Five Questions for Ryk Ekedal aka z.ikon1399

20 Feb

1 How long have you been taking photos?
Since I was a teenager, but not continuously. For many years, I only made photographs on hiking trips into the mountains of California or elsewhere, including Canada, New Zealand and Tasmania. Otherwise, I would have spells of relative inactivity, interspersed with fits of wandering around with a camera in some of the strange places I’ve lived in various parts of the U.S.  I learned film early on and still prefer it to the painful sameness-of-look that characterizes most digital “photography”, which I prefer to call electronic imaging. Since I began to use medium-format cameras four years ago, I have become interested, much to my surprise, in going out to wander the less photographed parts of New York City, particularly with the old cameras that have come my way. I don’t consider myself to be much of a city person though, and if I had my way, I’d shoot landscapes in places like Nova Scotia, Scotland or the Sierra Nevada of California.

2 Why do you take photos?

I don’t know exactly why. Certain things attract my attention as I walk around that I want to photograph. Light and shadow is the organizing principle of photographic representation, and the best way to record that is with B & W film, via the tone-color of surfaces and voids. When I use various color films, the problems become more akin to painting, as the variables in composing and constructing the image increase dramatically. With the square negative of medium-format in particular, I suppose that I’m always trying to construct an essentially imaginary conception of what I encounter in the field. I’m especially conscious of how both the deep-space illusion caused by perspective cues joins with the divisions of the picture plane  (photographic frame), to form an image that elicits the sensation of being in a particular place at a particular time. The way in which such formal concerns engage the edge of the frame is also something I am somewhat obsessed with, probably to an unhealthy degree. But as I noted above, the resulting image is essentially an imaginary thing to look at, without the intention of any sort of narrative or what is commonly called “realism”. What the viewer sees might be something entirely different. But I don’t have any control over that, which is a very good thing indeed.

3 What’s your favourite camera ?

The camera that I have at the time, as I’ve heard it said by others. But as I’ve mentioned, medium-format is what I prefer these days. I use a 1980s vintage Hasselblad 500cm as my work-horse. There’s something about it being an SLR that I find to be oddly comforting. I also like the way it sounds when the shutter is released, especially in abandoned buildings. I also love my Rolleiflex 2.8 F, but it currently has light leak problems which I’ve yet to resolve. If I shoot 35mm, I use a Contax RTS from the 1970s, or a Leica M 4 from the 1960s. For stealth I use a Rollei 35 pocket camera, perfect for the NYC subway or intrusive street photography.

 4 Favourite Location?

Places that I find while wandering around, sometimes with fellow photographer friends who know the city much better than do I. I should say that I do not “look” for anything in particular, but find the stuff I want to photograph by chance or by luck, which is how most people with cameras work it seems. I tend to return to the places that have some sort of hold on me: certain industrial or post-industrial parts of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx; or, dark, abandoned buildings have a romantic/picaresque quality that is a real challenge to make work in a photograph, as so much of the “Urbex” stuff that I see is dreary, boring, and mostly unimaginative documentation; or, underneath bridges or elevated highways or anything that produces deep shadow on sunny days. With each return visit, I see something that I hadn’t seen before, and am always surprised. The only constant is a preference for mid to late afternoon light.

5  Favourite Lens?

I prefer to use so-called “standard” focal length lenses. For medium format, either an 80mm or 75mm lens. Since so much of what I photograph includes architectural elements, the inherent distortion of wide-angle lenses always causes problems for me. I love the painterly tonal quality that Zeiss lenses on both the Hassie and Rolleiflex produce, whether with B & W or with color. With 135 film, I’m more inclined to use both standard 50mm and 35mm or 40mm, medium wide-angle lenses. Leitz lenses have a more graphic tonal quality to them, which, when I’m shooting 135 film, is a refreshing change from the brilliant, smooth world of Zeiss.



Find more work by Ryk at


4 Responses to “Five Questions for Ryk Ekedal aka z.ikon1399”

  1. sedge808 February 21, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Love all of these.
    so beautiful.

  2. sedge808 February 21, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Reblogged this on Noir.

  3. paolo barzman February 23, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    Very interesting indeed… and since I’m convalescing and have some time on my hands, here are a few lines from my bloated prose…. what strikes me so much in your images, is your capacity to escape the conventional realistic narrative of photography yet still being resolutely figurative…(not that narrative-realism is bad…)… it’s just your way of “re-presenting” urban geography… Now that I understand a little more about your process, I’m starting to see the picture…

    What you photograph is not a subject, nor an object, nor is it an identifiable “story”… what makes your pictures is a relationship; space, depth, the incidence of light in that equation, the graphic tension that these elements/dynamics create as they co-exist and feed each other in a determined frame… That’s why when one discovers your pictures for the first time, a strange sense of vertigo arises: what is one supposed to look at? The eye journeys randomly in the image, trying to decipher recognizable elements… but these elements are not really there with their usual narrative function… what is recognizable is something else, less tangible, less immediately readable; a tension, a metaphysical juxtaposition of graphic events…

    What you shoot is that “system”… that invisible mechanism (the same way the immune system is invisible — it’s the totality and relationship of all its elements that define it… that’s why, for me, your pictures have an uncompromising philosophical underlying in its desire (conscious or not) to reveal “the structures and tensions behind”… No specific element of the equation really overpowers the others — they all function in a state of graphic democracy… it’s the totality of all the elements and tensions that make the image…

    Randomness combined to a very forceful set of technical rules are essential in the making of these images… very unique… very special in the way they question and do not accept any answer… cheers…!

    • R. Ekedal March 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

      Paolo: My belated thanks for your comment—I was unable to read it for some reason until now, maybe because I don’t use Twitter (or have a mobile phone for that matter) or use FB. Anyway…

      I think you’ve outlined here, in a very concise fashion, what I often end up doing with the camera when I wander around. But I cannot say that any of the things you mention are conscious acts or choices in the process of making. Which is probably why I usually feel like I don’t know what I’m doing when I go out, I just think about getting exposure and framing “right”, whatever that means. What I think may turn out to be crap usually ends up being surprising, and what I think should be good, just crap.
      And yes, I have no interest in “answers”, because there aren’t any. Only more questions.
      Best Regards, R.

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