bG Gallery in Santa Monica is hosting Ryan Schude’s second solo exhibition of photographs. Schude is known for single-frame tableaux that are packed with sophisticated action—mingling surrealism and Americana with a touch of contemporary humor. The work in this exhibition mixes large-scale exterior environments with intimate interiors. The juxtaposition is intriguing, as is the elevated perspective Schude uses in the majority of his images. PDN spoke with Schude about his exhibition, how the people he photographs influence his work, and about the self-portrait he made of he and his wife:
PDN: Can you tell us about the title—“Give Us The Wind”?
Ryan Schude: I knew I wanted to use the still life of the giant gold lamé reflector hanging from the bridge as the main image to promote the show. (Image 1 in the slideshow) The title came from a literal interpretation of the wind that is creating the shape in the fabric and an overarching optimism I hoped to bring not only to this exhibition, but our collective future in general. It’s also the title of a song by Future Islands.
PDN: What is the inspiration behind your work?
RS: The early tableaux vivants almost always were motivated by a location, with the stories being told there evolving from the place itself. Recently, I have been reaching out to real families and organizations like non-profits or educational institutions where the constraints start with the subjects and the location becomes determined by the people. Regardless of what the impetus was, location/set design, narrative, and the subjects constantly inform each other throughout the process, allowing for the evolution of the final product to remain organic at all times. Often, actions from the subjects and develop in the middle of shooting, and we may come up with something completely unexpected in the moment.
PDN: Can you share a behind-the-scenes moment from one of the photographs?
RS: I belong to a collective called This Is A Photo Blog where we take turns each month giving each other assignments. The assignment for the second image in the slideshow was “Self Portrait” and so that is my wife Agatha and I at home. We shot four frames. I think this one was the third take. The liquid is melted down mint chip ice cream to match the color of the breadbox and my shirt. As for how I felt taking the drink in my face—it was a ton of fun! Each time you do it you get vastly different results, so there is a new surprise waiting for you on the monitor after every shot. I was triggering the camera with the remote. (You can see in my right hand) This made it very difficult to time since there is a slight delay due to the radio signal that fires the camera and because the drink is moving so fast. The first time I did this was in 2006 with a different couple and we were extremely lucky to get it perfect on the first try. We used egg-nog on that occasion and I don’t think I’ve ever really gotten equal results but its always a blast regardless. That guy didn’t want to do another take…
PDN: What’s next for Ryan Schude?
RS: I hope to continue creating images with this approach for a long time to come. For example: We just completed a unique version of this project with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. We had their marketing department send an email out to the 500+ employees that worked there and asked them if they were interested in submitting the personal artwork they make outside of their day jobs at the museum and present it with themselves as the subjects of a tableau built inside the museum. My collaborator, Laura Miner and I created a set for a one-day shoot that would celebrate the talents of 20 employees who were selected to display their talents in front of a live museum audience of the general public who happened to be visiting that day.