Ryan Russell is well know for shooting bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, Green Day and Blink-182, but with his latest project he has turned his lens on a personal journey, his move from his birthplace of Birmingham, Alabama to Bellingham, Washington State.
In the process of shifting his life from the Deep South to the Pacific North West, Ryan created Continental Obscura: From Birmingham to Bellingham to document his voyage through the American heartlands. The book includes a split 7″ vinyl record with two bands Ryan has shot with a number of times over the years, Manchester Orchestra and Minus the Bear.
Huck caught up with Ryan to check out the things that inspire him.
Things That Inspire Me
1. Birmingham, Alabama
I spent the first 32 years of my life in a place known for little more than racial injustice and football. In its current state, Birmingham is a gritty and tough city filled with crime and decay, but finally on the verge of re-emerging again. The vacant downtown department stores and dormant steel mills gave me an endless supply of content to photograph while I developed my style outside of the music world. The recent rebirth of the Northside of the city gave me the opportunity to revisit places I have photographed endlessly for 13 years and see them in a beautiful new way.
2. Death Cab For Cutie
Ever since 2001, Death Cab for Cutie has been my favourite band and an inspiration to my work. ‘We Have The Facts…’ and ‘The Photo Album’ were played pretty much on repeat when I would go out photographing the first couple of years. I used their music as soundtrack for the images I was shooting and making it feel more like a cinematic experience rather than just photographic. I have had the pleasure of working with the band since 2006 and my experiences with them have been some of my absolute favourite as a photographer. Once moving to Washington this past year its given me an opportunity to visit a lot of the locations written about in Death Cab’s songs.
3. William Eggleston
After a few years of working, a friend told me to check out William Eggleston. I had never heard of him but immediately fell in love with his work. He seemed to supremely convey the authenticity I was trying to display in my own work. He was a master at invoking the true feelings of whatever he photographed and bringing a viewer to the front and centre to that location and made you feel like you were there. The idea of photographing things as you see them and letting the mundane appear astounding is still my favourite aspect of doing photography.
4. Charles Peterson
Charles Peterson is the grandmaster of live music photography for me. His Nirvana images are always what I wanted my own live shots to feel like. His unorthodox framing yet simplistic methods of photographing live performances are unmatched. It gave hope to anyone with a simple flash and a single lens that you could also create iconic images.
5. Mount Baker
I always dreamed of being able to shoot photographs in the high mountains covered with snow and glaciers. Since moving to Bellingham, Washington in 2013 I’ve lived no less than an hour from a volcanic mountain that is just that. My first couple of months living in Bellingham I drove up to Artist Point that sits between Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, and spent hours hiking and photographing the area. I have never visited a place in my life more beautiful than the top of that mountain.
Check out Ryan’s Continental Obscura: From Birmingham to Bellingham.