Photographer Ronan Park on how to capture a musician in their element

Ronan’s artistic eye for colour and light sets him apart from other photographers of the celebrity world.

Date
16 November 2021

A quick look at London-based Ronan Park’s portfolio feels like a glimpse into magic. That’s because each photo appears as if a sudden static and serene moment in an otherwise chaotic world. Celebrities, live concerts, or just experimental portraits of a model – every image is fleeting, yet carries a weight to them which prompts us to simply breathe and enjoy the moment. “I think I got my first camera when I was 14, but all I was doing then was horribly over-saturated landscape photos,” Ronan tells It’s Nice That of his early days in his home of Glasgow. “I just knew I always wanted to be a photographer, I always did.” After leaving school with “barely any qualifications,” Ronan found himself straying from the academic world and more towards his steadfast passion for the camera. “One thing that has always excited me about photography is not knowing what photos you’re going to get when you take the camera out,” he says. “And I don’t like to plan anything.”

Ronan’s photos, in turn, are organically framed, composed, and positioned but they also vibrate with a texture and polish which speaks to his craft. “I constantly wonder if my work is different enough or specific enough or interesting enough,” he says. “But the best compliment I can get is for someone to say a photo of mine looks like a still from a movie. “

Having been a personal photographer to Ellie Goulding for many years, and also regularly snapping the likes of Caroline Polacheck and Rita Ora, Ronan’s portfolio certainly has its fair share of celebrities. Still, no picture seems like the standard bonafide “celebrity snap” we often see in the glossy over-shopped framings of stars today. “Working with artists on tour is exciting because everything is so unpredictable,” Ronan explains. “I know by the end of the night I’ll have really nice photos I’m happy with but there’s never any plan in place beforehand to give an idea of what the images will look like.” On average, Ronan usually has about three to five minutes to shoot pre-show, and not much longer before that to scout locations and set-ups. It really is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of set-up for Ronan, which makes his beautiful shots all the more impressive. “It’s definitely very intense,” he confirms. “I’ll try to stick with a certain colour palette for each day so everything doesn’t get too complicated, and I also always make sure I’m very aware of the mood in the room and when’s the right time to have a camera in someone’s face.”

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Ronan Park: Ellie Goulding in London (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: James & Jack, London 2019 (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: James & Jack, London 2019 (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

Capturing musicians on tour in this way is somewhat of an art form that Ronan has perfected. They go beyond being PR packages and serve to artistically uplift and highlight the musician’s general aura and music. “The only thing I’m conscious of is the colours I see when I listen to music,” Ronan says. “I shoot in black and white previews on camera, so the first time I see colour versions of the photos is when I import the files and I’m doing selects, with music playing.” Ronan’s also a photographer who avoids doing much research before approaching the camera. Instead, he lets his “subconscious take over” to always keep himself enjoying the present moment of what he’s shooting. “Of course others rely on research, but I prefer to shoot what’s happening and direct the subject from that point as opposed to creating the whole scene ahead of time,” he explains. “I prefer taking a more raw approach.”

This kind of opposition to over-thinking and over-planning makes Ronan a curiously transitory artist. It’s hard to pin down what makes his photos so great, and all the more points to it simply being a reliance on instinct. It’s a modality that Ronan even extends to his broader career planning. He admits he “doesn’t think too much about what’s next,” but still has some hopes and goals in mind. “The constant hope is to meet and work with more and more people of course, but the exciting thing is you can’t really control that,” he says. “The past month I’ve worked with a couple of new people I’ve known of but never thought about photographing them until I got the email. Then I’ve been quite excited about it, so the best way for me is to just take everything as it comes.”

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Ronan Park: Disclosure in Maryland, US 2019 (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Ellie Goulding during the 'Flux' music video (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: SG Lewis in London (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Lucia Fairfull, after her London show (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Disclosure against GM building, Detroit 2019 (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Rita Ora at home, London (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Nick Cave in London (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Nick Cave in London (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Moonlight in Greece (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Rita Ora in Egypt, 2020 (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Zelda in Mayfair (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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Ronan Park: Caroline Polachek in London (Copyright © Ronan Park, 2021)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in May 2020 after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

jl@itsnicethat.com

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