Ricky Adam

A friend of mine introduced me to Ricky Adam’s first photo book “Destroying Everything…Seems Like The Only Option”, and I’m so glad he did because not only did the book sell out pretty quickly but it also re-awoke my interest in documentary photography. The book is a series of images that document a subculture from the inside; the underground world of punk rock, DIY, bikes, gigs and of course cats! What is apparent from the images is that this is Ricky’s life too and his immersion in the scene has allowed his photographs to be grouped together in this intimate setting.

I asked Ricky a couple of questions, the answers to which I hope can help students interested in documentary photography and the process’s of working in this genre.

I’m interested as to how much the DIY ethos and integrity has influenced your work?  

D.I.Y. is something that I’ve more or less been brought up with. Most of my friends growing up were into punk, rode bikes and or skated. So the things I photograph were a direct response to this. For me there is a strong relationship between D.I.Y. punk and taking pictures. I got into punk rock long before I had a camera, but when I eventually got a camera shooting punk was like second nature, same goes for the rest of the things I take photos of.

It’s hard to explain, it just felt right and when I began to see the results it pushed me to take more. No one else was taking photos at shows, so apart from enjoying taking photos as time went on I also felt it was important to document certain aspects of the punk scene that I was involved with.

I only tend to take pictures of things that genuinely interest and inspire me which is why I still feel compelled to photograph the punk scene and the elements that surround it.

 You capture quite intimate moments and some of your shots remind me of W. Eugene Smith, are there any particular photographers who’s work you admire?

Thanks. I’m a big fan of Eugene Smith myself. I admire a lot of the Magnum agency photographers. I like their approach and dedication to the long term projects they work on and the fact they really get involved with the subject. 

There are lots of photographers I like: Eugene Richards, Ed Templeton, Mary Ellen Mark, Glenn E. Friedman, etc. too many to list.

I feel I must say that I truly admire the people who I take photos of. If it wasn’t for them I doubt I would have picked up a camera in the first place.

What cameras do you use for your personal work?

I have a few different cameras that I use. I’m not that much of a ‘gear’ person and have always viewed a camera as just a tool. You don’t need expensive equipment to shoot decent photos. It’s all in the technique leading up to the final execution. I have had a lot of shitty cameras over the years and have got good photos out of all of them. The majority of my photos are shot with just a basic camera and a 50mm lens.

I do still process and print photos but I don’t do it as much these days as I used to. The years I’ve spent in random blacked out rooms/cellars processing and printing have probably shortened my life expectancy by breathing in nasty chemicals.

When I first started out getting into photography there was no such thing as a digital camera so I didn’t have the option. I’m glad I learnt photography the traditional way – it has definitely helped me become a better photographer.

Ricky has a good range of projects and images on his website, and I believe that his book will be getting a second edition so it’s worth looking out for that.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 comments for “Ricky Adam

  1. 5 October 2012 at 2:15 pm

    “You don’t need expensive equipment to shoot decent photos. It’s all in the technique leading up to the final execution. I have had a lot of shitty cameras over the years and have got good photos out of all of them.” – read, mark, learn and inwardly digest!

  2. Jim
    5 October 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I loved the Leeds sequence, and found it very evocative of the place and of the various cultures illustrated. These have been shot with a great deal of empathy and have an insider feel of participant-observer. Not many images to hang on the wall, but if you want to know the place and get a feel for it, have a look. You are right in there.

  3. 6 October 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve enjoyed this read, and Ricky’s website is an interesting page through, that asks a lot of questions… and THAT I like!
    ‘Urbanite’ and ‘From the streets of Leeds UK’ particularly pulled me…
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. 6 October 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Yes, okay Peter – message digested. I’ll stop pining for a Hasselblad!

    Ricky’s images have such a lively immediacy. In some respects they reminded me of the camera phone pics which my grandchildren keep posting on Facebook. I’m not talking quality-wise here – no way! It’s that close-up, here and now action which Ricky captures, his subjects are there for him; combined with such good composition. I’m thinking of one where there’s the perspective and leading lines of a street of houses in the snow with the cyclist wending his way – slightly weaving wheel tracks behind him. It’s almost as if I’m there wondering if he’ll manage to stay upright. the videos on his website are good as well – good soundtracks. He also has a Flickr site.

  5. 7 October 2012 at 11:10 pm

    I really like Ricky’s work and spent quite some time looking at his website. What I really like is that so many of the photos enable me to slide off the image and ask questions and think about urban culture. I also like that the images are not coming from a perspective of detachment – looking at the photos I gain the sense that he is there and engaging and therefore telling a story that has substance.

  6. 7 October 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I really like Ricky’s work and spent quite some time looking at his website. What I really like is that so many of the photos enable me to slide off the image and ask questions and think about urban culture. I also like that the images are not coming from a perspective of detachment – looking at the photos I gain the sense that he is there and engaging and therefore telling a story that has substance.

  7. 11 October 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I agree with Gill, he is definitely fully engaged with his subjects. You can imagine him ridung down the street whilst trying to grab shots of fellow riders.

    His site is very interesting, with some very powerful work on show. I shall be tracking down a copy of his book, and look forward to reading/seeing more of his work.

    Thanks Pete for sharing this interesting character.

  8. 25 October 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I’ve just managed to get hold of this from Amazon – well, it’s in the post anyway…

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