Ryan Dodd – Q&A Artist Profile – The Flux Review (2021)

Ryan Dodd’s photographs aim to explore the tension between open and closed spaces. The narratives that interest him concern the lives of outsiders and the spaces they occupy.  Dodd’s background as a visual artist has formed his practice today. When he is drawing, Dodd is most interested in abstracting natural shapes, such as shadows forming on the body through techniques such as chiaroscuro. Learning this visual language first has benefited his photography, as has his awareness of pictorial space and composition.

Now when Dodd is attracted to a visually interesting scene, the medium of photography allows him to approach it, capture it, and ultimately set it, using drawing techniques more spontaneously. For example, by exploring the physical spaces around the focal point from multiple perspectives, Dodd can quickly reframe the meaning of the focal point as its context within the overall composition changes.

Studying Web Science, at the University of Southampton has allowed Dodd to adopt a more critical eye to our changing social reality. While seemingly making us more connected, the web has also alienated our human experiences. By making so much available to look online, we become less aware of the barriers that exist in our everyday lives. Dodd has since become fascinated by the photographic legacy of Bas Jan Ader with his images of urban anomie.

Dodd’s work is based upon reflecting on these influences so that the dominant theme of his photographs is to draw attention to the hidden meanings in seemingly neutral spaces on the edge of our town and cities

Self-taught or art school?

I was a self-taught graphic artist. I had a graphic novel published about 10 years ago. Eventually, I found that the medium no longer suited what I wanted to do creatively, so I switched to photography and I’m currently studying for a Master’s. However, I think that because I developed my art independently of formal education for such a long time, it has given me a unique perspective. I don’t think I would have gotten to this point had I pursued the more traditional route from the start.

Is narrative important in your work?

Yes, it is, but I decided to approach it in a less obvious way. For although my photographs are consistent with the genre of landscape, I include something in them that people would have interacted with or left behind. Essentially, my photographs are stories about everyday life.

How would you describe your style?

I take inspiration from banal and documentary photography. I like the idea that an artist’s subjective vision can co-exist with a more objective visual style. I also think that my role as a photographer is analogous to that of an ethnographer. I don’t stage or alter the environment. I wait patiently and observe.

Can you tell us about your artistic process?

It’s is a mixture of careful planning of locations and weather conditions, plus the incorporation of chance and the accidental. In an article with Aperture, Stephen Shore talked about how photographers differ from painters, in that they do not put together an image, they select elements from the world instead. I think about this when I’m out in the field. I look for inspiration from the unexpected things I encounter and frame my photographs around them. These unexpected things tend to be banal and mundane. They are what we see in our everyday lives and tend to overlook. I find they can become transformed into something more when contextualised through a photograph.

Who are your favourite artists and why?

As someone with an interest in the banal, some of my favourite photographers are William Eggleston and Ron Jude. With Eggleston’s work, I especially like the landscapes he shot in Memphis, during the 1960s and ’70s. For me, something about them goes beyond the time and place they were made. They capture something about an experience of life that I don’t think could have been done with any other artistic medium. I also particularly like Ron Jude’s series ‘Nausea’, based on Jean-Paul Satre’s philosophical text of the same name. I like how visceral and symbolic the everyday objects and spaces that Jude photographs become, due to the dramatic way he frames them.

What or who inspires your art?

I’m inspired by the notion that the artist brings something to the landscape. They notice and then interpret something extra. Something that the audience for their work has not seen, but that they can recognise. Something that goes beyond a simply realistic depiction of that space. As such, there are many landscape painters whose work I appreciate for bringing this revelatory quality to a scene. Some of my favourites are Tom Thompson, Andrew Wyeth, Clarence Gagnon, and Ivan Aivazovski.

Where your studio and what is it like?

My studio consists of a computer, a bookshelf with a modest collection of art books and a wall where I can hang prints when I’m curating a series. This has allowed me to continue working at home during the COVID pandemic.

Do you have any studio rituals?

As a photographer, my art spends more time trapped in the digital space then manifested physically in prints. So my rituals revolve around picking out photographs I’ve taken, editing the better ones, posting them to social media, and archiving them. I often try to do this the same day I take them, as I feel something of the experience out in the field gets preserved the closer you are to it.

What are you working on currently?

By reflecting on my previous work, I found that what has consistently emerged is my interest in the evidence of human life in the absence of people. I have some way to go before considering all of the implications of this. By taking more photographs and seeing how the unexpected things I encounter in the field continue to shape my work, I expect to understand this aspect of my work more. My intention is to put together a body of work for a solo exhibition later this year when all these pieces have fallen into place.

Where can we buy your art?

Keep an eye on my website for updates.

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