When did you first start shooting?
I first started shooting when I was about 18 years old. I grew up skateboarding so at first I was solely interested in shooting skate photos so I could try and make it into Thrasher or something like that. I was actually able to accomplish that goal, and then naturally I got into shooting photos of my friends without skateboards. From there I was able to teach myself how to shoot lifestyle and once I became confident enough in myself and my abilities as a photographer my career began.
Whose photography do you look up to or admire?
Well since I came from skateboarding Atiba Jefferson was my idol when I was younger. Now I find most of my inspiration from a photographer named Quentin de Briey since he does a mixture of fashion and sports. I also really look up to Tyler Mitchell who was the first African American to shoot the cover of vogue and I own his book “I can make you feel good” which I look at just about every day.
Your portraits feel really warm and natural. How do you achieve an atmosphere where the subjects are comfortable to just be themselves?
Everyone has something they’re interested in! So while I’m shooting my subjects I try and ask questions about hobbies and any other interest they may have. Most of my subjects are actually really surprised when the shoot is over because they don’t realize I’ve been photographing them the whole time we’ve been chatting. I just try and be as natural as possible and make them feel comfortable since the point is to capture their personality in the image. You can usually tell when an image is too planned, so when people view my work I want them to feel like the photo is real.
You’re based in LA but a lot of your work is shot in NYC. What’s exciting or challenging about shooting in LA vs. NYC?
It depends on what you’re shooting. I love shooting in LA when I have to shoot anything involving sports because it's so spaced out and wide open, whereas in NYC you're a little cramped and limited to the city. But when I’m shooting any type of fashion I love to go to NYC because of how beautiful it is. Between the different seasons, all the buildings and all the activity in the streets it basically does all the background work for you, it's just your job to capture it the right way.
You shoot mostly film. How does film help you create the sense of intimacy that's so present in your work?
Film is amazing because you only have a certain amount of shots you can take and you have absolutely no idea how the image is going to look. Everything has to be right and as soon as you take a photo you’re telling yourself “wow I really hope that turns out how I envisioned”. Before we could fire off digital images as many times as we want the most iconic photos of all time were on film and for some reason when I shoot film I feel not only like I’m adding to history but also that I’m paying my respect to all the photographers that had to shoot and process their own film back in the day.
What does your photography process look like? Do you scout locations or have to work with where your subjects are?
I usually have a general idea of where I’d like to shoot. But when we actually arrive at the location and start shooting I prefer to adjust to whatever is in that area and walk around with my subject a little bit. I’ve found that when it's a group effort everyone feels involved and it allows my subjects to open up a lot more.
You’ve done some really incredible work for New Balance, Knickerbocker MFG, and more. How do you get connected with your clients?
To be honest it’s mostly through friends. I send cold emails a lot and I get some positive responses but 95% of it is through buddies that work within these companies that I most likely met through skateboarding. My main goal at the moment is to become more established in the sports industry so being able to shoot someone like Lebron James for Nike would be a dream come true.
How did you first hear about Arvin Goods? What's fun / challenging about shooting products?
I actually found Arvin on Instagram and immediately loved the branding and imaging. Shooting product is fun when it works Haha! It's challenging because you can spend about 2 hours just trying to fix all these minor details and then take the shot and it's not nearly as cool as you thought it would be. Extremely meticulous.
Your shoot with Matt Scott was really powerful. Tell us a little bit about what went into creating those images. Is that the wheelchair welder in some of the shots?
I was actually shooting for a bracelet company and they were featuring Matt Scott as one of their sponsored athletes. Matt is a 4x Paralympic gold medalist and he trains in Texas when he’s not traveling overseas to play basketball. So we met up with him in Texas and he took us to the factory where his wheelchairs are made. I saw this older gentleman wielding, he told me he’s lived in Texas his whole life and he was quite a character! So I asked him if I can photograph him and he allowed it. After that we went to this college that Matt trains at to photograph him shooting around and it was one of the best photoshoots I’ve ever had. The lighting in the gym was perfect and just the overall mood made everything go so smoothly. Matt Scott is a great guy and I was honored that he took time out of his schedule to allow me to photograph him.
What's your advice to someone just starting to pursue a career in photography? Anything you wish you'd known sooner?
Patience! You really have to wait your turn in this industry. When I was younger I used to get a bit upset (I still do sometimes) because I felt that I had the talent to shoot all the cool ads that I saw these big time photographers shoot, but I didn’t realize I hadn't put in enough time and work yet. You’ll become a successful photographer if you keep shooting every single day and you work to develop great relationships with everyone you can. Once you start to make connections and people realize your talent, you're on your way! One thing I wish I new sooner was that I needed to make all the connections I could. You never know where people will end up, someone you meet may end up working for the brand that you want to shoot for, so treat everyone with respect and do your best to show people who you are as a person. You never know what can happen!
Kris Ryan captured all the photos used in our Spring 2021 look book. Check out the collection here: