…they remain, in spite of every enhancement of art, only a superior kind of wax-works; but to the responsive fancy they may give magic glimpses of the boundary world between fact and imagination.
– Edith Wharton on Tableaux Vivants, from House of Mirth, 1905
Ryan Schude is a Los Angeles-based visual artist working primarily in photography and motion pictures. The focus of his work over the past 15 years has been the creation of staged narrative scenes in the tradition of tableaux vivants carried over from painting and theater. His process generally begins with a location as the inspiration for a story. Using both actors and real people depending on the concept, subjects are cast according to specific roles; props, wardrobe, and cinematic lighting are used to embellish the scene.
When working with families and non-actor portrait subjects, the process is often reversed: a location is chosen which helps to tell the story of who they are, while using the same approach to lighting and set design. The consistency of his approach to both fictional narratives and documentary portraits has led to the creation of a body of work which is cohesive and singular in its creative vision. Whether the images feature a solitary person with their car in front of their home, or a group of 40 artists at a creative retreat in the forest, the common thread among them is a sense of bearing witness to a moment frozen in time, with an ambiguous backstory, inviting the audience to engage in their own interpretation of what came before, and what comes after.
The collaborative process of staging subjects within a scene is as important as the final photograph and is treated as a kind of performance, lending an improvisational feel to the subjects’ actions. This outlined but unscripted approach creates an opportunity for the subjects to fully embody their characters, react to the setting, and for the photographer-director to respond to how each relates to one another in turn. It is a methodology which results in a hyper-real image, occupying a liminal space between the banal and the fantastic.
On display at Helms Design Center for one week beginning 7.10.20
All artwork is copyrighted work of the artist. All rights reserved. Images not to be used without permission.