This interview you can view here was printed in the Be-Mag Issue 34. You can find the original design of the interview on issuu at the end of the page.
Spaghetti: Part of a series of 5 that was shot for a fashion spread in RE:UP magazine
Interview by Jeremy Stephenson
Images by Ryan Schude
Jero: How long have you spent behind a lens?
Ryan: Started as a hobby in business school back in ’98. Went to art school afterwards and started focusing solely on shooting around 2001.
J: Tell us a little history of how you got involved in photography in the first place.
R: It was only because of blading. I’d always shot point and shoot stuff of skating just to document what we were doing. When I got out of school, I was just skating and shooting photos nonstop, taking road trips and trying to get published in Daily Bread, Rejects and Be-mag. Eventually a full time position opened up at Daily Bread for a photo editor so I moved to San Diego and had some of the best 3 years of my life.
J: When did you decide to pursue it as a career?
R: Once I was at Daily Bread, photography was my career, but just blade photography, I didn’t pursue anything else until they went out of business.
J: Describe your style of photography.
R: Ok, hah, lemme try and do this without it sounding corny. My style these days is cinematic for lack of a better all encompassing word. I don’t shoot candid or documentary or lifestyle. I stage things and light it over dramatically.
J: How would you describe your experiences shooting skating?
R: Nothing short of amazing. It really was the life, being so passionate about the subject matter just makes all the hardships worth while. You can’t beat hanging out with your friends and doing exactly what everyone wants to be doing while traveling all over the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Of course after a while it got tedious becoming older and you have to deal with the fact that your job is illegal and you can’t do things exactly how you want to because we were being kicked out of a spot. I became very particular about shooting and didn’t want to have to rush things because of security guards. It ended at a good time, I was ready to move on but blading taught me how to shoot photos and I would never second guess that fact.
J: You backsided that crazy drop rail to gap in San Diego in the first 4×4 video. What was that like? Nobody else wanted to do it so you took matters into your own hands or what?
R: Hah, yeah, that was a good one to go out on. It wasn’t the most difficult stunt, just scary as hell. Most of the kids I brought there could have done it with their eyes closed but there was a lot of potential for death at the same time. It was just one of those in the moment things, Jan was there so I knew I’d have good coverage and although I wish Busta could have been around to get the photo, it was time to step up and put my money where my mouth was. I talked too much shit about it not to lace.
J: After Daily Bread crumbled, it seemed like you broke away from shooting skating completely. What was going on for you at this time?
R: Well, we were all really bitter with the state of the industry at the time. Our paychecks were incessantly late and we were getting to a point in our lives when we had to question why the fuck would we continue starving when we knew there was potential for more. I didn’t expect to break away so abruptly, me and Wes and Justin started the first issue of One and I sort of planned on continuing with that. On the other hand, there was no way to even pay rent with a new venture and so I had to move to LA and segway into commercial work. Once I left San Diego I started a new life and knew that if I didn’t dedicate everything to it, I still wouldn’t be able to eat, at least not the way I wanted to, hah. I certainly didn’t expect to stop skating though, that is still a shock to me and I try to, but it hurts my old bones. Luckily for blading there are people like Justin and Wes still making One and Julio still killing shit on blades to call bullshit on all of my whining.
J: How was the transition out of skate photography? Are you happier for it, or do you ever miss it?
R: My transition out of blading was good. I became a clerk at a camera rental house in LA. It was interesting having a college degree in business and making 11 bucks an hour shuffling gear around. In the meantime, I got all the free rentals I could ask for and spent a year and half milking the hell out of that opportunity to build a portfolio of images I would never had been able to make otherwise. It blows my mind now to think of it because I don’t work there anymore and have a harder time making the type of images i could make when there was unlimited lighting available. I am definitely happier for leaving blading but of course I miss it. I remember thinking how crazy people were to just cut ties with something that was such an important part of their life but now I realize it just happens. My one last connection continues every year during the Colorado road trip when camping and cement skate parks meld to make the best roadie I’ve seen in blading.
J: Your current portfolio is full of elaborate scenes with a signature lighting look. Tell us a little bit about the history of these images and what inspired them.
R: The first image I made which made me realize I could start taking portraiture to a bigger scale was the one of Collin Carr in the boxing ring against the lamp. It was for the am issue in Daily Bread and we were up in San Clemente at Sayer’s spot. Everyone was in the house gambling and drinking and I was in the garage building a set and doing tests with a dirty technique using long exposures on Sayer’s little Canon point-and-shoot ELPH and then shooting on the hassy. It just snowballed from there, I found people like Philip Lorca Dicorcia and Gregory Crewdson who took this over staged type of photo to the next level and kept running with it.
J: How would you define a great photograph?
R: Uff, it’s all relative. Anything that communicates is great. We are so over saturated with images these days that it’s hard to make something people will actually take a minute to look at. It could be anything from a snapshot to a half million dollar production but in the end of the day, people need to stop and wanna stare.
J: Do you have a favorite photograph, or an exceptionally memorable shoot?
R: Shit, I’ve been theoretically opposed to favorites in general but I can say that all of those shots we made with a ton of people involved were amazing experiences. My brother Collins and Busta have been integral parts in many of those images and I will never forget what it was like to bootleg such a large production on zero coin. That kind of initiative is a constant reminder to keep pushing for bigger and better regardless of the circumstances.
J: I saw you recently in New York City, shooting bikini models across the street from Madison Square Garden. Is the photographers life as glamorous as it appears?
R: Hahahah, well, I wish I could say that all of this hard work has led to high paying swanky gigs like bikini models in NYC but to be honest, that was a pro bono job. Sayer told me he was going to NY to shoot the motion part of that campaign and asked if I would be involved with the stills. I love NY and trust Sayer more than I ought to so I said sure, sounds like fun. Luckily it was a great experience thanks to people like Jero and many others who were happy to lend a hand. But no, especially right now, a photographer’s life isn’t as glamorous as it appears, I am as broke as ever but see a light at the end of this tunnel.
J: Who do you look up to?
R: Everyone out there who is trying to do more. Also everyone out there who is content with just doing. it’s all a matter of perspective, you could be a multi million dollar baller and pissed at life and then it’s all worthless, or you could be a struggler and stoked at the what you are accomplishing. I guess I look up to people who don’t give a fuck about what they can’t do and focus on how great they can do what they are doing now and will be doing in the future.
J: What advice would you give to amateur photographers trying to “make it”?
R: Don’t sleep, don’t be afraid and don’t be lazy. Do surprise yourself at how you exceeded your own expectations and how you can one up them next time.
J: What’s next for Ryan Schude?
R: Everything is getting intense. I want to stay focused and push the photos I’ve been making and be able to make similar photos on a high budget commercial level. Simultaneously I want to continue to make personal work for no good reason whatsoever other than because I am inspired to push limits that no one else has a say in. Also, video is on my mind. I’ve tried to stay out of directing motion because it was going to distract me from stills but I think the inevitable crossover is going to happen regardless. In the end of the day, kicking ass and taking names, in the humblest way possible…
J: Where can people go to see more of your work?
R: People can see more work at www.ryanschude.com
Check out a digital version of the original print article from the Be-Mag Issue 34: