"I used to be really introverted and then as I started doing photography and having exhibitions, I got more sociable. But I do have these moments where if I have a really busy week, I kind of hide out in my room for a whole week and I just kind of relax and watch movies and stuff like that. I love the folks that I’ve met out here. I mean it’s really cool cause it’s probably the largest amount of Native folks that I’ve seen outside of my own community. The art is really nice out here, but it’s not where I see my work being. I’ve met a lot of famous folks that are in the Native community, so that’s been really inspiring and empowering for my photography.
Transilient: Where do you see yourself when you’re my age, like 31?
Ryan: Hopefully in New York doing photography, and still doing performance art or theater. Something like that. I was thinking about Seattle after here to go live with my friend, Cecilia, for a little bit, and then just save up till I can move out to New York. … I just don’t want to go to go back to Wisconsin…(All laugh)When I got here (Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)) I asked them if they had any queer student organizations. And they had one, but it kind of fell apart the last year or two before I got here. So, I started Indigenous Queers + with some friends. We do different meetings on queer history, art, we talk about two spirit history, we put on an annual queer erotic art show which is really cool. There was a Native erotic art show that we had a few years ago that one of the museum studies classes put it together.
Transilient: Do you want to talk about photography and how you do photography?
Ryan: Yeah! When I started, it was mostly to pay the bills. But as I started trying to dabble more into the artistic side of photography I got super interested in doing visibility projects. So, I did “Indigeneity”, where I photographed all the Native students at University of Wisconsin-Madison to talk about the folks who are on campus. Cause we have the lowest demographic of Native students on campus, I think it’s like 200 out of 44,000. So, I did that. A couple years ago I did the Two Spirit Project, so I photographed all the folks here that identified as two-spirit. I put their pictures on Tumblr. It has their names, how they identify, and then a little blurb of either how they came into their identity or something about them that they wanted to share. I do a lot of fashion photography, I work for Native Max Magazine which is based out of Denver. So, I get to meet a lot of fashion designers out here. I got to work with Patricia Michaels, which was really cool. She was on Project Runway. I was doing that for a while, but I think because I’m trying to work on my senior project right now and I am trying to shift the focus to documenting myself or something that’s more focused on building up my identity."