Models Grant Clark @kralc_tnarg , Andrew Haan @andrewhaan88, Charlie Pilot @nextbabysuperstar, Owen Lindberg @owenlindberg, Robert Oakley @magniloquency and Ryan Byrd @scufufel photographed by Ryan Glista @boysbyryan. Head over to thelonelyavocado.com to read the part two of this exclusive interview with Ryan Glista for The Lonely Avocado and Vanity Teen online!
Q) You have an amazing eye for photographing such a natural state of being! Your models seem to have a great connection with you and feel very comfortable; so nice to see. What keeps you motivated to keep creating the work you do and when did you first realize this is the path you wanted to take your life on?
A) I’ve had a passion for portrait photography since I was a teen, and I return to it frequently, even as I continue to develop a career in producing film and video. The emotional connection between a photographer and their subject is so pure, expressive and rewarding.
When I graduated from art school a couple years ago, I had a transformative moment when I recognized there was a part of myself I hadn’t yet explored, —socially or creatively. As an introverted gay man living in rural Connecticut, I longed for connection. During this time, I began to curate a series of black & white portraits on Instagram as a personal outlet, and unexpectedly started gaining thousands of fans.
This audience allowed me to meet other creatives that wanted to collaborate and pose for me, and so I began a new series of portraits, focusing on these young men and their stories. Desires, aesthetics and values that I had once unknowingly repressed flowed freely into my art, and I felt freer and more productive than I had in a long time.
Q) Do you travel a lot for your work or are most of your models photographed within your own city/town?
A) All the guys were photographed in fairly close proximity to my home in New England. With only a few exceptions, they aren’t “models”, these are regular guys who, like me, are looking for an opportunity to explore their (usually queer) identity. Most will probably never pose like this again. I think that’s actually really important to the process… their discovery drives a shoot. There’s a lot of good stories.
Q) If you looked back to when you first started on this path towards your art career. Would you say you wished you had done something differently, now that you have more experience? – Or have things been pretty smooth for you?
A) As long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with creating, the process of creating. I wrote, acted, sang, danced, drew, designed, produced music and eventually settled on filmmaking as my main career path. Looking back, I think I partially worked so hard to tell stories to avoid my own. Mentally, I think I separated my art from own identity, which is pretty unhealthy. It’s becoming easier and easier in a media-saturated world; to become what you think you should be, instead of facing who you are. In this portrait series, I am making art out of the longing I was ashamed of. It’s a beautiful catharsis, and I only wish it could have happened sooner!
Q) Many people see nudity as something, which is only sexual; they tend to view nudity in any form as taboo. We think people’s minds are slowly changing and opening up because of the Internet; it is causing people to question societies version of normality because information is so widely available. Thinking back to the beginning. Did you have nerves about perusing your art? Did you find that some of your peers did not fully understand and lacked in support or did they respect your vision?
A) Yes, I was so nervous. It took several months of creating before I started showing my friends and family the work. I’m so lucky to be supported by everyone I love, and a large online community. But the stigma is totally there, even in the most progressive environments.
It’s tricky to have that conversation because my work is totally about sensuality sometimes, and sometimes it isn’t. Nudity doesn’t mean the work is sexual AND sexual expression doesn’t require nudity. These are two unrelated qualities that may or may not correlate depending on the situation. Both nudity and sexuality are incredibly stigmatized, especially in men. A lot of people are really uncomfortable seeing men sexualized the way women are. It’s fascinating. And all this doesn’t even touch on the amount of unfair censorship I have to deal with on Instagram and other platforms. But the love and support I get from the LGBTQ+ and Fine Art communities more than make up for this struggle.
I suppose I am creating the kind of media I wish I found when I was younger and forming opinions and a visual language for my passion. I think allowing and supporting artistic representations of the human body is incredibly important. I hate that graphic pornography is the way a lot of people come to understand and visualize a body’s value. Our culture transforms something so pure and beautiful into gross taboo. I believe we need more thoughtful, tasteful and caring depictions of men, and I’m so happy to contribute to that.
Q) In your line of work, Covid must have had a huge impact… Aside from the negatives that we are experiencing right now. Did you find that you were able to grow in other areas which will help your photography in the future?
A) Yes! I’ve developed a new ongoing series I call ‘The Quarantine Collage’. Reaching out to my followers online, I’ve collected thousands of photos to be included in various digital collage pieces I release online. People from all over the world can pose together in one a single scene with a little digital magic. It’s really rewarding to connect with so many more people and inspire them a little during these times.
Q) What are your biggest hopes for 2021?
A) Meet incredible artists, design my first photo book, work on my album, develop the concept of my next film… contribute fulfilling visual and musical experiences to a calmer world!