Ry Sangalang (http://www.rysangalang.com/) is a fine art photographer based in Los Angeles. He’s a firm believer that images have the power to impact emotions and the unconscious. He loves to fuse together everyday photos with his travel photos to create surreal photo montages. Like a fiction writer who helps people discover new worlds through books, Ry’s goal is to help people, who want more magic in their lives, hopefully experience a little through the medium of photo montage. (You can find tips, tricks and behind the scenes videos on his blog http://makephotoart.com.

Ry Sangalang Portfolio

Julia Dean Interviews Ry Sangalang

LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Ry Sangalang ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography

Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?

Ry Sangalang: I love helping people potentially discover wonder and magic through photomontage. After years of travelling to different countries and photographing people and the sites, I had captured thousands of photos. I wanted to do something unique with the photos and fell in love with the boundless storytelling possibilities of photomontage.

JD: How long have you been shooting?

RS: I’ve learned that everyone has their own unique photographic journey.And I’ve come to appreciate the photographic journey each individual goes through.  After my time interviewing artist/photographers for my video podcast as well as my time as an art writer for Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, I’ve realized that these origin stories contain lessons for us all.  

I started shooting in 2000 using disposable cameras to cover the growing local Los Angeles rave scene. Then in 2005 I got my first digital point and shoot camera, for a month long backpacking trip in Europe. It wasn’t until 2010 that my wife Lory bought me my first DSLR, which I avidly learned to use. Since then, I spent a few years shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II, then a Nikon D800. Ultimately, I fell in love with the Sony a7RII because of the light and yet very capable form factor. It’s been many years since I picked up my first camera and look forward to continuing this journey of learning and discovery.

JD: Where did you get your training?

RS: You know what’s great about photography? I think anyone at any stage of life can pursue and enjoy it. Originally I completed a computer engineering degree, so became used to working with technology and its changing variables. So when I started learning photography and Photoshop, I found that I enjoyed and could steadily learn the technical aspects. After years of self study, I started taking classes to learn things I didn’t know, I didn’t know. But, it wasn’t until I found the Los Angeles Center of Photography that the classes felt right. I look forward to continuing to grow and share knowledge, especially at LACP.

JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

RS: You can do something for years like play an instrument, or work in a field of study, and yet still not devote yourself to it. I think this is a good thing. It leaves room for you to find the right thing to be devoted to.

For example, after years of grueling piano lessons and recitals, I realized that I didn’t love it.  But after crafting my first photomontage, I was hooked! It didn’t take long to realize, that it would be a lifelong journey. I loved how I could take a few pictures that some would consider mundane and then fuse and juxtapose them to create a unique story or even an entire world.

There’s a scene in the movie Inception by Christopher Nolan, where the world builder Ariadne quits. Her mentor Cobb simply says “She’ll be back. I never seen anyone pick it up that quickly before. Reality is not gonna be enough for her now…”

Just like Ariadne, you might also find that building worlds and stories through photomontage is addictive once you get the hang of it. I did.

JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?

RS:
When you’re first starting, and you make lots of mistakes and struggle, I think it’s common to want to give up. But if you’re really serious about something, then giving up becomes a distant option. If you do give up, it could mean you weren’t serious to begin with.

When I first started editing my photos, to give them a little more punch, I started experimenting with techniques such as HDR. I created these fugly crunchy supersaturated landscapes. So initially I thought “Gosh my work is horrible maybe I should give up.” But after a while, I just laughed it off, and the love for the craft was still there. I couldn’t stop. The art kept calling me. And even though I continued to make ugly art I loved the process. So I just kept grinding away at it, until I was more happy with my work.

I like to think that I will continue to do so until the end. Here is one of my favorite quotes on failure and re-focusing:

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.” – JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter.

JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

RS: The less things you have to distract you, the more time you will have to focus on your passion.  I’ve chosen to say ‘No’ to the myriad of events and outings so many different social groups offer these days. Food festivals, Meet-up group outings, and weekly happy hours. Here are some other joys that I’ve given up in my life. Video games, which I used to love. Clubbing. Playing the guitar (because I think being dedicated to one art form needs a sufficient amount of time, without competing with another.) Recently, I’ve also given up on TV binging.

My favorite fantasy writer Neil gaiman once said “I think it’s about where ideas come from, they come from daydreaming, from drifting, that moment when you’re just sitting there… The trouble with these days is that it’s really hard to get bored. I have 2.4 million people on Twitter who will entertain me at any moment… it’s really hard to get bored. I’m much better at putting my phone away, going for boring walks, actually trying to find the space to get bored in. That’s what I’ve started saying to people who say ‘I want to be a writer,” I say ‘great, get bored.”

So now I spend less time distracted. And try to create more opportunities to be bored so the ideas can start to flow and the work can get done.

JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?

RS: You can gain so much by pursuing photography and photomontage. Stories. Emotions. Skills. Personally, I’ve gained a satisfaction I’ve never experienced before. When I’m creating, I enter this positive flow state, where I lose a sense of space and time. It’s a natural focused high, that happens to result in art. Art that let’s me experience a little wonder and magic and hopefully brings a little to others.

JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?

RS: Creating worlds and stories through Photomontage! It’s a class that will help you create your personal  photomontage from beginning to end. You’ll discover shooting tips, Photoshop tricks, light and shadow creation, deconstruct popular works, and much more.

JD: What do you love most about teaching?

RS: I love that moment, when a student learns something new and I see it in their eyes. It’s that ‘Aha!’ moment when something clicks.  I especially love it when they apply what they’ve learned right then and there in class; and smile because they’re one step closer to creating their own masterpiece.

JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

RS: That’s a tough one. I’ve met several art photographers who I believed have the best careers, but surprisingly also have either another job or an understanding loved one to help support them, while they pursued their art career. So I would say, even though you may not be able to make a bajillion dollar career out of photography. Pursue your art anyways. Find a way without becoming homeless.

So I’ll leave you with a quote  from my favorite author Neil Gaiman:

“And when things get tough, this is what you should do – Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art. Make it on the good days too.”
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