Photographer Ryan Muirhead Talks Depression, Creativity, and What it Means to Be Human JD July 1, 2015 Inspire 155 How has your art been received in your community? Do you have any detractors? Oh, yeah. That comes up all the time. If you really, really commit to something, someone will hate you for it. And that’s ok. But the further you pursue your art, and the more you come to understand that it’s coming from who you are, the less that stuff gets to you. When you reach that point and put your work out there, and somebody hates it, what are your options? Are you gonna move forward or completely realign your work? Somebody will always be there to tell you they don’t like what you’re doing. To do work that pleases people is a constant investment in gauging trends and evaluating opinions and measuring yourself against them. If you align to what’s popular, and then in two years everyone hates it, you have to completely change who you are. But if you just figure out who you are and how you want to work, all you have to do is commit to that the rest of your life. People’s reactions might change, but you won’t have to. You’ll be doing something you care about, whether people like it or not. I’ve been following your work since 2009 and I’ve always felt that you were playing with shooting nudes, but that you were hesitant. In the past few weeks, though, you’ve shared some nudes. Tell me about it. There’s a stigma with that which I sorta care about. Ultimately, I’m fine with doing nudes, but they have to be done right. And I’d rather take my time in figuring that out, than mess it up. Our culture is saturated with sex and nudity and I have no desire to participate in that. But if I’m going to make raw, powerful, storytelling images, nudes are an honest way to do that. So I’ve started shooting and showing more of those recently and I love them. I’m proud of them. What inspires you? What do you turn to for renewal? I turn only to other things. I do not turn to photography for inspiration. Rarely do I even look at photography. When I do, I only look to the masters—the great photographers whose images have withstood time. I don’t look into what other people are doing, because that’ll just pollute your unique voice. Anything else is game. Song lyrics, that’s my number one source of inspiration. Song lyrics. Poetry. Then cinema, music, sculpture, painting, acting, anything that isn’t photography. Other art sources make me feel the creative drive, and then I want to go express that through photography. What have you learned about yourself through this love affair with photography? Everything. It’s completely revealed to me who I really am. I guess I didn’t know before, or I was too scared to admit it. A lot of this has been retrospective though. It has occurred through coming to terms with my anxiety or depression, or better understanding my worldview or religious outlook or views on humanity and then looking back and realizing I was so anxious because I thought my view was incorrect or damaged. In reality, those ‘damaged’ views were what I really believed at a deeper level but had not come to terms with yet. I’ve experienced so many insights like that through art. And it happens more every day. What would you say to the person who is just starting on a creative endeavor? Or what would you say to the person who maybe feels hopeless or lost that wants to explore creative work but doesn’t know where to start? I would point out that creative endeavors are not start-stop endeavors. It’s a lifestyle. And that’s the only way it can be. With photography, I don’t think, “I’m gonna go take a picture today.” I’m asking myself all the time, “What do you see? How would you tell this? How would you say this differently? What could you say with one image about where you’re at right now?” And I’m doing that nonstop, even when I’m not shooting. I can’t stop. It’s a perspective shift.