To say that Birmingham based Ryan Russell is a hard working photographer is a bit of an understatement. He’s one of the hardest working and demanded photographers in the music and commercial industry today. At this very moment as I type this he could be doing a variety of things — photographing your favorite band going through the motions of recording their new album, shooting promos for the next up and coming rockers for some international publication, on tour with musicians across the U.S, developing photos from a sold out show he shot last night, shooting proofs for a new ad layout, or taking some pretty wicked Polaroids of eerie urban landscapes that he already has a vast library of and that he sells on his ETSY page.
Russell’s incredible client list reads like a line up from Coachella or Warped Tour — Paramore, Tegan and Sara, Against Me!, Foo Fighters, Death Cab for Cutie, Circa Survive, My Chemical Romance, Underoath, The Gaslight Anthem, Angels and Airwaves, Blink 182, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Mastodon, The Almost, The Manchester Orchestra, The Color Fred, Taking Back Sunday, AFI, New Found Glory and probably a lot more that I don’t know about.
Looking at Ryan’s collection of photographs that he’s taken over the last 10 years, you notice something you don’t see in photos taken by other photographers — the relaxed nature of the subjects. Ryan is more than just trying to get a ‘cool’ photo to give to the record label or one of the several magazines he freelances for, but he builds solid relationships with the people he works with and it’s evident because they always return for more shoots with him, even if it’s not work related. His photos are often during intimate sessions. What seemingly looks like a bunch of guys talking in a recording studio or standing in the hallways of a venue, are striking because of the relationship that is caught in the frame. There’s deep discussions, bursts of laughter, quiet moments of meditation, or nothing at all. Russell’s eye is on more than just getting the job done, but inviting us to take part in what is happening.
What’s more — and this is a bit of a doozy — he shoots film. I don’t know about you, but this blows my mind. Most photographers have their confidence in knowing that if the photo is too dark/bright, not composed properly or whatever, they can check their 3″ monitor and try again. With film there is no ‘Try Again’ — especially photographing a wild and crazy outdoor set at Warped Tour or within the confines of a dimly lit venue. Russell has mastered what most professionals wont even consider trying, fearing that their images wont turn out. I’ve tried my hand at shooting punk shows with an old Nikon F90 and made the switch to digital after a couple of months. I still carry an SLR, but not for gigs. Maybe a back up and that’s it.
Just recently Russell has joined the legions of others and began making short videos of raw jam sessions and performances by musicians. He developed ‘Nervous Energies‘ and it’s getting quite a bit of attention. I’m not 100% sure what he is using to record the performances, but they’re his signature stark black and white with strong contrast look. Often filmed back stage of a venue or in a cramped jam space, he still manages to capture the energy withing the confined walls using a singled, steady shot.
Correction: Ryan made the switch to digital in Jan. 2010, so all of his 2010 photos are digital. He informed me that he made the switch to see where it would take him. 2001-09 is film exclusively.