At just twenty-one years of age, Australian photographer Ryan Kenny can boast the ability to drink in the United States, the right to drive (although he doesn’t have his license), and the blessed seal of approval from the entire fashion and art community. We only want to see more from him. He is thoroughly homegrown, with a client list that is nothing short of impressive, of which titles such as Oyster Magazine, Billy Bride, ASOS, i-D and Junk Magazines and the beautiful Meadowlark jewellery reign supreme. His aesthetic is that of this moment, and completely coveted by every publication. His photographs have the eternal, silent quality that can only be achieved on film, but they are also supremely innovative and completely of contemporary resonances, and always evoking the disposition of youth. Regardless of the subject, whether the tantalizing Teresa Oman (of whom he is close friends), a striking landscape, or merely a snapshot of his daily life, his images are uniquely his own. Get to know him. He’s worth your time.
Hall of Furs: Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself? How would you define what you do?
Ryan Kenny: I’m a 21-year-old male living in Sydney, Australia and I take pictures of things I like.
In your opinion, what does beauty mean? Where should we seek to find it?
Beauty is like love, you wont find it if you look for it.
Can you tell me about your first camera? Do you still have it?
It was my Dad’s Pentax K1000 from the 80’s. I’ve since broken it but still use the lenses on my M-E Super.
Do you prefer to shoot digitally or on film?
Who would you say are your artistic icons? Who are some artists who have influenced your own practice?
David Alan Harvey got me to start taking photos. Jeffery Smart taught me about the use of colour. Neil Young inspired me to go on a journey. Roy Orbison taught me how to be a romantic.
Do you see a difference in colour and black and white images? Does shooting in black-and-white alter the meaning of an image?
I love black and white photography, but I think colour is key in my images. Black and white can make anything look timeless.
Regardless of whether you’ve been commissioned for an editorial, do you prefer to plan your photo shoots or do you opt to retain a sense of spontaneity?
Planning things is something I don’t like to do in life or work. Having no expectations of a day is the way I like to go about things.
In your opinion, what’s the importance of social media, or simply having a website in regards to your work? Does it change the intended viewing process that you had for your audience?
I’ve got a love hate relationship with social media. Without it, I wouldn’t have been noticed in the way I have been. But on the flip side, I’d rather people only view my work in person.
Do you prefer to shoot objects, streetscapes and landscapes or people?
That’s a hard one. Depends. But probably people. People are amazing.
What is interesting about capturing the human form?
I’m obsessed with capturing a side of people that others don’t see. I find people open up with me because I’m more nervous than they are.
How and where do you source individuals to capture in your photographs?
I don’t like the idea of “shopping” for someone on a model agency website. I like to get to know them and make sure it’s going to be fun. There are lots of “beautiful” people I’ve not shot because there has been no connection.
Is it easier for you to capture a close friend on camera than it is a stranger? You’ve worked very closely with model Teresa Oman, with absolutely magical results.
My friends trust me more than strangers but at the same time I’ve got a few techniques I use on strangers. The first time I shot Bambi, I wanted her to loosen up so I would loosen up too. I got her to spit a mouthful of water on me as I took a photo. Since then I use that trick most days. Teresa Oman is a whole new story. I don’t have to try hard when I shoot her. We’ve got something. She’s got something. Although none of my photos are in her modeling portfolio, I don’t know what that says, ha-ha!
Is travel a major component of your work? Where is one place you’d love to visit?
Travel (whether it’s overseas or down to the corner store) is a necessity in my life and work. I hate feeling static. That’s why not having a “normal” job works so well. One place I’d love to visit is Africa. I’m obsessed with Elephants, Lions and Giraffes. But I promised my friend/assistant that I’d get a job in Hawaii this year, so I’ve got to make that happen.
What have been some of your best moments on the job?
Climbing rocks in Joshua Tree, jumping into my first snow in New Zealand, it’s all been amazing. With the help of a few amazing people, my career this far has been effortless and pain free.
And the worst? Any unfortunate moments?
No negatives here.
You work quite regularly for Oyster Magazine. Do you have any anecdotes to share about this publication? Are they a good team to work with?
Oyster has been extremely supportive of my work before anyone knew it. They’ve had some amazing people work for them and I’ve been lucky to ride that wave.
Are there any publications you’d love to be featured in that you haven’t already?
Not in particular. I’m very excited to work more with Imogene Barron on her new magazine Junk. That’s going to be the best thing to come out in years.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in five years time?
In five years I’ll be living in between Sydney and Los Angeles. I might finally get my drivers license.
Words: Sophie Flecknoe. Image courtesy of Ryan Kenny.