Shalom Life | July 31, 2014

Stills for Stills

Vancouver photographer turns a hobby into a profession.

By: Jeanie Keogh

Published: June 10th, 2010 in Culture » Art » Interviews

Stills for Stills

Turning a hobby into a professional career is not a shot in the dark for photographer Jason Ryant. His exposure to the medium will likely make him a focal point in the local market.

Ryant recently graduated from a two-year Langara College digital photography program. Humbled by the experience, he admits the program was good for him because it taught him that what he didn't know, he didn't know.

“I didn't consider myself to be anything other than an amateur when I started the program," he says. "They mean to break you down and start you back at square one and teach you the very basics from the beginning. It was a welcoming transition."

Jason was given his first camera by his photographer father when he was 10 or 11, shortly before his father passed away. “It was a Pentax Yashika model Spotmatica with a beautiful rainbow neck strap," he says. "I gleaned a lot from him. I was quite young, but his enthusiasm for photography rubbed off on me quite a bit."

But times have certainly changed since he first peered into a developing tray and watched, trying to maintain his composure, as a mesmerizing image appeared. As he's set apart a generation from those who didn't learn the craft on a manual camera using film, he is sad for what is lost as technology changes.

“Digital is a very excellent learning tool but it doesn't offer any appreciation for the medium itself. The world is changing so much. You can take a picture on your phone and two seconds later it can be visible online around the world,” he says.

“People's attention drops because of the instant gratification they get from electronic devices, so in a way we should be concerned for the captured still image in film not necessarily being renewed or being carried on in this generation,” he says.

This element was one of the things he liked about Langara: having an opportunity to use large format cameras, shooting black-and-white sheet film, and developing stills by hand.

“This isn't an image where you just get your friends together and do a quick happy snap," he says. "This is something that you set up. That you took the time and the initiative to plan for one shot and hours later you may get something of an image."

His love of the art form deepened when he acquired a large technical base of information through selling cameras.

“I'm a bit of a geek so I was really interested in how they work, and the market is constantly changing so I was on top of that for a few years,” he says.

His signature as an artist is his eye for detail. He will spend hours fixing a shot to match his perfectionist standards. However, he is learning the value of stepping back and letting go.

“Even when you try and control everything, something still surprises you and I'm constantly learning what I'm capable of,” Ryant says.

Part of his next discovery is finding out where he fits in the Vancouver panorama of artists and what his niche is. At the moment, he is taking his time to get a clear picture of where to set his professional sights.

“In the past two years I've shot so many ranges of categories, people, landscapes, fine art, product, still life and I have an idea of what I enjoy doing, but I don't know what I want to pursue 100% yet,” he says. “There are a lot of photographers in the city. Too many for the work that is out there.”

For now, he is happy to explore different avenues and is setting up contracts as a wedding photographer.

“I think for amateurs and professionals alike it's kind of a catch-all. Everybody knows someone who is getting married. You get into it through friends, but it is grueling work and unless you find some fun in it, it's just going to feel like work,” he says.

Apart from wedding photography, Ryant enjoys the multi-faceted, one-on-one interaction of portraiture and illuminating the powerful emotional impact of landscape photographs.

Ryant's 8' x 3' shot of the Vancouver harbour was exhibited at his year-end gallery showing and achieved his aim of bringing people to stillness.

“I wanted people to be drawn into this photograph and to stand there and immerse themselves in it, which they did,” he says.

The photograph will be on display in a new coffee shop at Main and Broadway in the coming month.

With any luck, it will attract the requisite retinue of retinas to launch his career.

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