Ryan Johnson, a portrait photographer working out of San Francisco, has gained mastery over black and white portraiture with his stunning and powerful images. Johnson is here to tell us about his journey and photography work.
A passion for photography and filmmaking has been part of Ryan’s life as far back as he can remember. The Rapid City, South Dakota native turned to portraiture in high school, launching his career in portrait photography soon after.
“I think that I am a very visual person and I spend a lot of time looking at the portraits I create and wondering what they mean,” states Ryan. “The thing that I like about working in black and white is that it makes it easier to strip away some extra sensory information and in turn allow the characters to emerge from a portrait.”
A self-proclaimed film junkie, Ryan draws his inspiration from films by directors such as Luis Bunuel, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Michael Haneke. Good literature, philosophy, and painting also pique his interest.
I had a chance to ask Ryan about his work and also asked for some tips for our PicsArtists interested in portraits and black and white photography. He had some great tips to share.
MM: Let’s start off by answering your screen name @whyblackandwhite?
RJ: I love ambiguity. Why not?
MM: Can you tell us about your gear? What kind of equipment do you use?
RJ: The only thing I can tell you about gear is that it has little importance when it comes to creating art. It’s important that you find a tool that can help you achieve your own vision, whatever it be, but the tools themselves are just that. Personally I use professional digital cameras, 35mm, medium and large format film. I have a wide variety of tools to help me achieve my vision, but I place more importance on things like character, location, and light.
MM: Can you share a golden piece of photography advice with our PicsArtists?
RJ: The best advice I could give aspiring photographers is to learn more about the science of light. Learn how light works in an environment and how to change and control it.
MM: What about some tips for aspiring black and white portrait artists?
Go shoot a roll of black and white film if you have the means. Practice anything regularly and you are bound to learn more. Also, be conscious of where the light is in your pictures. Putting a subject in unflattering light is the first step to creating a bad portrait.
MM: What is next for Ryan Johnson? Do you any upcoming project news you would like to share?
I have a lot of projects in the works. One is a film project and the other is a blog to be featured on my website and other social media.
When exploring PicsArt, Ryan shares that he has come across a “strong sense of community and a lot of artists that have a lot of creative energy.”
This week Ryan will use his artistic vision to select a few PicsArtists to feature within our community.