Interview: Ryan Tatar

Ryan Tatar is a California surfer/photographer behind the great work at Shakas and Singlefins. A big fan of his laid back , beautiful photography and was lucky enough to spend a few moments with Ryan to learn more on his craft.

Could you start with a brief thematic introduction to your work?
My work is inspired by the ocean, surf culture, and simpler times…. and lately I’ve been working exclusively with analog film. It’s somewhere in the realm of documentary work with a loose outline of inspiring and eclectic characters, surfers, rusty old rigs, hand crafted surfboards, and counter culture.

When did you first discover an interest in photography?
When I graduated from university and I started traveling around the world… meeting new people and exploring new places. I started taking photos as a way to document what I would see on my journey to share with friends and family.

What do you think its about surfing that motivates so many other creative pursuits?
There is something intrinsic about the act of surfing that makes people have a higher understanding of themselves and the world they live in… I think people like to share that enlightenment somehow with other people in their small tribe and also those who would listen in the world at large. The ocean is an inspiring place.

Do you prefer to shoot from land or in the water?
I like both. Shooting from the water is challenging with some of the old equipment I use, and even more challenging depending on the spot and the conditions. Sometimes it gives me alot of anxiety if the conditions are really good, as I can’t decide if I should be shooting or surfing. Shooting from land is more therapeutic for me… its nice to go for a long stroll and shoot a roll of film from time to time. To get out and see things….

Your work feels nostalgic and pure – is this intentionally for an aesthetic, environmental / political or some thing else?
I definitely have been told my images have a nostalgic or retro vibe, and while I don’t go out of my way to shoot a ‘retro’ picture… time and time again its what I’m drawn too. I definitely like old rusty cars, longboards without stickers, and a vagabond vibe in my imagery… sometimes it seems more pure… and less about what is cool and hip… and I’m really drawn to certain vibes in surfing. its just whats currently inspiring me.

Most of your work suggests you mix up chemicals, analog development techniques etc. Do you mainly aim to do something intentional or is there a lot of experimentation?

At first pure experimentation… but now after plenty of that, I have a good understanding of what different film and processing techniques will look like as a finished image. Sometimes I go after a certain look if its something that I’ve been thinking about and other times its just grabbing a random roll of film in my old blue suitcase.

Considering a lot of your work is “retro” – do you study a lot of past masters or get creative vision? How do you balance aiming to be traditional with new modern vistas?

I’m a big fan of the past masters like Ron Stoner, Leroy Grannis, Jeff Divine, Art Brewer, and countless others… but I believe I tend to capture a different composition. I enjoy and am inspired by the colors, subjects, and the times that these guys captured…. and the pure soul that they documented back in the 60s and 70s is worth finding in our own modern times.

Do you cross into other creative pursuits – say video, painting etc?
I enjoy the work of others in other trades like film, painting, and music… but don’t typically venture in those directions myself. Surfing and photography seems to be the right fit for me.

Finally, what does the future hold for you and your work?
I recently relocated to the San Francisco bay area… I’m looking forward to showing some work in the city and also working with some of the local surfers here. Also….the area has already inspired a new body of work inspired by California, Jack Kerouac novels, and the open road….. its a series of polaroids taken on solo journeys to reflect on life in Big Sur.

Follow Ryan Tatar on Twitter

Ryan’s Blog Shakas and Singlefins

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