(‘Photographers You Should Know’ is a column where I highlight an amazing photographer who I believe deserves more attention and awareness)
I am kicking off my new column by highlighting a photographer whose work I have admired for years now: Ryan Prado. I first discovered his work by sheer accident on Myspace (remember that place?). I reached out to him because I was such a fan and I wanted to purchase some of his extremely creative and colorful photos. I have proudly displayed them on my walls for the past 5 years and love introducing new friends to his work whenever they ask about them (which they always do). We have kept in touch over the years and I have continued to be surprised by any new work he has done.
The best thing I love about his photography are the concepts at play. It is the main thing I look for in a photograph: what is being said here? What mood/story/concept is trying to be conveyed? Each of his photos has it’s own story, it’s own message that Ryan is expressing. And isn’t that what makes the best art? Ideas and thoughts being expressed, unfiltered and to the fullest effect? For example, take a look at this photo:
Immediately, several things come to mind: the idea of life as a film or theatrical show, all of us playing our respective roles. There is a lost love here that this woman mourns over yet you can see the hands operating on the sides, almost encouraging her to move on. I imagine those as our spectators in life, whether they be friends, family, or the stranger at the coffee shop who thinks we’re pathetic if we’re moping in public. The world is watching and the show must go on. There also seems to be the need to look pretty even in the midst of sadness and sorrow; people are afraid of letting their guard down, of letting others see the real and ugly side of them. How many times have you had to force a smile and hide the tears when speaking with someone during a time of crisis?
All of those thoughts come rushing as soon as I see a piece of his work which is a very powerful thing for me. Another thing that I love is the amazing and creative use of color! I am a huge pop art fan and I can definitely see some of that influence here. The colors pop and he does not stick to some of the same old trite color schemes. Violets, browns, reds, teals, greens, orange, he tries it all! There is an adventurous mood to his color and is very unpredictable, twisting and turning but always there to allure our eyes.
I have conducted an interview with Ryan Prado himself and asked about his background and creative process. Enjoy!
Ryan Prado: I actually got into photography unintentionally. I needed one more elective to graduate college and photography seemed to be the most interesting. I had friends/professors that said it was expensive and time consuming but for some odd reason their warnings didn’t concern me. It wasn’t until I was working on a final project for intermediate photo that I did my first color shoot (I had been shooting in black & white per class instruction up until this point) and fell in love.
I took 3 semesters in college. They used to stress concept over technique. I never full understood why at the time. I wanted to learn lighting, etc. But now I’m glad they focused on the conceptual aspect of it all. The rest you can figure out but if you don’t develop your voice and have nothing to say then why make art?
If you don’t mind me asking, what is your favorite camera/lens that you use on most of your photos?
Hmmm, I’m not really a technical person. I don’t even like to call myself a “photographer.” People always assume I know everything about cameras and that I can shoot anything, from weddings to pet portraits. I prefer to say that I use a camera to capture my ideas. And I only know what I need to know to do what I do. With all that being said, I do love my Canon 5D.
I always come up with the idea first and they are very well thought out by the time I shoot the final image. Sometimes a song lyric, an old saying or just a random thought triggers a visual for me. Then I’ll sketch it out -albeit sometimes very crudely. Then I usually think of who would embody the look I am going for. I do depend on others’ input for wardrobe, make-up and hair since those areas are not my forte. One of my favorite parts is preparing the props/sets. I love anything kitschy, colorful and out of the ordinary so it’s always fun to put those together to suit the theme I am going for.
It was an image for my final project in intermediate photo. I was doing a series on the absurdity of masculinity and I was shooting a dear friend of mine in drag. She was standing in front of a car holding a wrench. She was really giving me face and the colors were popping. I still love that photo to this day.
My biggest influences are pop anything: culture, music, art (Roy Lichtenstein). As far as photographers, my absolute favorites are Guy Bourdin, Pierre et Gilles and Herb Ritts.
I would love to start working with film again. I love the look of old photographs and it would be great to add that sort of element to what I already do. And eventually I would love to direct something on moving film.