Photographer’s Q&A – Ryan Enn Hughes
This week’s Q&A is with Toronto film director and photographer Ryan Enn Hughes who will be joining The Globe and Mail as its summer intern. His web site is www.ryanennhughes.com.
Relocation: My younger brother Garcy is 12 years my junior. Although Garcy has grown up in the same north-west Toronto home that I did, he will be spending his formative teen years on a farm in Bruce County, Ontario, as my parents prepare to retire. Here Garcy holds one of a dozen cats he raised in the barn last summer. This photo was one of the Grand Prize-winning images of the ‘Show Your Ontario’ photography contest. (Photo by Ryan Enn Hughes)
What were your first steps in the industry?
My first step in documentary photography was my involvement with the Canadian Armed Forces while I was a university student. I was part of a documentary film crew in 2005 that covered Eastern Canada’s annual war games. While there, I built a connection with a few of the public affairs officers and got access to return as a photographer to document exercises. These images became my first photo essay.
Shortly after, while at Ryerson University for Film Studies, I got involved with the student newspapers as a photographer. This was my first serious outlet for publication.
Portrait of Tamas Soos. (Photo by Ryan Enn Hughes)
When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation, and are you where you thought you would be now?
When I was a student at Ryerson, I was involved in a variety of activities in the arts. But at the time, I didn’t have a clear-cut path. What I’m doing right now, I feel, is an amalgamation of all my past experience and knowledge bases.
Last week, I finished shooting three motion projects using the RED ONE camera system. I’m handing all the post processing and image colour grading myself. Without the varied background I’ve had, this wouldn’t be possible.
The work I’m doing now, and plan on doing, sits on the fence between the moving image and still image, both in concept and method. I’m very excited about where things are going.
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
I’ve been inspired by a lot of different media. I grew up on music videos in the ‘90s. I really think the ‘90s was such an incredible era for the moving image as an art form. Directors like Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham and Mark Romanek really pushed their medium and created beautiful, captivating and jaw-dropping moments.
I’ve also been inspired by a lot by painters. Jackson Pollack and Jean-Michel Basquiat are two of my favourites.
Music is a big inspiration, too. I like Jay-Z, Lil’Wayne, but mostly for their approach to life (seriously).
As far as the still image goes, Trent Parke’s work is such an inspiration. He understands light and he understands his media. The way he pushes emulsion to achieve a look is so stylized and distinctive. It really impresses and encourages me.
A swimmer does a hand stand at Sauble Beach, summer 2008. This photo was one of the Grand Prize-winning Images of the ‘Show Your Ontario’ photography contest. (Photo by Ryan Enn Hughes)
Do you have a mentor?
I’d like to think that I have a lot of mentors from a variety of backgrounds. I really believe in learning from those around you, and in adjacent fields as well.
My friend James Kachan (a fashion photographer) taught me the basics of Photoshop and digital file management when I was getting serious about photography. A commercial photographer, Arash Moallemi, has supported and helped me to realize several of my recent motion projects that were studio-based. There’s a lot to learn from different types of photography – and I embrace this.
Clare Jordan, the photo editor of Report on Business Magazine, has been very encouraging since we met. Vincent Laforet has made a big impression on me, especially in terms of the scale in which he operates and his work with emerging technologies.
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I would have to say the Eddie Adams photography workshop was a pivotal point in my career. I was fortunate enough to be awarded The New York Times assignment prize at the workshop which helped generate a lot of work back in Toronto.
It was at the workshop that I also met Vincent Laforet. I’ve been working with Vince since the workshop, doing a lot of editing and post work for motion projects as well as traveling to Hawaii with him for his documentary on surfer Jaime O’Brien. The workshop really opened some doors for me career-wise.
I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow Toronto workshop attendees Brent Lewin, Mike Berube and Aaron Vincent Elkaim, all of whom are all incredible photographers and great guys on top of it.
On the road towards Fergus, Ont., for Christmas dinner. This photo was one of the Grand Prize-winning images of the ‘Show Your Ontario’ photography contest. (Photo by Ryan Enn Hughes)
How important is multimedia to you?
I come from a film and fine arts background. I work in multiple media and cross-pollinate concepts and methods. Multimedia is what I do. I think we’re still in a “wild west” stage for visual journalism multimedia and I think that’s an exciting thing. We can push boundaries, set new standards, and engage audiences in new ways.
How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?
I shoot a lot of personal projects both motion and stills. I keep up on technological developments and trends. I’m learning a lot more about software and the back end of image management. I feel you really have to learn the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs, of your trade.
At one time it was all about the darkroom. Now it’s about Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and so on. Staying on top of this stuff and pushing it in new and innovative ways is something I’m always trying to do.
What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).
I’m a big fan of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). For a very comprehensive business and marketing resource, check out its Strictly Business blog.
I spent a few nights a while back looking through Square America. The site is a collection of found photographs spanning the 20th century. I really like the feelings that different era emulsions evoke.
Also, I really like Youtube. I know, everyone knows it but I use the site for visual references and communicating with art directors. Anything and everything is on there … seriously …
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Honestly, I don’t unwind much. High Park is really nice though (just moved to the area).
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
Don’t Compare and Despair.