Canadian artist Ryan Duffin anatomises contemporary queer desire and its intersection with pop culture, technology and photographic representation. Having met cameras and toys on the same glimmer, he is now based in Brooklyn and works from a tint of his millennial childhood as a gay photographer in cyberspace.
Has your past coloured your creative present? I feel like being a gay tween in the early and mid 2000’s influences every aspect of my life, especially my work. The aesthetics of the pop stars and tech devices I was always interested in are continual references. During my undergrad I was continually experimenting with subject matter, a practice I continue to do.
What originally got you into photography? Did you always take photos or was it more of a realisation?
I was always taking photographs growing up. I first started playing with cameras while I was still playing with toys. I had a fun toy polaroid that I loved… but I got my first real camera in middle school and since then, I have been fully dedicated to the medium. Throughout my time as a photographer I am always having new realisations about my practice. The most recent has been to embrace the latest technologies as a part of my practice. Photography is an inherently technocratic form of art, and I’m not ashamed to love digital more than film. My thesis exhibition, and a few shows following, used virtual reality as a space for photographic display, so I’m always willing to explore new technology and how it can relate to my photography.
In terms of conceptual development, what are your main impetus?
I look at the world around me and the media I consume [to] form the basis of my concepts. Then I particularly pay attention to how I consume this media and look at the world through my personal gay lens, because I think it colours every aspect of how I see and think about the world. Lately I’ve been more interested now than ever in Bauhaus architecture and design and the ideas of function and form. I have a couple projects incubating at the moment that introduce these inspirations into my work.
With the ongoing digitalisation of our world and society, do you think the camera, as we know it, will stay a relevant creative instrument? I ask this as I have been thinking a lot about 3D scanning and the creative opportunities this holds recently.
Fortunately, I think the idea of a camera will always be relevant, even as the device itself evolves into something else. Photography always has one foot in art and one foot in commerce. Most of the photography we consume is one way or another sold to us or used to sell us something. Unless there’s a global revolution, that will never change. Companies will always use imaging to market a product, and as the world becomes increasingly populated with images, viewers have a greater need and taste for better imagery. This is where artists come in to elevate and set the tone in visual culture.
I’m eager to see how cameras and camera-like tools change in the next decade, and then how artists will respond. We are already seeing artists, photographers, and companies using smartphones for projects and campaigns, so those on the cutting edge will continue to take advantage of the latest releases. As long as there’s something to buy, photography will find a way to sell it.
courtesy RYAN DUFFIN
interview KATE KIDNEY BISHOP
More to read