Interview with Ryan Chernikoff


Q: Hi Ryan, tell us something about your life and yourself.  
 I live in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. I am a self-taught film-photographer. I work at a non-profit managing a public food-pantry and men's transitional living facility. I have a six-year-old daughter, Natalie and two cats, Steven and Esme.  
Q: When and why did you start taking pictures? 
I have been taking pictures on and off since I was a teenager, I would take pictures of my friends skateboarding and whatever else caught my eye, mostly inanimate objects. I only really started shooting consistently a few years ago when I stopped using drugs and alcohol and needed something to occupy my time.  
Q: How would you define your work? Do you agree that your work has its roots in the New Topographics? 
 I would define my work as whatever catches my eye at the time. I go through phases where I only see certain things like certain types of cars, certain landscapes, certain colors. I follow my intuition, always, and that can lead to a scattered body of work a lot of the time. A part of me hopes that I will never find that one type of thing I like to shoot, I really enjoy the search. After Googling "New Topographics" I would say: yes, it looks as if many of my photos fall into that realm. 
 Q: Many of your shots are taken at night, is there a specific reason? 
 I shoot at night a lot because we have very little light for much of the year in Alaska. Some of my night shots during the winter are actually taken in the afternoon, around three or four.    
Q: You live in Alaska, is there a link between this isolated warehouse or barn or rusty cars you photograph and the Alaskan life? I mean, from my point of view it looks like a poetic simile. Alaska is a large and beautiful state, but there are many areas that are filled with remains of people's interactions with the land. I find myself shooting a lot of abandoned structures and areas on my road trips because there is so much of it. I think that's me trying to express my own feelings at that moment about my perception of the Alaskan life. In the end I always find that I am communicating what is inside of me with the world around me, without even realizing it much of the time.  

Q: Why do you still shoot film? Can you tell an upside and a downside of using film? 
 I shoot film because it is my personal preference. I like the look and feel of film. The upside to shooting film for me is the end result, I find it very satisfying to have my hand in each stage of making a photo, from pressing the shutter release, to developing the film, to making the print; I am in love with the process. The downside to shooting film is that it can be costly.  
Q: Do you consider the dark room part of the creation or does the creation end when you press the button? 
I consider the darkroom part of the creation process. I do try to make my photos with the camera, that is the goal, but film development and printing technique is just as important and rewarding as shooting the photo.   - Who is your favourite photographer?  Oh man, there are so many to choose from, I can say that one photographer who I admire greatly is Eggleston.   
Q: Do you have any forthcoming projects? 
Definitely new projects in the works. I am always working on new zine ideas. I find myself working more on getting my photos on paper than I ever have before. I do love sharing my photos online, but actually holding a print or zine of my photos in my hand is a great feeling; I want more of that.  
Q: Suggest us a film or an album.
Oh man, that's a tough one... Musically I would say anything by Bonnie Prince Billy. Also, Jacob's Ladder is one of my all-time favorite movies.               


All images © Ryan Chernikoff