When your band performs, and you’re on stage looking out at the audience, do you ever think about that guy or girl standing at the foot of the stage trying to get a photo of you? Or as an audience member, has it ever crossed your mind that the photographer you’re trying to shove your way in front of is actually working and trying to make a living?
Photographers, especially young ones, seem to be everywhere these days. Of course, many have just picked up a DSLR or even a vintage film camera, wear it around their neck like an accessory and call themselves a photographer; but what about those actually going to school for it and wanting to make it their profession? They’re spending a fortune learning an art and studying the technical side of it while so many can snap photos and receive recognition.
I chatted with local, young photographer Ryan Rose about his work in Vancouver’s music scene and the struggles of breaking out in the photo industry.
Introduce yourself; who are you and what type of photography do you do?
I’m Ryan Rose, and I’m a music and portrait photographer. I guess I’d fall under the photojournalism and editorial style of photography, but I’m trying to explore the fine art realm.
How did you get into photography?
I got into photography through wanting to document my friends riding bikes. Got a camera, and things went from there.
Why did the music scene and concert photography attract you?
It attracted me because I love music, and I’m a terrible musician but wanted to be involved with music somehow so I thought music related photography would be fun.
What do you like most about Vancouver’s music scene specifically?
I like that everyone is extremely nice, and helpful. Artists and people involved in the scene are willing to go out of the way to help you out if working on a project or you’re wanting to shoot their show.
I think there is. It’s also action, and it’s a bit different to shoot then music. It’s where I originally started with photography, and it’s just a fun thing to shoot. My friends ride BMX, and a few are great riders who are sponsored so we just ride and shoot. It’s just fun to shoot BMX as there is no pressure to ever get the shot as things can be repeated over and over, trick wise, until the shot is good enough unlike shooting a live show. It’s also fun to not shoot a static scene, you have something moving so your timing has to basically be perfect, especially if you are shooting on film.
From following you on your website and twitter, I’ve noticed that you have some strong opinions on “making it” in music photography and freelance in general. Why do you think it’s so difficult to make a living in this industry these days?
It is so difficult to make it these days as a young photographer because everyone and their friend can go out and buy a camera and call themselves a photographer. Even if your photos are not the best, you can still make a lot of money through shooting. It’s a who you know business more than one that is about the actual art you create. If you know a lot of people, and get to them before someone else, you’ll be set basically. It is somewhat sad as you can bust your ass taking really good photos, but for it to never really pay off. Vancouver’s photo industry/market is also an extremely flooded market with there being so many photographers jockeying amongst each other, trying to make it. Very, very few do.
As you said it is a “who you know” type of business; do you find it irritating or even disrespectful when people that do know you ask you to come out somewhere to shoot them and then expect you to give them photos for free?
I do find it irritating when people ask me to come out to shoot a show of theirs, and then want me to email them the photos for me for free. I hate doing it unless they’ve helped me out with projects I’ve done before, or I’m good friends with them. I say this because it costs $9 to get to their show, plus the cost of the ticket (sometimes it is free, but a lot of the times it is not). This adds up with more shows I go to, and being a student, I can’t really afford all of it. As well, it takes me an hour plus to get to the show, the time shooting the show and then another couple hours to sort and edit through all the photos. It’s not as easy as some people think. There is a lot of work involved. I have up-keep costs too for my website, having to get my camera cleaned and all that.
Other than concert photography, you also do portraits and are currently working on a photo series called “BC Music People” consisting of individual portraits of a variety of people that contribute to BC’s music scene. Already, the series consists of Dan Mangan, Mother Mother, and Hey Ocean. What sparked this idea? And how have you been getting so many big names to pose for you?
What sparked the idea? Well it was originally an idea I had for my school’s (Emily Carr University of Art and Design) foundation show. It was just to be a small portrait series of 6 photos, but I decided to expand it. With the BC music scene being so vast and big with artists of small and large caliber, I wanted to put faces to names. A lot of people know the names of people, but not really who they are. As well, I also wanted to shine a light on the people who do a lot of work “behind the scenes” such as producers, managers and label owners. The ones you don’t see much of. I’ve been getting big names to pose for me by really just asking. I just ask them through twitter, then send them an email and they usually say yes.
Who are you hoping to shoot next for this series?
I have a few people lined up to shoot next, such as Hannah Georgas. I just have to see who else agrees to it and is not on tour or busy currently.
Finally, do you have any advice for other young people that want to get into photography?
Don’t! haha. Just shoot a lot, and bust your ass. It’s a cruel world out there in the photo game for us young people. I’m still trying to figure it out.
Check out Ryan Rose Photography: ryanrose.ca
All photos by Ryan Rose Photography