Boys By Ryan Exclusive

Grant Clark by Boys by Ryan - Shirtless Boy Outside - BW

Boys By Ryan

The Lonely Avocado x VTEEN Exclusive Interview

Photographer: @boysbyryan

Part 2 over at VTEEN

Q) You have an amazing eye for photographing such a natural state of being! Your models seem to have a great connection with you and feel very comfortable; so nice to see.

What keeps you motivated to keep creating the work you do and when did you first realize this is the path you wanted to take your life on?

A) I’ve had a passion for portrait photography since I was a teen, and I return to it frequently, even as I continue to develop a career in producing film and video. The emotional connection between a photographer and their subject is so pure, expressive and rewarding.

When I graduated from art school a couple years ago, I had a transformative moment when I recognized there was a part of myself I hadn’t yet explored, —socially or creatively. As an introverted gay man living in rural Connecticut, I longed for connection. During this time, I began to curate a series of black & white portraits on Instagram as a personal outlet, and unexpectedly started gaining thousands of fans.

This audience allowed me to meet other creatives that wanted to collaborate and pose for me, and so I began a new series of portraits, focusing on these young men and their stories. Desires, aesthetics and values that I had once unknowingly repressed flowed freely into my art, and I felt freer and more productive than I had in a long time.

Q) You seem to have a deep love for black & white photography. Do you pull inspiration from any particular artist or where would you say this appreciation came from?

A) Much like this portrait series, I dream in black & white with hints of color, which I’ve read is very strange. Maybe my monochrome world is the result all my time as a child writing and drawing my own stories… a lot of creatives my age were shaped by colorful film and TV that I didn’t engage with until later in life.

Today I spend so much time in the commercial world, surrounding myself in stylized saturation… so this portrait series was really the perfect opportunity to revert to my instincts. These small, intimate moments represent romantic, dream-like fantasies, and I only add color when it drives the concept. Black & white photography places a deeper focus on value and shape and helps me capture an out-of-time, other-worldly feeling.

Of course, I have also discovered many artists that have inspired this project; photographers like George Platt Lynes and Herbert List, and contemporaries like Luis Venegas, Ryan McGinley, Eber Figueira, and Federico Fernández. I’m also inspired by the commercial success of publications like Worldwide Roar and the careers of Howard Roffman and Bruce Weber. And I’m fascinated by the courage and personality in vintage erotica like Bob Mizer’s Physique Pictorials.

Q) Many people see nudity as something, which is only sexual; they tend to view nudity in any form as taboo. We think people’s minds are slowly changing and opening up because of the Internet; it is causing people to question societies version of normality because information is so widely available.

Thinking back to the beginning. Did you have nerves about perusing your art? Did you find that some of your peers did not fully understand and lacked in support or did they respect your vision?

A) Yes, I was so nervous. It took several months of creating before I started showing my friends and family the work. I’m so lucky to be supported by everyone I love, and a large online community. But the stigma is totally there, even in the most progressive environments.

It’s tricky to have that conversation because my work is totally about sensuality sometimes, and sometimes it isn’t. Nudity doesn’t mean the work is sexual AND sexual expression doesn’t require nudity. These are two unrelated qualities that may or may not correlate depending on the situation. Both nudity and sexuality are incredibly stigmatized, especially in men. A lot of people are really uncomfortable seeing men sexualized the way women are. It’s fascinating. And all this doesn’t even touch on the amount of unfair censorship I have to deal with on Instagram and other platforms. But the love and support I get from the LGBTQ+ and Fine Art communities more than make up for this struggle.

I suppose I am creating the kind of media I wish I found when I was younger and forming opinions and a visual language for my passion. I think allowing and supporting artistic representations of the human body is incredibly important. I hate that graphic pornography is the way a lot of people come to understand and visualize a body’s value. Our culture transforms something so pure and beautiful into gross taboo. I believe we need more thoughtful, tasteful and caring depictions of men, and I’m so happy to contribute to that.

Q) What is the most important thing to you when choosing which models you would like to collaborate with for a shoot?

A) I look for a certain sweetness, a naiveté, a genuine emotionality and willingness to be vulnerable. The antithesis to many classical depictions of masculinity. I search for stories of longing and unrequited passion. The strength in willing to appear soft.

Q) When you are not working at your passion, what do you like to do to relax and have a bit of fun?

A) I also sing and play piano, mostly for myself. I’ve written and produced many songs which will find their way into an album someday. Music is very important to my process- it’s sometimes the only way to get a feeling out.

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