Ryan Lee Turton is an English painter and photographer.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
Hello, well I guess the best place to start is with my love of nature, especially animals. Animals seem to have influenced the ebb and flow of my life a great deal; I’m a pretty solitary cat in general, so it’s nice to wonder off into a forest and hang out with the wildlife, even if that does violate ordinary canons of typical human behaviour. I’m an animal liberator, an anarchist and a strong believer in the psychedelic experience. That should do it.
Where do you live?
At the moment I live in Barnsley, the heart of England.
How did you start taking pictures? Usually there is always the old story of the boy who finds his
grandfather’s camera, did that happen to you as well or not?
Well, my surrealist paintings have always been my favourite expression for the more far out things that I’ve encountered (through lucid dreaming and psychedelics)… But see, I felt as though I needed something else to take the reins of everyday existence. So a couple of years back, I starting shooting on an old film camera to document who I’d met, where I’d been, what I’d done and everything I’d seen. So yeah, my photography endeavour began there!
Where does your inspiration comes from?
Wah! Dreams, psychedelics, good music, cultural movements (punk, hippie life etc), philosophers (Terence Mckenna, Alan Watts etc), surrealist artists (Max Ernst etc). I guess a lot of films have made an impression on me as well, ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘There Will Be Blood’ and ‘Amelie’ spring to mind!
In a portrait, what is important for you?
The happy marriage between subject and location is pretty important. Portraits really need to entice the viewer into wanting to scan themselves into the scene and take a good look around.
What kind of relationship do you have with your subject when you shoot?
My subjects are always my friends; sometimes good friends, sometimes friends that I’ve only met a few times but interest me. I don’t even tend to consider them ‘photo shoots’, more, ‘long walks with a camera’, that kind of thing. We usually take an old stereo out, have a drink and stuff.. It’s a nice way to bond with people. My favourite model is my brother, we are very close and I always enjoy taking his photograph.
What does it mean for you now “Streetphotography”?
To me it simply means life as the alley cat, life hanging around the streets. It needs to be sincere; I don’t like seeing photographs of models casually hanging out in the streets wearing expensive labels.
Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
No, the rigidity of the whole schooling thing is too… well… rigid for something that runs on the fuel of imagination. Of course it’s incredibly useful to learn the functions of each camera button and it’s nice to understand complex processes like demosaicing algorithms, but you definitely don’t need traditional schooling to get to grips with these things. I’ve never had any “photography education”, everything I know has been picked up through interest and perseverance. If you want to learn how to fly a kite, rather than spending too much time analysing what you’re dealing with, just have a run around in the wind! So yeah, go for direct experience!
What’s the photo you want to take and you never did?
Something that resembles a dreamscape. I’ve made a hobby out of lucid dreaming over the past few years and many vivid landscapes have become imprinted on to the backs of my eyelids. This has resulted in it been quite difficult for me to be happy with any landscape photographs I create, because the measure is always against the other-worldly acres I’ve experienced in those long slumbers. So, to answer your question a little more concisely, the perfect landscape is the photograph that I’ve not yet achieved. I’ll let you know when I do it, I’ve still got some time.
What’s your photo-mission?
I guess if my photographs can capture even a scintilla of the ecstasy of life, I’m content with that. Each mission is transient; it only lasts so long before a new mission is born, which I think is a good thing. I currently like the idea that the world can be photographed to appear so surreal i.e. tall grass can look like intergalactic tendons, or a still lake can look like an inviting abyss. I’ll probably explore this more in the coming months.
What’s your last project that are you working on?
Over the past few months I’ve been more focused on painting than anything else. I’ve only been out photographing once since fireworks welcomed in the New Year, so I’ve been working off old shoots and playing with the forgotten stuff up until now. I’ll be back on the photography train over (the rest of) spring and summer though.. I’ve got plans to create some special shots and I have real good ideas for a trippy video piece!
In the last few years there have been a lot of emerging photographers. In your opinion, if you have to give a tip on how to be different.. what is it?
I guess the most important thing is to forage around in the appropriate places until you can get hold of an original jigsaw piece to add to the photography puzzle. Do far out things, don’t yield to convention, use colours that aren’t featured on the colour spectrum… that kind of thing. Just be unique, everyone should have something special to bring to the table.