Yo. I can’t fucking sleep. Instead I’m drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, listening to The Wolf Of Wall Street, and I just decided to write. I think I’m going to write about photography.
My first experience with cameras as an outlet for creativity was in my early teens. I took pictures with a little Pentax, would drop my prints off at Walgreens and then skateboard with my friends until I could pick them up. I loved the anticipation of film; the surprise you would get finally seeing the pictures you shot. And my photos were terrible, usually band related, or overly forced, contrived attempts to be weird or artsy, but it didn’t matter. They were my photos. My vision.
I’ve long been intrigued with and curious about photography. I used to buy photo books from book stores and rip out all of the photos I felt emotionally connected to, and paste them into my lyric book. I felt artsy-farsy-creative with my leather bound journal, pages full of photos with lyrics scribbled around them. I recently looked at my lyric book from 2003-2004 and found the lyrics I wrote to “Anthem of Our Dying Day”, “And the Hero Will Drown”, “Page Ave”, etc surrounded by photos of women wearing gas masks, dragonflies, total emo stuff.
I started using cameras in different ways. My best dude Adam, former bass player of SOTY, and I filmed & edited a music video for our band Big Blue Monkey, which would eventually be called Story of the Year. Adam was enrolled in community college, dropped out, and was too afraid to tell his parents, so he would either sleep in his red truck in the parking lot, or more often come to my mom’s house and we would eat all of her food and do the kind of stuff 20 year old band dudes do. He did this every day so his parents thought he was at school.
Side note: #1) Adam eventually moved into my mom’s basement. He lived with me for a year until we moved to California. A couple of years ago my mom and I found a bunch of porn magazines he hid and forgot.
Side Note # 2: Adam rode my bmx bike to his job at IMO’s pizza. Yeah. He was like, 21, and rode a bmx bike to work. It got stolen, and instead of making him pay me $400, I made him repay me by drinking a 6 pack of beer with me. He was straight-edge at the time. I’m a great friend.
Next, we filmed & edited a documentary for our band called “ApeShit 2001”. Adam bought a stolen laptop with a 12G hard drive, and on that machine we taught ourselves how to edit video in Premier.
We got really into it.
Remember Gateway computers? I was approved for a Gateway credit card with a 29% interest rate and bought a bad ass 2k computer to edit on. It took me like 7 years to pay that credit card off.
Next we made an EPK (short documentary) for Big Blue Monkey that by all rights got us our record deal. We snuck onto GoldFinger’s tour bus and left the video, John Feldman watched it, and the rest as they say, is history.
IN 2004, we bought Macs, a bad ass professional grade Sony camera, and filmed, directed, and edited the SOTY documentary called “Bassassins”, which went gold, selling in excess of 50,000 units. We spent the entire fucking summer of Warped Tour 04’ in the back of the tour bus editing. All day, All night.
We directed a mega-budget music video for a song called “SideWalks” (Yeah, the label gave us dumb asses a quarter of a million dollars to make a 3 minute video.) After that, we filmed, edited, and directed another SOTY documentary called “Our Time is Now”. We then filmed & edited a bunch of webisodes for the “Black Swan” record.
All the while, using cameras for all of those years, I never forgot photography. I bought a subscription to iStock photos and would constantly buy rad photos and make art with them. I would print them on giant canvases and hang them all over my house, use them for websites I built, that sort of stuff. Our first SOTY sampler was something I designed with photos I liked and bought from iStock.
I went through some point & shoots, and finally got a Canon t3i and just started taking photos every day. It got to the point were I couldn’t have a conversation with someone without analyzing the light on their face. I started having dreams in photoshop, because I would sit for hours at a time manipulating photos in photoshop. I loved it.
But I remember when I truly fell in love with photography. Not just admiring compelling photos, but actually making them. I realized that, holy shit, I love this as much as I love my guitar. I was very aware that I wasn’t great, that I had much to learn, (still do) but i knew I was hooked.
It was 2013, and at this point I had been using cameras for roughly 14 years, but in recent years focusing most of that camera time to photography. But this is when it clicked. We went to Japan, and I spent the entire week shooting. If I wasn’t on stage or at the bar after the show, my camera was in my hands. I would wake up at 6 am, slam coffee, and head out of the hotel and go on these crazy long walks around each city taking photos. I probably walked 20 miles a day, no joke.
It was beautiful. No phone. Rarely listened to music. Nothing but my camera and the magical energy that is Japan. I shot people, street photography, but I focused most of my attention on bikes and motorcycles.
1) I am obsessed with anything with 2 wheels. I started building ramps for my bike at 4 years old, and got my first motorcycle for my 10th birthday. (A Yamaha RT 100.) I wound up owning at least 13 motorcycles and went though a ton of bikes.
2) Japanese bike culture is fascinating. Everyone rides bikes. You will see 200 year old women on bikes, business men in expensive suits on bikes, commuters, kids, teens, everyone.
I thought it would be dope to treat the bikes like they were people, and essentially take “portraits” of them. Make a book of bike portraits. So i did. And It didn’t matter how late I stayed up partying with the dudes after the shows, I would still get up first thing in the morning and go on my camera adventures.
I discovered I loved being a photographer. My camera was now the same as my guitar: an extension of my fingers, arms, heart, and soul. I felt a head to toe electric buzz, a creative satisfaction that put me in the best mood, day and night, that entire tour. And holy shit the freedom. Spending days exploring foreign lands, no responsibilities, chasing light, capturing moments, having internal journey’s that rivaled the external.
Yeah, I think that week was it. I had a sudden awareness that this is something I could probably start doing as a job. So I’ve been easing into it ever since. Learning, shooting, experimenting, planning, and reveling in that magical feeling of pride and contentment that accompanies being self employed. Making money doing something you love, that you would do even if no one paid you.
Anyway. I’m buzzed, and it’s 1:30am. I think I’m finished writing….
Below is the a coffee table book I made from my trip. It’s called “These Machines Have Souls”, and I only printed one. It’s for me. You cannot have it. But, next time I go to Japan I’m going to make a new, better book, because I am a new, better Ryan.
Here are some of the bikes / motorcycle portraits I took. These days, I would have shot these a lot different, but for that time in my life, I still dig them. Threw some other Japan pics in as well, just cuz.
Bikes rule. Motorcycles rule. Good night, y’all. I mean, Good morning, y’all.