“I like my work to be as natural as possible across all aspects; from the engagement with the subject to the light in a building. If I’m lighting something, I want it to resemble the existing light in a space. I love existing details in a scene and I tend to embrace things like clutter, stains, and scars. I create faithful depictions of how I experience something or someone, instead of formulating an idealized version.”
Ryan Young (born in 1988) is a photographer currently based in Los Angeles, California (USA). He studied photography at “Art Center College of Design”. Ryan Young is represented by “Sofie Howard, Commune Images”.
“I picked up a camera for fundamentally the same reasons my parents used point-and-shoot disposable cameras on family trips. Photography was a way for me to visually document significant moments and subjects in my life, helping me gain a deeper understanding of memory from images. Over the years, shooting photographs has evolved beyond mere documentation – it’s become a vehicle for storytelling.
I am fascinated by sociological and anthropological perspectives. Central to my work is the intimate examination of friends, family, and complete strangers in their unaltered states; cities, houses, and car interiors act as contextual backdrops for my subjects. Depicting the idiosyncrasies of people and the places they inhabit is a way for me to celebrate life – real life.”
Interview with Ryan Young
Ryan, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
During a family trip to Monterey I vividly remember my parents asking me to take a photo of them on a beach. I must have been four or five years old. It was the first time I remember using a camera.
Why did you become a photographer?
I didn’t become a photographer for any specific reason. It’s something I started doing purely for curiosity’s sake. I kept it up because it held my interest and it eventually evolved into an outlet for sharing and expressing my thoughts, connections, and experiences.
What does photography mean to you?
It allows me to venture outside of myself. It serves as a barrier, allowing me to cope or deal with things more effectively than I otherwise would. I’m much more confident when approaching people and situations with a camera in my hands.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
William Eggleston. His photographs were the first to show me the beauty in banality.
Your favorite photography quote?
“Shoot chrome or go home.”
“If it don’t got the swing, then it don’t mean a thing.”
“I like to start by not photographing.”
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice and how did you achieve it?
My initial goal is to close the gap between myself and the subject. I achieve this by remaining self-confident and sincerely interested in my subjects. I’ve learned that people tend to be especially aware of confidence and sincerity. It helps considerably when people react to me as though I’m a family member or close friend, rather than a photographer.
“I develop my photographic language through constant exploration, discovery, and received criticism.”
I’m most comfortable waiting for honest moments as a fly on the wall when I’m not viewed as an outsider with a camera in hand.
Having a distinct point of view and staying true to it. No matter who you are or where you come from, everyone has a point of view that stems from their unique set of personal experiences. I develop my photographic language through constant exploration, discovery, and received criticism. It’s important to always question criticism, rather than simply rejecting or accepting.
From the technical to the conceptual, photography is centered on trial and error. Once you’ve studied a wide range of images and tried dozens of techniques, it becomes a matter of taste and decision-making. Photos are incredibly easy to create, but they prove very difficult to translate into a distinct vocabulary.
Achieve is a strong word. I’m not certain that I’ve achieved anything. With every new body of work, I always learn new things about my process. I interpret a “photographic voice” to be an ongoing evolution, not a destination.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work? Both Technically and conceptually?
“I create faithful depictions of how I experience something or someone, instead of formulating an idealized version.”
I like my work to be as natural as possible across all aspects; from the engagement with the subject to the light in a building. If I’m lighting something, I want it to resemble the existing light in a space.
I love existing details in a scene and I tend to embrace things like clutter, stains, and scars. I create faithful depictions of how I experience something or someone, instead of formulating an idealized version.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Humility, curiosity, and craftsmanship.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
It’s hard to say. Photographs are far too complicated to be described as good, bad, weak, or strong. It honestly depends on the context and the audience.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
The places I go, the people I meet, and the experiences that I have. I look at a lot of photo books when it comes time to sequencing a body of work. These people have all motivated and inspired me by keeping it real and never letting me get too comfortable with my work; Pato Hebert, Paul Jasmin, Micol Hebron, Hiroshi Clark, Ewa Wojack, Ophelia Chong, Audrey Landreth, Damon Casarez, Ron Zak, and Sofie Howard.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Everything from a cell phone to a 4×5. I like shooting in natural light the most (reflectors, tripod, and polarizer).
What’s your favorite website about photography?
AmericanSuburbX. It always has awesome photo essays from photographers I’ve always admired, such as: Larry Sultan, Harry Callahan, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Danny Lyon, etc.
What photography book would you recommend?
“The Nature of Photographs” by Stephen Shore. The book is a quick read with awesome examples of Shore’s words through photos from photography gods like Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Frank, and William Eggleston.
It’s a great book that explores the physical and conceptual properties surrounding photographs.
Another would be “Subway” by Bruce Davidson. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s simply stunning. Bruce Davidson is a badass and that body of work is definitely one of my favorites.
“Most of my pictures are compassionate, gentle and personal. They tend to let the viewer see for himself. They tend not to preach. And they tend not to pose as art.”
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
Don’t get into photography to be a professional photographer. Stay interested and curious with your reality and shoot as many photos as you can. The rest will fall into place. You have to focus your voice before you can expect to find commercial work or be featured in exhibitions.
Regardless of school, work, or any of life’s obligations, always be working on something for yourself. Keep photography alive and don’t let all the other baggage stunt your growth.