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.