Ryan Struck is a talented photographer from New Jersey. He has been shooting in the Garden State for a little over 2 years where he has primarily focused on shooting still images. Recently, Ryan has taken the leap into shooting motion, and by the clip he shot in Mexico (below) earlier this year, his eye is keen and he has a bright future ahead of him. Impressed by his work and the fact that he is fairly new to the game, we decided to dive in a bit deeper and find out about Ryan’s life since he has found photography and the lessons he has learned.
How did your interest in photography begin? Any formal training? And what does photography mean to you?
I can remember seeing photographs of people with the background out of focus and wanting to create an image the same way. I fumbled through snapping photos, putting my own perspective to the test trying to achieve this. It wasn’t until sometime later that I found out there were certain techniques to provide your viewer with depth of field which makes such photos so appealing. I took a photo class at community college and got a C and was kind of frustrated. I could never seem to fulfill the assignment requirements or really grasp the concepts the teacher was trying convey. Photographing 3 eggs against a white piece of paper just wasn’t teaching me anything, at least I didn’t think so then. I put the camera down for a long while after that. I really thought you needed to be taught how to use a camera in order to be a photographer.
Looking back, I am glad I got a bit frustrated because for me photography has a lot to do about self discovery and less about someone telling you how to take a picture. It’s an outlet for creation and I guess I’ve chosen to walk that path to my own tune.
Describe your style.
Careless, solid colors and flip flops. A teddy bear brown Carhart jacket when it snows. Ohhh… behind the camera?
I often aim to show the unseen. I want my viewers to feel like they have a front row seat to the action, but in a way they haven’t experienced before. I believe everyone has a natural curiosity as to what other people are doing. It’s so evident in bigger cities as you walk down the street. You can lock eyes with someone as you pass by or look them up and down and really check their style out. For some odd reason you never feel like you are gawking. The nature of curiosity is an important part in our lives and I experience my curiosity through the art of photography. I believe there is something to be seen in the classic look of our ordinary and everyday lives. We are all experiencing what would make great photographs I just stand aside and press the shutter button. When photographing subjects for my personal work I almost always aim for moments that draw the viewer in and allow the feeling of a stolen extended glance, without the hurriedness of being noticed.
On your website, you say you look at your life now as before photography and after photography. How has your life changed since you found photography?
Photography is a relatively new art form especially compared to other disciplines such as painting. For example, the first photographic image ever created was in 1827 versus, say, the 17,000 year old cave drawings found in Lascaux. Art and photography are always changing, at least, in my opinion. Much like a wave, photography presents me with something different continuously. I’ve met new people, seen different things and felt new ways about the world around me with a camera in my hand. Time for reflection away from the pixels is probably just as important in my journey as well. Life after photography opened my eyes to difference, details and has really captured my attention. Even more than a passion and means of employment, photography gives me a sense of fulfillment.
Photography has saved me. It has given me more than I could have ever imagined. Shortly over two years ago I started shooting surf. I snapped photos at the beach here and there before that but it wasn’t until in the dead of winter that I stuffed my camera in a housing and decided I wanted to try and create some cool photos. I started to really pay attention then. I have caught the bug and my camera has brought me to places around the world as well as awesome nooks throughout the Garden State. After assisting, interning, 2nd shooting and generally doing anything I could find photo related, I was offered a full time job in the corporate world as a staff shooter for an advertising company. The job itself is as far from an office life you can imagine, and not as glamorous as it sounds, but it has really fit me for the past year. I am convinced I obtained the position on the back of my surf photography portfolio, which still amazes me. I felt like I was just out shooting surf for the love and low and behold I was creating my first photography portfolio. I didn’t realize that portfolio would later land me an interview in NYC (I wore a suit) and a job as a photographer for the entire state of New Jersey. I am incredibly grateful that I have an actual career in photography and I love every minute of the action. I have many people to thank, but I am confident that the ocean provides for us humans far more than we may realize at times.
What has it taught you about life? And how do you apply that outside of the lens?
That life is beautiful and that I am forever a student of my surroundings. As photographers we go out of our way to find a uniqueness to call our own. Following what makes you feel comfortable equates to work you ought to be proud of. You don’t need a camera to learn about life but I choose to carry one in hopes of one day doing something important and worthy enough to share with a broad audience. Imagine if I could make a positive impact on others one day? I’m not there yet but I’m working on it. I am proud of who I am today and I only want to hone my focus as time passes. I have learned that anything worthwhile will take so much effort you will question yourself more than once. I keep this in mind and recall my past thoughts and actions as a way of remembering how far I’ve come and how far I’ve got to go.
After traveling and seeing other places, what does being a East Coast surfer mean to you?
To me the East Coast is about a sense of community. The industry is very much focused on the Pacific Ocean; all of the American magazines are based in California minus Eastern Surf Magazine, who’s home is in Florida. Some of the most common questions are “Have you been to Hawaii?” and “New Jersey has waves!?” People call the East Coast the red headed step child of surfing, there’s plenty who relish that fact. Something about the fringes of our sport that really resounds with East Coasters. That being said, however, our reputation of distant relations might fade a bit with the Quiky Pro up in New York this September. I hope everyone in town scores because this is our chance to show the world we have great waves. Waves good enough to offer $1,000,000 purse.
Now you have begun to shoot video. How does capturing motion differ for you? How has the learning curve been for you? Challenges?
Recording moments in video format compared to freezing one particular moment as a stand alone image are very different things. I can confidently say I know nothing about motion and the learning curve is steep, as anything worth a lick should be. I am just trying to absorb as much information about video and editing through reading and trial and error. Shooting video is getting easier with DSLR and Final Cut Pro is way more accessible to the masses (and me!) at $300. I believe you have to be creative and driven enough to be any good what you’re doing. Anyone with dough can shoot 10 fps (or 60p), throw their image in LightRoom (or FCPX) and move the sliders around. I’m moving on from shaky video clips to some that are more fluid and I am trying to understand the more technical aspect of motion. Once the technical side of shooting and editing is out of the way (wait, is that ever?) I feel like creativity flows a lot better. I’m looking forward to getting to that point… whenever that may be.
Is there a photo (or particular shoot in general) that you are most proud of?
Hmm, I have a trouble picking favorites and at times I tend to be a bit critical of myself. As I move forward some images I’ve created are standing the test of time. Often for me the best way to evaluate my work is looking back on the wake of images I’ve left in my path; the best stuff remaining buoyant when you have a moment to reflect. Some work is embarrassing to look at or even think about, but it’s those learning lessons which make me a better photographer. It’s not always easy, but when you can look at what you have accomplished it’s ok to think you’ve got some good work in the bag. One thing I struggled with a lot was not achieving great photos right away. I beat myself up over the work I produced. I’m happy I’ve learned to accept the imperfections of art and to be proud of what I’m creating. On good days I can tell myself I am capable of doing anything. So many times I see something so incredible with my own two eyes but when I see what my camera saw, it can be very different. This holds particularly true for surf photography because you don’t often get a “do over” on that last set wave. I have come to understand this as real life holding much more beauty than can ever be captured on film. Maybe that is part of what keeps me coming back… can I one day capture an image as wonderful as life really is?
What are your goals with photography? Where do you want to take it…or where do you want it to take you?
I just want to continue moving forward and furthering my sense of good imagery. I want to follow the sun around the world because I’ve realized that it’s really the nature of light that makes the most impact on whether a photograph works or not. Ok that’s not wholly true, but it’s kind of close. I want to create images worth a damn. The thrill of photography is fascinating and keeps me in good spirits, I want to keep chasing that happiness. My goal is to never give up.