Ryan Hancock

Ryan Hancock is a photographer based in Brooklyn, NY.

Interviewed by Angella D'Avignon, for Wandering Bears
October 7, 2011

Where are you from and which is the most vivid memory you have from living there?

We moved around, but mostly I grew up in a small town in Georgia, called Flintstone. I would make a bed high up in this conifer tree by tying broken branches across two adjacent limbs. The wind would blow, and the tree would sway for what seemed to be an incredible distance, but was probably only a couple of feet. I’ll never forget the feeling of testing out the platform of branches, then carefully lying down, and forcing myself to let go of the supporting limbs and just lie there, swaying back and forth.

I personally love the photographs of yours which have a strong sense of portraiture. How do you perceive our connection to your subject, animate or inanimate? Describe your relationship to the images you create.

Thanks! I think ideally, in the ones that work best, the subject of my photos flicker back and forth between inanimate and animate. I started photographing because I was frustrated by painting.. I felt I never could make a painting do what the paintings I loved most did best. An example is Giorgio Morandi, still life and landscape painter from mid century. He spent thirty years painting the same dusty objects on the same tabletops.. and manages, in just a small arrangement of two or three objects, to show the predicament of something infinite being bound up in something temporal. His paintings flicker between being a particular group of objects, during particular hours of daylight, and through the artists’ translation into paint, of being terrifying reminders of the incredible vastness of non-existence surrounding us. Reminders how much easier it is simply not to be, and the grace by which anything actually exists.

I’d love to do something similar in a photograph. I’m always trying to solve that problem.. how to address what I feel are the biggest and most basic issues (why and how do we exist, rather than not exist) without becoming heavy and boring and cliched and precious and… any other of the infinity of ways any work of art can fail. In fact, I’d say my relationship to my images is to give up hope of succeeding in a way I’d like, and then shooting it anyway.

What format do you work on/camera & film that you work with and how did you decide or gravitate toward the format/film/camera?

I use lots of different cameras depending on what I’m shooting… a Hasselblad, Mamiya RZ67, Toyo 4×5, and Canon digital usually to polaroid with. I usually use Portra film. I stumbled slowly onto the cameras I use because I never went to school for photography, so I just slowly tried different cameras until something looked right. I first used a Yashica D twin lens, then a Mamiya C330… the list goes on. I used one until I could afford something I tried and found to be a bit better for me. I’ve liked something about almost every camera I’ve used, so I don’t think it matters what camera you use if you’re sensitive to what it can do.

What are you working on now and where do you hope to go/do?

Right now I’m working on a body of work I hope to publish next winter. Until then I’m making small e-zines for iPad or PDF viewing. I’m also working on a documentary film that we’ve been shooting for the past year. It’s about street dancers in the East NY part of Brooklyn who are completely rad and inspiring.

How does being from a small town affect the way you travel?

I don’t know.. maybe the common urge to get out. When I was 18 or 19 I packed my Civic Hatchback full of rice and beans and a small propane stove and drove all over the country one summer. I slept in hotel parking lots and saw all but three states. This was before cell phones, when you could actually feel alone, and I’ve never been more lonely in my life. It was such an essential experience. I generally like to travel alone, maybe because of that trip.

Finally, who or what inspires you?

Oh, you know, girls walking through fields full of sun-flared wheat or maybe peeing on the sidewalk, attractive teens doing crazy flash-lit stunts, and other moments of everyday beauty. Sunsets.