Last year during Artprize, I was running late for a meeting at the Amway Grand Plaza and decided to take a shortcut through DeVos Place. I came across Ryan Spencer Reed‘s submission and it stopped me in my tracks. There were swarms of people around him and since I had somewhere to be I quickly introduced myself, gave him my card and asked him to call me about possibly working together in the future. He did, we are and it makes me feel very fortunate to know this great talent.
Last night Grand Rapids’ creative crowd gathered at the Richard App Gallery for Ryan’s opening reception “Shades of Grandeur.“ The show features a compilation of 33 images taken from throughout Michigan and the entire nation — each piece created to be a chapter of a finished story.
Ryan has an innate ability to pull emotion into every frame. Tim Motley, a photographer I very much admire, said “there is not one weak image in this collection.” about Ryan’s work. A huge compliment coming from him and as a gallery owner, curator and lover of visual images it makes me proud to hang such a powerful show.
Reed explains that the images are a product of a pilgrimage to rediscover things left behind through the dim and murky light of history. Some are filled with symbols while others are simply about conveying mood or feeling. They are an attempt to tell the story of a nation amidst the death of the American Industrial Revolution, when ambitions of empire and the specter of hubris pull at a superpower in transition – at odds with itself and gasping for compass beyond the precipice of shifting paradigm.
Ryan’s journey began documenting critical social issues when he self-financed a move to east Africa. He worked in that region and covered the Sudanese Diaspora for nearly 7 years. Ryan has entered Sudan a half dozen times in addition to covering the mass exodus of refugees to Eastern Chad and Kenya. In late summer 2004, he returned from covering the War in Darfur to produce that body of work for distribution. This work was widely exhibited in the States and abroad. The Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute awarded him with the Documentary Photography Project’s Distribution Grant in 2006 to help this work reach additional audiences. While exhibiting and speaking internationally on the subject of Sudan, he has begun a long-term project on the hubris of power and the twilight of the American industrial revolution. A chapter of this work on Detroit is currently being distributed.
Ryan’s “Sudan: The Cost of Silence” placed in the Top 25 in 2011’s ArtPrize.
Ryan’s work will be up through April 15. Come take a look and see what story you hear and see.
To learn more about Ryan Spencer Reed, visit his website: http://www.ryanspencerreed.com/
Photography: Terry Johnston :: Story: Richard App