Ryan Harding is a filmmaker and photographer who recently graduated as a cinematographer. To be honest I totally forgot how we got in contact with him. Due to that thing called life it took quite a while to conduct the interview. I had to leave my apartment find a new one and decorate the new found cave. Thankfully Ryan is a good spirited guy who gave me some slack!
“As of late, I’ve started getting into fashion photography. Which is ironic, as I have no idea what is fashionable.”
I hold a rather useless film degree from a well respected arts university. I say useless because I taught myself everything I know about cameras, and that includes motion picture cameras. Film school taught me a little about lighting, not much else. I learnt more about it in my own time through working on film sets and shoots. Unsurprisingly, my photographs are largely influenced by cinema. And most are taken in East Asia which, given that I’m a Londoner, many people find curious. I mainly shoot street photography, though I dabble in portraits and landscapes from time to time. But street photography possesses a lot more raw energy and excitement for me in terms of the process of shooting. As of late, I’ve started getting into fashion photography. Which is ironic, as I have no idea what is fashionable.
So being an autodidact, at one point you put down your toys and picked up a camera?
I was a teenager when I first purchased a DSLR but I only started taking photography seriously when I was travelling in Hong Kong in 2010 at the tender age of 21. When I was a kid I had used Polaroid and disposable cameras but I wasn’t entirely interested in the medium at that point. I don’t know what made me take the plunge to buy a DSLR later, especially considering they were not nearly as popular then as they are now. But I did it anyway. Looking back, it seems inevitable to have picked up an instrument relating to documentation and visual expression.
On your trips to Asia, do you have the ability to really enjoy or are you always framing the scenery?
The most important thing for me is to enjoy myself. That applies to everything. If I get bored of shooting photography, I’ll stop doing it. There’s definitely days where I feel like not shooting at all when travelling. Hunting for the perfect shot day after day, night after night can get very tiring. Travelling can feel more like work than a holiday if I go too far with it. So that balance is important. I’ll stop shooting altogether if I lose passion for it.
Do you have any personal or commercial goals you want to achieve with your work?
As long as I’m being productive and have a positive mindset, I’ll see where that leads me. Ultimately I just want to take photos, make music and shoot films, and see where it leads me.
Did you ever got into a situation that made a good “beer story”?
I think the best anecdotes involve some form of social embarrassment don’t they? I’ve definitely had my fair share of that. Fortunately I haven’t had any recent slip-ups. A few months ago when I was in Taipei, me and my friend went into an all you can eat BBQ restaurant. At these restaurants, they teach you how to cook the meat at your table because you have to cook it yourself. So we get assigned a chef who teaches us how to cook and garnish all this meat. On realising we couldn’t speak Chinese, another chef comes over to replace the other. I don’t know why he was replaced because he couldn’t speak any English either. So at this point me and my mate are starving. We hadn’t eaten all day in preparation for 2 hours of joyous unlimited food and copious pints of beer. So to speed things up, I’m basically pretending to understand what the guy is saying to us. I reply with “yes, yes, yes, I understand” to everything he says in Chinese, hoping he’ll go away so we can eat. But no. This guy wants a conversation.
“He gives me a cracking monologue in Chinese. I make sure to match my facial expressions to his, not overplaying it too much. “
He gives me a cracking monologue in Chinese. I make sure to match my facial expressions to his, not overplaying it too much. It’s just like one of those social situations you regrettably find yourself in, talking to a stranger talking about abstract and nonsensical things to which you nod and agree politely, thinking of an apt excuse to get the hell out of there. The difference here is, the chef was clearly your average nice guy, but I’m starving, and when I’m starving, I get agitated by the smallest things. Anyway, he finishes his monologue, to which I crack a smile. Except there’s a pause. A long pause. He stares at me. After a few uncomfortable seconds of silence, I’m thinking “has he asked me a question? Did he crack a joke? God I hope not”. The pause becomes excruciating, and he’s definitely waiting for an apt response, god forbid a comical one. I try a cheeky “Yes” in chinese, or “I understand” with a complimentary nod – except he ain’t having any of that small talk anymore. He wants an actual conversation, man-to-man, mano-a-mano.
So I panic, and pretend to translate what he has said to my friend in order to bide time. All the while, my friend knows my Chinese is terrible, and that there’s no way on God’s green earth I could have possibly translated that Wingdings of a speech the chef had said to me. My mate is looking at me opposite the table, smiling and nodding as per social etiquette. Yet he is undoubtedly thinking “You complete and utter plonker”. With another pause, the chef leaves. I remain in my seat, disgraced and ashamed. Now that I think about it, quite a few embarrassing things happened during that trip. I forgot how to speak English after getting drunk at a club in Taipei, and my friend got completely destroyed on the way to the airport, shouting nonsensical rubbish on a nightbus full of people trying to sleep. Taichung rice wine will do that to you.