Originally from Canada but now based in New York City, Ryan Duffin captures the world, the things he interested in, the objects or places he loves as still images. His photographs are nuanced and humorous, embracing the quirks of his subjects and the outtakes of life, elevating those he documents to “make them look like pop stars, even if they aren’t already”.
Having completed commissions for Paper Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek, Ryan’s introduction to the medium began with his first camera: a Bug Bunny Polaroid i-Zone instant. “It let you take little one inch polaroids, and I remember constantly taking pictures of my bedroom toys, photos I would now consider my first still lifes. I always loved seeing my world and the things I was interested in fixed in a photograph,” he tells us.
This early introduction to the medium clearly made an impact of the photographer, for whom still life continues to form a large part of his practice. “My home base, I would say, is in-studio portraiture and still lifes… I love to get in the studio with a bunch of objects I think are interesting and just play.” Recently, however, Ryan has been “making work in the outside world as well, allowing myself to embrace the chance encounters that only being out in unfamiliar environments can present”.
One example of his new found exploration is a series of portraits taken outside the Zaha Hadid Building on the Highline in NYC, “also known as Ariana Grande’s house”. The portraits, although the result of serendipity, are flamboyant and funny, making it hard to believe they weren’t staged. “There’s this magic spot where the sunlight bounces off of the surrounding glass building and hits people from all sides, making them appear to have an ethereal glow,” Ryan adds.
The dramatic composition and lighting of the imagery, where Ryan’s subjects appear almost as if lit by stage lights, is the result of his innate fascination with the people he photographs and how they are different from each other. “I am drawn to capture the subtle individuality within each subject,” he explains, continuing to add that, “as a queer person, it would be against the definition queerness to look for recurring signifiers from those that I photograph; rather, I look to capture the subtle nuances of each subject that makes them individual, interesting and unique.”
Whether capturing the nostalgia of old mobile phones, investigating athletics and masculinity, thinking about architecture and utopia, or simply taking the perfect portrait, there is a sheen to Ryan’s photographs that we can’t get enough of. Clearly harbouring adept technical ability, it’s the way Ryan imbues his imagery with wit and subtlety that makes it so personable.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.