:: artists i like :: ruvan wijesooriya, photographer

I am super excited to share the next installment of my interview series "Artists I like" with one of my photography friends Ruvan Wijesooriya. Ruvan is a NYC based photographer and has an incredible eye to capture amazing moments. Hope you enjoy!

Jainé: Your portfolio ranges from fashion to portrait photography. How did you get started in the photography business?
Ruvan: A combo of doing music journalism and assisting fashion stylists when I first moved to New York somehow led me to photography. I’m a curious person and the camera feeds that curiosity, and allows me to share it with others. Shooting bands taught me how to deal with unlikely subjects and non-models. Chasing subject matter gave stories to my photographs, many of which were portraits. By the time I got around to models and fashion, I knew how to get a fairly definitive picture pretty fast.

J: So, tell us about your recent trip to Afghanistan. Where you nervous traveling over there?
R: The trip to Afghanistan was through Roots of Peace and through my friend, humanitarian Kyleigh Kuhn for two weeks at the end of April. I want to keep the photos a surprise, since there is a wealth of images and I’m still figuring out what to do with them, how to exhibit them, how to edit them. In retrospect I probably wasn’t as nervous as I should have been; however, I was happy to have dark, South Asian skin, happy I was photographing Afghan culture and life, working with schools and farmers, extremely happy nobody I was with was carrying a gun and that I wasn’t working for a government. I’d like to think I’m disarming as a person, though I’m fully aware that the nicest most careful person in the world with best intentions can get their nuts blown off over there with relative ease.

J: Who and what inspires you? Do you have any photography heroes?
R: Faces, history, anecdotes, experience, people of all kinds – they all inspire me. At the moment, ideas are what inspire my own work, though another part of my work is purely aesthetic. Nudity has been inspiring me, as well as putting myself in less comfortable situations or taking on characters in my mind and thinking as that character – acting, I guess. The views from airplane windows are inspiring, thinking about stars, listening to music. So much is inspiring to me – everyday crap and the most rare things ever can be equally inspiring. There are too many photography heroes to mention, but the best two photography shows I have seen were at the Tate Modern: “STREET AND STUDIO: An Urban History of Photography” and “EXPOSED: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera.” Both were incredible and changed my idea of what photography is and can be; the majority of my heroes were featured in those shows and in the exhibition catalog books.

J: Your photography was on Gossip Girl a few seasons ago which must have been so fun. Did any of the cast keep some of the photos?
R: Haha!! Yeah - it was super fun – a real treat! It was the first time the producers had done this kind of a collaboration, so I was honored to be that person for them and relieved they were ecstatic about the results. I believe a couple of the prints were given to cast members as presents, which was fine by me, given the circumstance. There’s still about 6 or 7 of my prints hanging on the set of that show.

J: What's in your camera bag? What is one thing you cannot live without?
R: I really dislike having a camera bag – its like a “murse” [a man-purse] and its just a pain to have at all times, though I usually have it with me. If not, I have a jacket with a fair amount of pockets, and I usually have two point and shoots with two different film stocks and then maybe extra rolls of film for each. It doesn’t make for the most flattering silhouette, but there’s no better option. My jackets are always weighing me down and it kinda sucks. There’s too much I can’t live without.

J: I love how you capture moments that your subjects *sometimes aren't aware of. Can you describe your photography style?
R: I guess my photographs tell stories. They are active and subject-driven. I like to think they have purpose, if not for basic documentation, then to convey a message or an emotion that will demand a response. Catching a moment is very crucial to me – it is the challenge. Most of the time when I’m taking a picture I see it right before it happens, and that is what allows to actually be active at capturing the picture at that split second. You have to anticipate the moment. I don’t actually see the moment I’m capturing when using an SLR. That’s a nerdy thing to say, but true.

J: What is your next project you're working on?
R: I’m working on a few things. My main project is to do a book or two with the pictures I shot in Afghanistan – there are some sample pictures on my site. In the more immediate future I’m directing an exhibition in Gothenburg. The theme for it is Peter Pan Syndrome, but its called N. I’ll also show my work in the show. I’m really psyched because I think there will be a lot of mentoring and collaboration between older artists and younger ones, the younger one being in their late teens/early twenties. 

J: If you weren't taking photos, what else would you be doing?
R: Making music, exercising more, feeling less through my eyes, maybe living in a different city. I’ve been doing it now for long enough that I actually don’t know what else I would be doing.

Thank you Ruvan for taking the time to do this interview! If you'd like to see or buy some of Ruvan's amazing work, visit his website www.ruvan.com.

*all images provided by ruvan from ruvan.com

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thank you so much for your kind note! xo, jainé