DPP Home Profiles Ryan Schude: A Novel In Every Frame

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ryan Schude: A Novel In Every Frame

As his career takes off, Ryan Schude exemplifies the youth movement in photography as a visual storyteller using all of the digital tools at his disposal


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Schude has already become a master at direction. Lighting, location, set design and the distinctive personalities of his subjects converge in photos that are unique, mysterious, and fun, intricately constructed to hint at a narrative without feeling the need to spell out exactly what’s happening for the viewer.
Gregory Crewdson is the clear forerunner for such a cinematic mode of photography, yet Schude’s work has distinctive stylistic differences. Whereas Crewdson’s scenarios often are empty of all but the feeling of isolation and despair, as if the viewer has just arrived a moment too late and missed the action, Schude’s scenes capitalize on a feeling of energy caught at its climax—the ultimate fictitious decisive moment—giving them a sense of frenetic energy and complexity that makes the viewer want to explore every nook and cranny in the scene.

“It started with the photo of the kid fighting a floor lamp in a boxing ring,” he says. “We were talking the night of the shoot, and I had no idea what we should do. [Crewdson] told me that he had fallen asleep drunk and leaning against this lamp the other night, and how it became one of those half-conscious struggles like when you keep swatting at a fly while sleeping. I went into the garage and began rummaging around to build the set to re-create his story. I never even thought once about the phrase ‘punch his lights out’ until someone mentioned that years after. The possibility of telling multiple stories within one frame fascinated me.

“Many times there’s a specific theme or concept at the core of the photo,” Schude continues, “and then the more ambiguous details are created as an aesthetic accomplice. There are times when there’s simply just the visual aspect in the photo and people find their own story in an image, but that was more about form and fashion and color originally. If the idea is too straight-forward, people tend to view it as a one-liner and move on. But if there’s room to interpret the image differently, you have more of a choose-your-own-adventure game taking place.”

Although the technical aspects of posing people and fine-tuning lighting are significant parts of the challenge, for the do-it-yourselfer, it’s the props and locations that present the most significant hurdle—particularly when working on a limited personal budget. Much of the art of Schude’s narratives comes from extensive planning and preproduction before a single exposure is made.

“Generally, the idea for a photo comes first,” he says, “and then it’s a matter of finding a location where we can pull it off. The diner is a good example of this; the image changed as the location affected the original idea. Initially, the diner image was supposed to be tighter and focused on a couple sitting in a booth as a waitress spilled a tray of food on a family next to the couple. Finding a diner to shoot was really difficult with no budget. I made that photo out of pocket as a personal project and didn’t have a lot of money to spend on it. I ended up having to rent the diner we used, and once I started scouting my angle, I realized I could pull out much more and expand
the storyline.”

 
Although the technical aspects of posing people and fine-tuning lighting are significant parts of the challenge, for the do-it-yourselfer, it’s the props and locations that present the most significant hurdle—particularly when working on a limited personal budget.
 


 

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