04.09.15 by Jeff

An Interview with Photographer Ryan Schude

One of my favourite photographers working today, Los Angeles’ Ryan Schude, just released his new book “Schude” and it’s gorgeous. If you’re at all familiar with his work then you can imagine how overwhelming it is to look at 192 pages of it in one sitting. Good news for all of you, I’ve got two copies to give away!

If you’re looking for more inspiration after you read this little interview, you should take a peek at his Instagram @ryanschude and study the work on his website. If you wanna leave a comment below with some encouraging words for Ryan, next Friday we’ll hook two of you up with his book. This particular giveaway is open to anyone in North America.


ryan-schude02Portrait of Ryan Schude by Lauren Randolph

Jeff Hamada: If you’d never picked up photography as a hobby in school and continued onto business school like you planned, what sort of business would you be running now?

Ryan Schude: The mere speculation gives me anxiety but I do remember wanting to open a sandwich shop at some point and I could definitely see that as something I would enjoy.

JH: What would you call your sandwich shop?

RS: Schudinski’s.

JH: Are you an obsessive person? The detail in your work has a certain madness to it.

RS: During the planning and carrying out of a shoot, I can absolutely get a little obsessive. Overthinking things in general is sometimes an issue, for example, do we really need to discuss the pros and cons of 10 different restaurants before committing to dinner?


ryan-schude07Collaboration with Lauren Randolph – Summer Camp (2012)

JH: It must be hard to know when to stop. Your images must require a significant amount of post work, are the ones with lots of different people in them single photos or are they all composites of several different shots?

RS: They are setup in an attempt to get it all in one frame. Everybody is there at the same time and placed in a predetermined spot according to sketches designed before the shoot. There is a process of directing their action and shuffling back and forth between the monitor and the actors to see what is working and what isn’t. By the end, you have a handful of options for each character and are able to select the best of them to composite together. Many of the shots take place at golden hour so it is crucial to get as much as you can in as few frames as possible to ensure the lighting is seamless when you put it together in post production.

JH: What role do you play on the actual shoot days, are you hands on with the camera or are you more of a director instructing a crew?

RS: It really depends on scope of the shoot. Ideally, you have a solid crew in place you can direct, otherwise you end up running around trying to get a hand on everything which can detract from simply focusing on the story.


ryan-schude05Collaboration with Collins Schude, Callin Passero – The Promised Land (2010)

JH: Was it hard for you to build your team? I feel like finding the right people is the most crucial part of any project.

RS: The team is constantly fluctuating but I have been beyond fortunate to have worked with such amazing people thus far. This is one of the reasons I can’t imagine doing what I do in any other city in the world. Los Angeles is stuffed to the gills with people owning the best combination of open minds, creativity, and ambition.

JH: I feel like cinematic work like this inevitably gets compared to Gregory Crewdson’s, was it his work that influenced you to move away from documentary and more toward staging exactly what you wanted?

RS: I made a few short films in school before attempting to apply the same narrative techniques to a still photo. It was really a slow process from shooting editorial portraits and realizing I wanted to add a fictional element to them. It wasn’t until after I made Nog (2005), that a friend showed me Crewdson’s work and it was certainly encouraging to see what other people had done in that world.


ryan-schude04Nog (2005)

JH: How much of a story do you write for each of the characters in a scene? And what’s something you might say to an actor or model to get what you want for the scene?

RS: Usually the character’s roles are pretty straightforward and there is one specific action in mind. It can get fun when they get into the role and suggest things you didn’t think of beforehand and you have more options to play with after. In Red House (2012), the actors playing the parents began improvising an entire argument and stayed in character the whole time while we directed their children outside which added a significant amount of emotion to their expressions and body language.


ryan-schude06Collaboration with Justin Bettman – Red House (2012)

JH: I love that – do you play music at all on set?

RS: If there’s music it is probably an oldies radio station.

JH: Have you ever considered shooting moving picture of the actors holding their positions? Large video installations could be interesting.

RS: There was a very interesting concept built by an agency once around a car campaign which used my work as the inspiration for this exact output. The scale of the project ended up being too large for their budget but the possibilities presented were very exciting for both the agency and myself. Their idea involved an interactive website that zoomed in to each pocket of characters in a large tableau where you could scroll over the subjects to see an animated gif of their action. On a simpler level, I am currently looking into ways to shoot stylized video during the Them and Theirs shoots and have a narrative motion aspect to the portraits.


ryan-schude01Annie McCain Engman and her 1969 Buick Skylark Special Edition. (2015)

JH: What’s the thing (art related or not) that you’re most proud of so far in your life?

RS: The relationships with my family and friends which have been so integral in developing who I am and what I have experienced both personally and professionally. The fact that I am able to wake up each day and do exactly what I want is a testament to the encouragement of those who surround me.


ryan-schude08Ryan Schude’s new hardcover photo book “Schude”

Ryan Schude’s Website

Ryan Schude on Instagram

“Schude” book on Amazon

Jeff Hamada is the Founder and Editor of Booooooom. He lives and works in Vancouver.

  • Ryan

    Your creativity and work ethic is an inspiration! After reading your interview a comment by Chuck Close came to mind.
    “I’ve always said that inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work and if you wait for the clouds to part and for a bolt of lightening to hit you for a great idea, you can wait for the whole of your life and never have anything particular to do.”
    Chuck Close – MOMA Talks: Conversations (Painting Process) Podcast

  • Kait Nolan

    Holy…Wow! I mean how incredible. Stunning. I can’t stop looking at his work.

  • Your work is absolutely stellar. Thank you for sharing insight into your work with us. (And thank you Jeff for constantly sharing amazing artists i’m unfamiliar with!) I’ve been writing and dreaming of making a film someday, didn’t really consider putting that narrative in my current work. <3

  • David W

    Lucky to have made friends with Ryan a year ago. So inspiring; so kind. Work that makes me wanna work!

  • Really lovely work, Ryan.

    I truly am in awe of your depiction of modern Americana. with just a hint of surrealism. By breathing life into the narrative, while at the same time, giving a sense of artificiality (I want to say almost toy and doll-like treatment), to the subjects, I always seem to find myself reinvigorated by the dynamic tension between the two.

    Congratulations on the book … I’m sure it’ll have some great eye candy. ;-)

    Much love from one LA artist to another!

  • Subliberal

    It would be great if your image reproduction approached half the artist’s intent.

    I’m looking at these images in Firefox 30.0 (which recognizes color profiles) and these images are not even.

    This is 2015, step up your game.

  • Gorgeous work! Each image feels like it is a movie. Keep up the awesome work.

    • eawesterhuis

      They remind me of the Truffaut film “Day for Night” (1973), which is a movie about making a movie.

  • Ben

    Ryan: If you ever feel like you’re running out of ideas, approach the day like an archaeologist—digging around in the dirt and the dust until you find a fragment of something that strikes you as worth polishing. Then polish it and add yourself to it and it will be yours and it will be beautiful and we will celebrate it together.

    • eawesterhuis

      I love Jurassic Park.

  • eawesterhuis

    I also checked out Ryan’s instagram feed. There is a great shot of an army of Back to the Future toy Docs in Deloreans. Massive mania. Something must have gone wrong with the time travel.

  • Samir Kulkarni

    OMG! Mesmerizing work. Thanks Jeff, for the interview.

  • This looks like pretty interesting stuff. You know, as a storyteller, I’ve always been fascinated by that area of the internet where people will fall in love with characters just based on their designs. There are tons of artists on sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt who post drawings of their “OCs” with no information but what they look like and how they pose, and these characters get tons of fans. There’s an interesting potential in static storytelling, where you have to convey everything in the relational energies of a moment.

  • emanueladams

    Thanks for introducing me to yet another great talent Jeff!

    Ryan, very nice work. Since you mentioned it in the article, it would be amazing to be able to pan and zoom around inside your intricately composed photos. I really enjoy the mix of photos on your instagram feed too!

  • These are fantastic, I keep coming back to glean new details!

  • Tom

    I’m not from North America but anyway, your work is amazing, Ryan. You’ve definitely found a lots of great people to work with during the golden hour.

  • Meghan G

    gorgeous work! so much of it reminds me of where I grew up – east coast US, very typical small town. and Ryan, I’d love to see you work with movement somehow. video or gifs or something would be so interesting.

  • Megan Thompson

    Beautiful work! The photos tell such a story. Wonderful!

  • Raylor Toy

    Crewdson immediately came to mind the second I saw his work. Schude’s work seems to be a bit more exaggerated or even playful. I checked out his site and love his work. Meticulous and creative work, awesome!

  • Jon Ham

    This is my first exposure to Ryan’s work and it’s fantastic! Thanks for the introduction, Jeff! Now, on to this IG feed to get a little more in….

  • Britt Flood

    Hi Ryan!
    1. Loving that lots of your work is completed within the ‘golden hour’. It is such a special time for light in the day, that sometimes doesn’t come, and there is a special place in my heart for that type of light, because it truly disappears too quickly.
    2. I see fairy tales of whimsical suburbian narrative in your work. ‘Red House’ especially speaks to me on many levels. There are such deep subtleties in the wonderful chaos of your work. Thank you!!

  • Ryan, I would do anything for this book. I would jump in front of a rollerblade, take a train straight through my brain, even catch a gatorade for this book (but I would NOT take a beer to the face, no, I wouldn’t do that). Thanks for taking an idea to such extreme limits.

  • Leila Chee

    Love your work, Ryan. The details you can catch in your photographs are ace! Also loving ‘The fact that I am able to wake up each day and do exactly what I want is a testament to the encouragement of those who surround me.’


  • pwillins

    Ryan, I like your cross section of time; your still of a critical moment. Sometimes I find the detail a bit over whelming. thx.

  • Tim Bumpus and Andy Liang you guys are both getting copies of the book, check your emails!

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