Mardi Gras with Ryan Hodsgon-Rigsbee

The Southern Glossary Instagram account is curated by a new artist or photographer each week. Every curator will put their own spin on the account, showing off work, their process, and their surroundings. Here's a Q&A with last week's curator, photographer Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee.

Location: New Orleans, LA  Website:  Instagram@rhrphotography

When did your interest in photography begin?

As a child growing up in Chicago, I was always into drawing, painting and visual arts in general. In high school I discovered photography and, more importantly, documentary photography. My parents are both social workers and the documentary appoarch had great appeal in aiding views in reconsidering the world around them. In college I studied photojournalism and went into working at a newspaper right after graduation. But in 2005 the world was changing from film to digital, newspapers were downsizing everywhere, and by 2007 I had left my staff position in Los Angeles to return to Chicago as a freelancer.

In 2008 the freelance market fell apart, and I was forced to take a step back and rethink my approach. I knew that the only way I could continue being a photographer was to develop my own content and perspective rather than waiting for a publication to contact me. I took a five year hiatus from working as a professional photographer, and started documenting music festivals and urban nature on my own time.

When my New Orleans girlfriend, now wife, decided to move back to New Orleans I didn't need much convincing to follow her. Since moving to New Orleans at the beginning of 2012, I have been keeping busy documenting the amazing community and culture of the Crescent City. In a time of so much conflict, my hope is to create content that shows the strength and beauty of local community when it comes together.

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

We live in a time when photography is attainable to all, which has created a ocean of photographers overnight. As a visual communicator who documents big and small communities, I have a great responsibility to my subjects to be respectful their image and the access they provide, while maintaining an honest story for viewers. In most cases the work is shared with the subject, so both parties are empowered by the endeavor.

Do you have a creative or artistic peer group in your area that you're a part of? What opportunities are there for artists like yourself?

As a photographer, I continually find myself as a lone wolf within the professional community. I have made it a point to not participate in the over-documentation of certain subjects, and I prefer to take on a new perspective on old topics. With that said, I work with amazing community communicators from writers to painters and audio engineers to enhance my work and theirs. Photography can create a passive wall between the subject and photographer, so I make a point to be present within the community and as a result have developed many great friendships along the way.

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

I am a bit of a wanderer in life, and draw inspiration from many different places. In photography a number of my favorites are Martin Parr, Joel Sternfeld, Lars Turbjork, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Michael P. Smith, Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb, Herman Leonard, Bruce Strong, Lauren Greenfield, Carolyn Drake, Susana Rabb, Michael Christopher Brown, Matt Eich, Andres Gonzalez, Matt Mallams and so many more.

Living in the west awakened in me a deep love for nature, which has become a constant theme and subject through out my work. In my five years living as an adult in Chicago, I discovered a love for Taoism which altered my perception of life and photographic approach. In that time period I worked as a tutor and mentor for a learning center, and working with children had a profound impact on the type of content I was interested in creating.

Hard-hitting photos of war, sex, drugs, poverty, and conflict in general that are rewarded in the photojournalism community are not for youth who are inheriting this world. We have moved away from the days of essays on country doctors and unexpected heroes for the more dramatic topics that sell. So now my goal is to create content that all ages can take in and consider.

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

I am constantly pushing myself to make images that I am excited about, and there is a great thrill when a moment like that lines up in my frame. I miss having a photo community I regularly interact with, but with the internet I can continually be humbled and inspired by the amazing photography being created by many others.

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.

There are many plans for the future but no defined or scheduled events. I will be launching a number of essays on my site over the next few months with great audio and writing. The two big essays will be Winfield 2014 [a large folk music festival in Kansas-ed.]and Carnival Season 2015, both of which will feature great audio for viewers to lose themselves in the content. Beyond that is back out the door to find something new.

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