INTERVIEW: Ryan Russell
Written by Cameron Capers
Shooting bands including Foo Fighters, Death Cab for Cutie, and Paramore to creating a travel photo book documenting his move from Alabama to Washington, Ryan Russell has cemented his name in the world of photography. Read our interview with Ryan below.
When did you know you wanted to pursue photography as a career?
Originally I thought I was going to be a graphic designer only and went to college for that. Around my last year of college I started getting magazine covers and shooting bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Mastodon and the pressure started to build. I realized that I was an alright designer but that my photographs were better executed and people just seemed to enjoy them a lot more. Two weeks after graduating I went on my first fly-out shoot and it kind of set everything in motion for years.
Two years ago you released your travel photo book “Continental Obscura: From Birmingham to Bellingham” - what inspired you to create the book?
Having lived my entire life in Birmingham, Alabama I knew moving to Bellingham, Washington would be a huge change for me, both cities are exact opposites in a lot of ways. With that huge life change and a long road trip ahead, I wanted to document the whole experience for myself to have later on in life. Landscape and other forms of travel photography is something I just got into around 2010. Doing a book seemed a way I could have a purpose for all the documentation plus present another side of my work that had nothing to do with music photography.
You’ve been shooting for Paramore for quite some time now. How was it shooting them for the first time?
They’ve always been some of the nicest, most energetic people to be around at shows. I had been wanting to photograph them for a while back in 2007 and finally got the chance at a Warped Tour stop. They really enjoyed the photographs I shot that day and we’ve been working together ever since. It’s felt like a life’s work documenting them over the years and I am just so honored they’ve allowed me to do so for so long. Without a doubt, Paramore deserve every ounce of success they have earned and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them with the next album.
For someone who’s been a photographer as long as you, how do you maintain a creative perspective?
It’s definitely hard at times. I’ve found the arguments of ‘what I want to photograph’ and 'what others want to see/expect’ pulling me in different directions. Folks have been asking why I haven’t posted much band photography since moving to Bellingham, especially with Seattle and Vancouver both having huge music scenes and being so close. I just find myself really bored with band photography at the moment. Part of the excitement and fire of shooting live shows has gone away from me, but I expect it’ll come back soon enough when I get tired of landscapes haha. I still go out and shoot the bands I have known and loved over the years, plus new ones like Somos have been a pleasure to meet and work with.
With the new year just beginning what are some things you’re looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to finding some new things to photograph and just new areas to explore with my work. Every day almost I shoot a new photo that’s different than how I would shoot it a year ago. I revisit WA locations from the book at times and think, “Man why didn’t I shoot it like "this” when I was here the first time.“ It just goes to show that as long as you’re continually experimenting you’ll continue to grow as a photographer. Folks always ask what’s the best piece of advice I can give and it’s to keep photographing no matter what. Even if you’ve been shooting 16 months or 16 years, you’re always going to develop new methods if you just get out there and keep shooting.
Written by Cameron Capers
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