Ryan Thomas Kenny

Employing friends and family as subjects, the Australian photographer captures raw nostalgia around him with a unique distorted glow

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Ryan Thomas Kenny is an auspicious young photographer based in Adelaide, Australia. At 19 years of age, he’s shot for a considered selection of local and international independent magazines, and has shown his works in a number of exhibitions. Kenny’s low-fi photographs feature local youths hanging out and running amuck around town, or lost and listlessly exploring nature.

Forget the clichés: these adolescents are far from the brooding misfits typical of most youth-oriented portfolios. Instead, his subjects are seen through the eyes of a friend and coconspirator, appearing akin to the forgotten pre-Facebook youths of yesteryear: untamed, uninhibited and unleashed upon the world.

Dazed Digital: When did you start taking photos?
Ryan Thomas Kenny:
It was towards the end of 2009.

DD: Wow. That wasn’t too long ago! How did you get started?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: I started out when my Dad got me a photography book for my birthday back in November. I got into that and slowly just got more and more interested. I got obsessed with National Geographic magazines, then got obsessed with random photographer David Alan Harvey, and then… Yeah, I got obsessed.

DD: Who are the people in your photographs?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: All of them are friends. This year, I shot my first proper fashion shoot, and the girl I shot for that was the first girl I’ve shot that I haven’t really known, so that was a bit of a wild experience. Most of the people in my photos are girlfriends, friends, or family sometimes too.

DD: Prior to that, have most of your photos been spontaneous?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: Yeah, big time. My friends have gotten used to me taking photos constantly. At the start they were all kind of camera shy and awkward and never looked at the camera, but now they kind of do what they do and I feel free to take photos of them.

DD: Tell me about some of the epic locations you’ve shot in?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: Some of the more epic locations have been like, when we went on a road trip to central Australia, recently, and there were some crazy landscapes there. Then there was the Blue Mountains near Sydney.

DD: What do you do other than photography?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: I play in a band called Fake Tan. We played with Wavves when they came to Adelaide. We played a shit show, but yeah, that was fun. So I do that, and then I’m enrolled in visual arts at uni, but I deferred because I had to do some photography stuff. I thought, I may as well put all of my time and effort into photos and then, do music on the side.

DD: What artists do you look up to?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: Most of my inspiration really comes so much from other photographers. I used to be obsessed with painting, and so…

DD: Were you any good at it?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: No. That’s kind of why I chose to take photos instead. I love the idea of painting, of creating something kind of real, ‘cause my favourite painters — well two of them — are Brett Whiteley and Jeffrey Smart. Through Jeffery Smart I got obsessed with  making things that are quite normal look really surreal, and that’s what I try and do with this photography I guess. I try to kind of make the obvious and boring — like even just us out at the pub, or out in the wilderness — seem surreal.

DD: Why did you call your exhibition ‘Minimum Chips’?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: 'Minimum Chips’ was the first lyric of the first song we wrote in Fake Tan, and it kind of just rung true with what the photos were about: going out and having fun and being poor and being at the beach.

DD: How did you pick the pics?
Ryan Thomas Kenny: I pretty much just picked my favourite photos taken during the year, and tried to — ‘cause I take photos of pretty much everything — make them all fit together. So they’re all in the wilderness. There’s not one sign of civilization in the photos, I think, and they were all kind of weird. It was like having this surreal landscape, and sticking a person in the middle of it.

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