angeles. I've spent most of my life in front of the camera. After performing and studying in NYC, London, and Los Angeles, I received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, where I taught acting. Ten years later, I started taking pictures.

Visit Ashley Leonard’s site