I’m proud to bring you the first in a series of interviews with people who inspire me. Since I’m first and foremost an artist (a vibe you’ll be feeling much more here on my site over the next few months), many of them are artists, but there will be athletes, politicians, writers, etc… basically anyone who I find interesting and feel like interviewing. One meets many inspiring people in life and I think it’s important to spread that vibe and share their stories. We all need to be inspired more.
So, my first interview is with Ryan Loewy, a guy I first met through covering the Bitter Cold Showdown for Be-Mag a few years back. I’d known of him through NYC folks, we were in need of a photographer up in Detroit that weekend, and Ryan stepped up to the plate. Dude is crazy talented with a ridiculous work ethic. Especially amazing considering that he literally happened into photography by total chance. Fast forward a few years and Diesel Brand is using his work. Enough said. Inspiring.
1.) NAME / AGE / LOCATION
My name is Ryan Loewy, I’m 24 years old and I currently live in Brookfield, CT.
2.) DESCRIBE YOUR WORK AND HOW YOU GOT STARTED?
I guess I’d say I’m mostly focused on portraiture, although I do occasional studio still life stuff that takes heavy cues from graphic design. And I do do some skating photography, but not so much as I used to because of where I’m currently located. I kind of fell into photography by accident though, as back in high school I had a small clothing company and wanted to take pictures of the shirts I had made. So I bought a DSLR from a fellow rollerblader at my first Bitter Cold Showdown in 2007, and over time it evolved into what it is now.
I had intended on going to school for fashion design, but I didn’t get into the school I wanted to, so I took up shop at a local school and decided to choose photography as a major for the time being and just build a portfolio. So that, I guess, in addition to high school B&W classes and seeing pics in magazines, was how it all started…
3.) HOW HAS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY AND STYLE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
I decided to really immerse myself in photography about 2 years into doing it. I was on Flickr at the time and did the whole shoot-a-picture-every-day-thing, so that really catapulted me into a different direction over that time. I’d say most of those images that I made during that stretch were garbage, but there were a select few that really pushed me forward, especially towards the end of the year. For me, that is what matters, single images that are kind of like, “Fuck, I should be doing this,” where you learn, you know? “This is what I like, this isn’t what I like.” I owe that mentality to my friends Josh Earley and Melissa Butler, they really put me on the right track to creating things that meant something to me, that served a purpose, it wasn’t just a picture I was taking anymore.
I eventually transferred schools, hopping from Long Island to Manhattan, and that, well, that is where I think I really started to make legitimate work. At first it wasn’t anything, but within the following months of being there I really evolved and started to get a clearer sense of what I was doing, and more importantly, why I was doing it. In the past 2 years, I’ve really focused on portraiture, as for me, making portraits, well… I just find it interesting. I think it is interesting what you can make of someone with knowing very little about them. I like the learning process that is involved with it, a lot about the sitter and myself is revealed. I’ve been honing my style and approach as well, as I want their to be a continuity and feel to my work that evokes a simple yet witty feel to it. The same feel and continuity that someone like Jack White has, I want with my stuff. Because there’s a classiness there, there’s an authenticity there, and I find that to be admirable.
4.) HOW DO VARIOUS ASPECTS OF ART & CULTURE, ETC. INFLUENCE YOUR WORK? WHAT/WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
I mentioned Jack White as an influence in the way he presents himself, his work, and his just sheer incredible talent as a musician. I like Norman Rockwell too, there’s a class to him and his work that is rather romantic. Obviously my upbringing had something to do with the way I see and create things now, I was always in art classes and stuff so that definitely helped. I guess the theory of simple graphic design has a hand in the work I create, but I also enjoy a certain group of photographers that have pushed me to create what I like. In addition to Josh and Melissa, I’d say Dan Winters, Chris Buck, Irving Penn and Ryan Pfluger have had a good hand in that. I’ve learned that the simple things work best for me, so I try and focus on that. No frills or gimmicks. I’m not good at that shit. But I am awkward and can be rather strange, so I try to have that reflect in my work.
I remember showing someone my “Girls on Black” Series and them saying that I didn’t make any of them look beautiful, and I replied, “well, that isn’t the point.” I’m not for the surface level shit, I want you to dig deeper.
5.) SO… EMMA. DIESEL. VENICE BIENNIEL. THAT’S A REALLY, REALLY BIG DEAL! HOW’D IT COME ABOUT?
Thanks dude. One of my friends from SVA, Zak Krevitt, was working with Diesel for a reboot of their branding and marketing. He had posted something on Facebook about it and they had a Tumblr set up taking submissions, so I just decided to send them work that I thought would fit along with what they were doing. The image of Emma was shot about 2 years ago and was part of a personal project I had been working on. I submitted the one of Emma and they emailed me a week or so later telling me they really liked the image and that it was in consideration to be used in their campaign. I thought nothing of it at the time because, well, with doing photography, you see a lot of mirages that seem like fulfilling and promising opportunities, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up.
Another week went by and they sent over a contract, but it still wasn’t set in stone ’til very recently when they sent me a mock-up [of the Emma image wrapping the Diesel yacht being featured in Venice] and told me it’d be in the biennial. I think what hypes me about it, and what is a good reminder for a lot of photographers that are just starting out like myself, is that personal work is the driving force behind getting you where you want to be, and I think people pick up on that over time. There has to be a purpose and a genuine intent with what you are creating. You just gotta like what you are creating, it has to excite you, and you have to be behind it, or else it’ll have no shelf life. Danny Brown said it best, “I’m [was] a fan of Danny Brown before anyone else was.”
6.) WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
Working. I work a regular ass job while pursuing the dream, so I am just continuing to work and make images along the way. Right now, I do live coverage for CMJ whenever anyone of interest to me is playing in my area. And if it’s anyone I really, really want to see I might make the trek to NYC. I try my best to get portraits of anyone that I am covering, because I want to have a collection of images of my favorite musicians. That’s satisfying to me. So I’ve been busting my ass to do that. And when I do that it’s worth it, because it’s an honest way of going about it and building a portfolio that you can be proud of. I don’t have any huge connections in the editorial world at the moment, nor do I have people really promoting my work besides me, so I’m the one that essentially has to make it happen, and I’ll pretty much do whatever I have to to make it a reality.
The whole underdog speech aside, I have some projects in mind and have been involved in some collaborative efforts here and there, so, I’m kind of just keeping my eye on that and putting all my leftover energy into that. Trying not to get swayed with what the cool kids are doing though, you know?
7.) ANYTHING ELSE?
Thanks for the interview and thanks to everyone that has been down with the cause, I appreciate it.
FOR MORE OF RYAN’S WORK: http://RYANLOEWY.tumblr.com
All images Copyright Ryan Loewy, All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
From the top: Self Portrait, Kate, Alyssa, Emma for Diesel.