As with a number of previous Hasselblad Masters, Barry Ryan’s passion for photography was ignited when, as a British popstar in the late 1960s, he himself was the subject of a photoshoot. In Barry’s case, he was posing for the cover of his own album, which included the song Eloise (written by his twin brother, Paul), the single of which sold over three million copies and reached the top of the pop charts in six countries. Within a few weeks of the shoot, Barry began taking his own photographs and, eschewing any formal training, he started to develop the ability, as he puts it, to ‘see’ rather than just ‘look at’ his subjects. He eventually started his second career – as a professional photographer – in 1976 and, inspired by the likes of Bill Brandt, Guy Bourdin and Hiroshi Sugimoto, has since become a renowned commercial and portrait photographer.
Another trait Barry shares with previous Hasselblad Masters is his lack of satisfaction with his photographs and with his photographic achievements to date, although he is proud of the fact that, when he submitted a series of his first portraits to the National Portrait Gallery in London, they purchased every one of them! Perhaps his ambition ‘to keep learning how to see’ will one day bring him that satisfaction, but in the meantime, he intends to go on shooting pictures ‘til the day I die’. His most interesting past assignments have included photographing people, such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, who have appeared more vulnerable once they’ve left office and their status has dwindled, and he is currently working on a series of very large portraits, called ‘Movers and Shakers’ for the Parkinson’s Disease Society.
As a professional photographer, Barry has few regrets, although he does recall one occasion when he photographed the actor, Peter Ustinov, in his theatre dressing room: “He was sitting on the settee putting his socks on and I wanted to ask him to put a sock in his mouth to literally convey the English metaphor ‘Put a sock in it!’, meaning ‘Be quiet!’. As he was a famous raconteur, it would have made a great picture. I’m sure he would have done it, but I lost my nerve and have always regretted it. It was the first and last time I held back on a suggestion that I knew would have made a great picture as opposed to just a good one.”
To avoid missing any other such opportunities and to be able to consistently capture the moment in the best possible image, Barry uses Hasselblad equipment ‘because I expect it to work every time and because it does work every time. No camera is better built or more reliable than my H3D-39.’
Barry’s advice to up and coming professional photographers is to stay true to their personal vision, a philosophy he has followed in his own career. Married and with two children, Barry has managed to balance his career and his family life, except, he admits, ‘when we go for a long walk and my wife hides my Hasselblad!’ Today he is recognized as an outstanding professional photographer, but, as he recalls, every now and then, his first career as a popstar catches up with him: “I once photographed a model for a magazine shoot and she told me her name was Eloise. Playing it cool, I remarked that it was an interesting name and she said: ‘Yeah, my parents named me after this dumb pop song from when they first met in the ‘60s!’ I left it at that and said nothing more!”
To see more of Barry’s work, go to www.barryryan.co.uk (live from mid-September).