Photography – In Focus with Sam Ryan

Far from the genre of posed portraiture, photographer Sam Ryan captures the world around her in a series of authentic shots that draw the viewer in to share the moment. Here, she shares some favourite pictures and tells us how her interest and skills in photography have developed over the years…

‘My passion for photography goes back to childhood.  My grandfather took photos at every family get together, day out and on every holiday.  He’d make albums and write funny captions for each photo. I’d always ask my grandparents to drag the albums out of the cupboard so I could sit at their dining table and look through them.

After many years of experimenting with different styles and cameras, I homed in on street and live music photography.  They might seem very different styles or genres, but to me they work to the same principles.

Both, for me, are about the adrenaline rush and being able to react to the scene.  I try to focus on feel and action, shoot with intuition and not overthink. Shots might have a concept based on the available light and environment,  but nothing is posed. Similarly my music shots are not portraiture; if it’s a chaotic metal band with hair and sweat flying everywhere, that’s what I want you to feel when you look at the images.

I rarely shoot in colour.  I want my images to be classic.  With colour images there’s always a prevailing style or tonal trend – which if you’re good at it can be great to get you ‘going viral’, but I’d be concerned the images would age badly  – so I only use colour where I feel it’s essential to the photo.

My home is just outside of Glasgow, Scotland. Glasgow is a great city for all kinds of photography and has a thriving music scene, so it really is the perfect place for inspiring me to keep on photographing.’

Live Music Photography 

I’ve always been passionate about live music and a couple of years ago I got serious about wanting to shoot at gigs.  It’s hard to get started; with no press pass you can’t get a D-SLR camera in to venues. I started shooting gigs with a point-and-shoot camera, posted my photos on Instagram and was able to strike up a relationship with some bands. This led to being able to obtain photo passes to shoot from the photo pit  I’ve focussed here on bands that I love and that have given me my start in this area. It’s been an amazing journey so far; I’m very proud to say I’ve shot most of my favourite bands within just 18 months of starting out.

Bleed From Within

This band gave me my first ever photo pass, an opportunity for which I will always be grateful.  I’ve shot them a few times now, but nothing beats their hometown headline show at Saint Luke’s in Glasgow.  The band members have insane energy and can be an inch from your lens one second and at the opposite end of the stage the next. I’ve chosen some shots to tell the story of this show; the energy, the heat and frenzied crowd reaction.

Zeal & Ardor

I’ve shot this band many times in different types of venues, and believe me, shooting one of your favourite bands is an immense and powerful experience.  Their music has some very dark themes, and is performed with a ton of emotion. I want people to feel this in the images. I’ve chosen my favourite shots from different venues to illustrate the drama and intensity of the band’s performance.

Street Photography 

I’m a candid photographer, which means I don’t interact with the people I photograph.  I’m trying to capture everyday life, so it shouldn’t be contrived. Often when I’m shooting on the street I don’t even stop walking to press the shutter, because I think this will cause the person to move aside or make eye contact, which changes the scene entirely.  Sometimes I’m not sure what I’ve really seen until I look at the photos and then I realise it’s a fleeting expression, a shadow the person has cast, or maybe a little wave of the hand. 

Chasing Shadows

I recently completed a year long project shooting high-contrast images on the street created by light and shadow.  I noticed after returning several times to my favourite locations that there were unique scenes created by the light at certain times of day and people moving through the scene.  I got obsessed and since I was shooting almost every day, I thought it would make a great project. I’m really proud of this work and have curated my best images into a book.

All photos are taken and copyrighted by Sam. You can see more of her work or make contact via her website. Sam is also on Instagram – follow her street photography posts here and her music posts here.

30th August 2019