“For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.” – Diane Arbus
A photograph is a document, a translation of sorts by in our case a photographer. This document becomes a record that is open to interpretation by its viewer. In the age of the digital image, making a respected artistic photographic image has become more heavily about having something worthwhile to say. ‘Three Steps North of South’ looks at heady days populated by mischief, loneliness and tragedy simultaneously. We of course will ultimately apply our own story to these images however the core themes of Ryrie’s work remain patent. Ryrie first used a camera at an early age. “I have always taken photographs for myself. Sharing them has been a challenge. I felt that something was missing, and that something was the stories that goes with them. One of the great struggles for many artists is the overcoming of a feeling of being a fraud. Ryrie is clearly far from this, he is a storyteller. His concern with image making isn’t so much with documenting what a place looks like; the foundation is in the significance and potency of place – what it ‘feels’ like. His images evoke the idea of fragility, loneliness, and yet there is a simultaneous idea of beauty, of being uplifted. Either way the artist allows us to make up our own mind. Ryrie’s images are evidently void of the figure and yet one feels an overwhelming sense of a human footprint. “There is a commonality in these two different sets of work for me. They are both everyday places that people inhabit and use daily, but somehow they represent something beyond that. That ‘something else’ is different for everybody. Your age, your personal history or a unifying event, can leave a person with a memory that will last a lifetime.” Much like the photographs of Joel Sternfeld whose large-format documentary style pictures explore the irony of human-altered landscapes in the United States, Ryrie explores the idea of consequences; there is unease in this sensation of aftermath he has captured. “Teenage experiences in parks, though different for us all, are something we all have in common on some level. Or take a train disaster, indeed a unifying event for a group of people, is far from common but equally impactful. This commonality is the form of strange beauty that such places share through their history. In one sense, events make a place what it is”. ‘Three Steps North of South’ focuses on places that have played host to such formative events – “Exeter Park has seen events that I have sometimes witnessed and indeed participated in during my own teen years, and Exeter Station was the scene of a horrific rail disaster, an event I did not bare witness to, but somehow has a lingering fingerprint, an indelible mark as such, that affected me before I was even aware that it had occurred”. Regardless of the event, whether it is boundless teen spirit or a tragic loss of life in a rail disaster, the feeling of beauty is evident in Ryrie’s images. They speak of greater things than Saturday sport or catching the 8.02am train to the city. This scratching away at the surface has become a compulsion for Ryrie. An obsession to capture this ‘something else’ that exists – clandestine beauty where the facade indicates but a small fraction of what is on offer.
Andre de Borde