We were lucky enough to catch up with Ryan this week and he gave us an insight into his utterly charming project ‘Old People In Parks’.
What is it about China that stands out to you?
‘It’s day-to-day chaotic unpredictability. You cannot predict what happens in China, who you’ll meet, and what you’ll see. It’s an exciting country to visit, let alone live in the long-term.’
The images have a childlike playfulness to them, is this something the elderly people have?
‘The energy the elderly people have is certainly proactive and positive, and in that sense, it is similar to that of a child.’
How would you describe the elderly population in China?
‘As a broad generalisation, I’d say the main difference between elderly Chinese people and elderly British people is that elderly Chinese people care more about how long they can live; elderly British people care more about enjoying the rest of their life. Perhaps the most obvious difference on first sight is that old Chinese people smoke more; old British people drink more!’
What’s in your camera bag?
‘Ricoh GR II and Fujifilm X-T2 are the cameras I bring out most often for both casual everyday photography and street photography. In terms of film cameras—and depending on the occasion—I also use Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Konica Hexar AF, Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F, Fujifilm Klasse W and Polaroid SX-70.’
Could you describe your workflow from idea to outcome?
‘That’s a difficult question. It depends on the type of project. I would say the conception of most of my projects are happy accidents. If it’s a street photography project, the theme tends to arise the more I walk around. Once you’ve shot enough photos, you can begin to piece a theme together. You find the theme of the project in the editing room, just like you would with a documentary film. This is the interesting thing about recording reality. You can’t precisely choose what it’s going to be about in advance because you can’t plan what’s going to happen in the real world.
In regards to my film projects, an idea will occasionally come to me just as I’m about to sleep and I’ll jot it down on my phone. If the idea keeps nagging away at me, I know it’s a keeper. All of my screenplays are thrillers so I guess I’m attracted to mystery. I also quite like endings without a resolution. That probably explains why I live in China. I’m very independent in what I do and, as with my photography, I do everything myself. For example, my feature documentary “The Hostel” took a whole year to film and over 2 years to edit. I did everything on it – directed, produced, filmed, edited, and sound edited and mixed. It’s hard to get a crew that’ll work on something for free or cheaply, so I normally just rely on myself.’
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Oh, there are certainly quite a few idols I have who inspire me. But in terms of the style and aesthetic of my work, film auteurs such as Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Ozu, Wong Kar-wai, Edward Yang and Hiroshi Teshigahara are amongst the most influential.
For more of Ryans work, head over to his website –