We’ve been profiling Portsmouth’s creative community with our Created Local series of articles for almost 10 years now…and it is incredible to think that the city’s thriving scene is still pushing the arts harder than ever.
I spotted the diverse photography skills of Unestablished (@unestd) on Instagram a while back…amongst the awesome work of this Suffolk/Portsmouth photographer focusing on different underground and often overlooked locations and subcultures, a series of images of Landport really stood out. Areas of the city are photographed time after time after time but Ryan had really seen something special, even elements of symmetrical beauty, in this part of the city often overlooked by photographers. I wanted to find out more about this particular project so got in touch…
My roll consisted of skateparks and abandoned buildings…
How did you get in to photography?
My first try at photography came across in school when Lucy and Frankie, two teaching assistants had undergone their own little project. Supplying myself and a few other pupils a black and white disposable camera each giving us a week to fill the frames of absolutely anything, My roll consisted of skateparks and abandoned buildings. It was a fun experience and it also gave me the opportunity to handprint using the darkroom.
Your Instagram shows a real mix of subjects including architecture, music, skate/BMX, portraiture but all seem to have a raw feel and maybe overlooked or underground. Is that something you seek out conciously?
I wouldn’t say that I consciously seek for the overlooked although I am perhaps drawn to such environments. Music, skate & bmx has always been of high interest to me, I just shoot what I like when I can I don’t really consider any of it to be ‘underground’.
Is photography something that you’ve studied or maybe a passion that you’ve developed?
My interest for photography originally grew from riding BMX. I think it was through the curiosity involved with riding everywhere searching the streets for spots to ride, visiting all new destinations and skateparks. It gave me a pretty solid outlook as to how I would look at and appreciate my surroundings. From then I’ve been studying photography since A-levels.
Do you have a favourite camera/film/lens that you use for your photography?
Point and shoots! An essential for recording the everyday and while the quality isn’t the best they always produce results in any condition. As a preference I shoot film over digital, 120mm over 35mm and Canon over Nikon. I enjoy the slower process that comes with shooting film, the quality of colour and the uncertainty you get in the results.
Your images shot around Landport really caught my eye. How did you end up taking the series of images? What equipment did you use?
They were shot on medium format using the Hasselblad 500c and Mamiya RB67 with fuji’s 400h film. I had been shooting in and around Landport working on a body of work focuses on public places of play when my attention had swiftly shifted into photographing the architecture of the courts, the space it manifests and the environment in which it creates.
What keeps you shooting with film? Do you still hand develop images?
I think its the process of image making on film that is more sensitive in comparison to digital that keeps me shooting film. Despite the high cost of both money and time the desire to shoot film far outweighs that of digital. I have learnt a lot from taking photographs on film from the technical side of things regarding light, exposure settings and processing to taking my time compositionally, understanding that I have a limited amount of shots per roll knowing fully well that there is always room for error in the end result. I like the fact that you have hard physical copies that you can print straight from or scan in too for digital copies and purposes also. I develop black and white negatives myself whereas colour film I get developed elsewhere.
I’ve long been drawn to exploring and documenting locations that I perceive to be often overlooked or ignored…
Are there any other places or environments (local or not) that you love to photograph?
Well I love music, especially live so shooting artists performing on stage is like a double positive that goes hand in hand, its not something I get to do often but its a fun fast paced environment that I really enjoy. I’ve long been drawn to exploring and documenting locations that I perceive to be often overlooked or ignored, that have a sense of uncertain atmospheric tension, similar to Landport.
Recently I’ve been shooting interiors of some of Portsmouth’s culturally created spaces that also have an interesting architectural stance, looking for a single perspective to represent each space individually and with this coherence, perhaps as a collection.
Bit strong maybe, but would you say there was beauty hidden in Landport within the architecture? How does it connect with you?
Perhaps but not particularly, I think what is beautiful about Landport is the true honesty of it, it’s an ugly location. It gives off a certain atmosphere and impression for me as a visitor that I felt was not welcoming although I did not sense to be warned off either. Architecture holds each individual to a cognitive response and in the case of the Landport courts the architecture governs the body to move within it through specific paths, only a few feet away from the front doors and homes of many it offers a limited amount of space to move voluntarily as to speak, The architecture for me beholds a confrontational experience.
I think what is beautiful about Landport is the true honesty of it…
Are there any other photographers who either influence you or that you would encourage our readers to also check out?
I haven’t been in Portsmouth for very long but i’ve been following @FiveArchitects on Instagram for some time now and I really like the work they’ve been putting out. Focusing on finer details of the world, especially the shots with such a shallow depth of field that looks beyond the focal point. As for influencers of my own practice I’d say those that were amongst the Dusseldorf school of photography under the Bechers teachings, such as Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Candida Hofer.
A huge thank you to Ryan for letting us share his work here, all images are shared with his kind permission. If you want to see more of Ryan’s excellent work visit his Estd Instagram: