About the Artist
In the same tradition as Blossfeldt and Cunningham, Seamus A. Ryan shows us the beauty of the botanical form, with his richly printed silver gelatin prints.
Ryan came late to photography, after spending 18 years working as a Systems Analyst in the City of London, yet maybe this maturity has helped Ryan approach his subjects with a fresh vision. The graphic quality of his photographs shows us the beauty, held within the organic form.
Ryan's photographic technique is very simple, using the same 5x4-studio camera, lens and film for each picture and the kitchen, in the family home as a studio, with natural daylight to illuminate his subjects.
This very simple photographic process does have its drawbacks; it limits the hours he can work, because the light only streams in through the kitchen window at a certain time of day. Yet the advantages, out way the disadvantages, like Blossfeldt, this pure vision allows us to see the most of the inner and outer beauty of his subjects. His simplicity of technique allows him to get emotionally closer to his theme, and his vision is purer and more refreshing, and ultimately the images are more exciting.
The title of his first exhibition at the Atlas Gallery in London in 2001, entitled Instant Floral Gratification, reflects his use of Polaroid Type 55 film, an instant black and white film, that gives a negative as well as a positive print. His insistence on seeing his negative at the earliest possible moment allows him to work quickly before the light changes.
His silver gelatin prints have a sumptuous tonal range from deep rich blacks to a pure crisp white, which gives these prints a tactile and luminous quality, just like the plants themselves. He prints upon Kodak Ektalure, a paper that is no longer manufactured. Yet he has managed to secure enough of this stock to finish his range of limited edition prints.
In his study Poppy Love, we see two poppies side by side, there heads, nestling like two young lovers on their first moonlit walk alone. While Untitled Fritilaria shows us an elegance of form, more associated with the neck of a swan, both of these images have a rich black backdrop, a characteristic of a lot of Ryan's work, but not all of his work is as graphic.
Cabbage Rose, a delicate fragile flower with an elegant softness, shot on a neutral grey that reflects the tonal range of the flower head, is reminiscent of Roses, Mexico, photographed in 1924 by Tina Modotti. This is not to say that Ryan is mimicking the work of photographers from the early 20th century, far from it, merely that Ryan's photography is more classical than that of Mapplethorpe or Araki or other contemporary photographers, but with a modernist graphical quality.
His work has clarity, and simplicity that allows him to explore more deeply the natural beauty of his subject. Not only does he show us the surface splendour of the botanical subject that we all see in our daily lives; his vision, allows us to see the deeper elegance, that we normally miss. His prints have the power to open a subject up to the viewer, to discover more, to inform and to educate, and that is the real capacity of Ryan's photography.
Wayne Ford, Arts Editor, Observer Newspaper, London
Edition limited to 100
2003, EBS Verona; 60 plates
Printed in Italy