In Conversation With Ryan Shorosky

Interviewed by Timothy Frazier
Images by Ryan Shorosky

TF: How did you get into photography?

RS: I found photography (or it found me?) after high school while figuring things out with my life. Very early on there was some sort of pull to explore things on a deeper level so I decided to apply to art school in New York to study photography, and fortunately that's where it led me. My time studying photography in New York gave me a clear impression of what I did and did not want to become so when it came time to move on to that next step I felt something different was needed for myself. Hence three months after graduating art school I got my commercial drivers license and began a year on the road working as a long-haul truck driver.

TF: Tell me about your series, Green Grow the Lilacs. What was it like driving trucks for a living?

RS: Green Grow the Lilacs (an old folk song by Tex Ritter) began from my time living and working as a long-haul truck driver in 2014. My father has been a truck driver most of his life so after graduating from school in New York I wanted to do something that felt right to me. And after joking around some about driving trucks I realized that it was the answer to that next step. I knew going into it that I wanted to work on some sort of project around the experience but it wasn't until five months in that I began really making pictures. At that time (and still today) it was a much-needed test of sorts for me to really go through and appreciate that patience in the process. The feeling of really encompassing something before beginning to dive into it through pictures. And making that even more challenging was the fact that truck drivers were / are as a whole the loners; ones on the fringe and in their own worlds. Which translated to many failed interactions in hopes of photographing, even with playing the part of trucker myself. I attribute that year of trial and error to learning how to really communicate with others in the languages needed to photograph, and so much of what I carry along with me nowadays. A life that translates in many ways to isolation and aloneness was actually crucial for me in regards to coming out of my shell and learning how to fail and succeed.

TF: Tell me about your series, Rodeo Days.

RS: Rodeo Days has become an ongoing project and exploration of themes and aspects of western culture throughout the United States, focusing a lot on the aura of the classic cowboy / girl that exist today. The project began a few years back when I started frequenting New Jersey's only professional rodeo, not far from where I grew up. I quickly became a part of that community and was given access to document these things that I had always been fascinated by. I'd walk the walk and talk the talk and took that mentality from living as a truck driver and applied it into another focus. A lot like an actor playing a role in a film. Over time that branched out into exploring communities throughout the country (now primarily in the west.) At the moment I'm really trying to take the work in new directions and dig deeper into somewhat uncomfortable territory. A gentle hand navigating a gritty world is tricky but can yield special things.

TF: What do you look for in an image? What makes an image 'work'?

RS: The idea of an image is always changing for me. Which I think is a good thing because it's constantly making me question what I think is "good". Of course there's all the technical aspects that make a great image but to me it's really about feeling. What a picture can provoke and ignite inside. That's what I respond most to in other's pictures and what I am constantly chasing in my own.

TF: As technology continues to advance, where do you think photography as a medium will be in 10 years?

RS: That's the question, ha. It'll certainly be interesting to see where things go with so much saturation and coverage of so many things. I think the essence will always be there but may be change forms here and there. The idea of self-understanding is (thankfully) becoming more and more accepted so in that regard I feel like image making will maintain it's importance in expression / connection. A bit overwhelming to really dive into but I think there's light at the end of tunnel for the longevity of the medium.

TF: If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?

RS: Freeze time. Imagine being able to walk around within any image?

TF:  Future plans or upcoming projects?

RS: Many things brewing for where I'm taking things from here. Deeper down the rabbit hole I go. Working on my first book. Exploring video more. Developing ideas around filmmaking. The idea of motion is really exciting to me, especially since I've always been drawn to the stillness. I really want to continue pushing my place as a participate in the creative process. I've begun feeling, in some ways, the limits of being a "photographer" so I think what's most exciting to me is the potential to push beyond that and see where it may take me. I ultimately want to find my place between all these worlds and continue trying to bring something to each from the other.

A twenty-nine year old originally from southern New Jersey, Ryan Shorosky graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2013. He spent 2014 working and living as a long-haul truck driver, throughout the United States, while beginning a long-term body of work aimed at exploring his own relationship to a profession and life lived on the road. He is currently working on his first monograph, focusing in and around the state of Nevada, as well as an ongoing project on rodeo and western communities throughout the United States. Ultimately, Ryan enjoys telling stories.