Photographer: Ryan Chun
Location: Currently, my situation is a bit odd. A client I’m working with has had me split between living in Chicago and Atlanta for about 5 months now. Traveling regularly for work and being split between two cities has helped me realize the importance of having a place to come back to where you can feel like things are as you left them; of having supportive and familiar faces, and well designed/personalized spaces you feel comfortable in.
Style: I like to think my style is somewhat cinematic. I started my career in image making as a filmmaker, and then transitioned into taking stills a few years later. As I got deeper into photography, I think that element of storytelling that I got so familiar with as a filmmaker started appearing more and more in my photos. I do my best to bring that feeling to all of my work, be it for a client or for myself.
Equipment: I shoot primarily with a Sony a7s and a Fuji x100t. The lowlight capabilities of the Sony and the image quality and portability of the Fuji make them easy go-tos for me. I recently picked up a Zeiss Batis 85mm for my Sony and have my eye on the new 70-200mm. I love the compression of space you experience at longer focal lengths. It also helps with capturing candid moments from further distances. I find I miss less shots with an 85mm on than a 16-35mm.
How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
I was in film school and freelancing here and there, but between courses and projects my camera would sometimes sit on my shelf for multiple weeks. I shot video on a 7D and remember thinking it was stupid not to shoot stills with a camera designed more for photography than video, so I started throwing it in my backpack when I’d leave the house. Living in Chicago and being downtown 3-4 days of the week, it was only a matter of time before I started getting into street photography.
Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
For street photography, you learn to know what to look for. Someone's action, an article of clothing, a unique expression or interaction. Position yourself to best capture that specific trait and master your camera settings so you don’t miss the opportunity.
Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot.
I was meeting my friend Corie in the basement of a Forever 21 to style her for a music video we did for Ta-ku. I was sitting on a bench by the escalator waiting for her, and she came down wearing really cool glasses. She didn’t make it more than a few steps before I stopped her for an impromptu shoot. The white lights angled behind her are actually the underside of the escalator. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, you can always pass a cool shot.
“Position yourself to best capture that specific trait and master your camera settings so you don’t miss the opportunity."
What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?
Finding new ways to use color. It’s a been fun change of pace. A year ago, my work was a lot more desaturated.
Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
I’ve been a huge fan of a photographer in New York named Chris Schoonover. On the subject of color, he uses it beautifully.
Tell us three photography tips.
1. Always shoot manually. It’ll take time to learn, but not understanding the ways different shutter speeds and apertures impact the look of your images will limit the ways you can shoot, and cause you to miss shots down the line.
2. Layer your shots. By that I mean create as much depth as you can. Be strategic with what’s in the foreground, middle ground, and background of your photos. Focusing on the background of a setting instead of the subject can give you a whole new way to interact with an otherwise basic composition.
3. Plan your shots out. In filmmaking, a crew will spend hours dressing the set, paying extreme attention to every prop and article of clothing in frame. Try the same for photos.
Finish the sentence..
If I weren’t afraid I would... live my life more recklessly. I try to live outside of my comfort zone, but definitely spend a lot of time analyzing the risks in bigger life decisions. Moving to different places, getting more tattoos, quitting jobs, etc.
I wouldn't be where I am today if... I didn’t drop out of college.
I've been listening to... too much Future, usually against my will. The friend I drive to work with blasts it every morning. On a more serious note, I’ve been really into a band called Whitney.
Kids these days... need to look up from their cell phones.
I look and feel my best when... dress minimally.
When no one is looking I... steal the catered food outside of the meetings in my offices.
Traveling... is one of my biggest motivations to do anything.
I respect... people who aren’t influenced by others, and unapologetically do their own thing their own way.
Tag a friend and ask him/her a question.
Chris Schoonover, @cschoonover. How do you feel about so many people mimicking a lot of the unique tools and techniques you use in your photography?
Chris answered: Unless it's a blatant or exact copy, I don't usually pay much attention to it. None of the techniques I use are original. They've been used a thousand times by various artists through the years. By the time a person has copied my style, I'll already be interested in using another technique. Mimicking is a huge part of the art world. I do it as well. The challenge is to copy, take it one step further and make it your own. It's important for me to remember that the one thing that can't be taught is taste. No one can see exactly as I see. No one can shoot exactly as I do.