Eye On: Ryan Koopmans

Avant/Garde Diaries
Apr 12, 2013 7:09PM

Dutch-born and New York-based photographer Ryan Koopmans captures the effects of rapid expansion in countries like Kazakhstan, and pretty much everything else in between. If he isn't on a vision quest in the rainforest of Vancouver Island you may find him riding night trains in the Siberian steppe or documenting beauty pageants in Beijing. His quest for adventure pays off and his growing body of work will likely serve as a priceless historic document of our changing landscapes.

What motivates you to take photos?The only way to take interesting photos is to submerge myself into an interesting environment, if I’m interested in the subject, that’s what makes the photo interesting.

Is there one area of the world that you're particularly drawn to? For what reasons? 
I am drawn, photographically, to the world’s rapidly expanding and hyper-globalized cities, particularly those that have invested heavily in large-scale urban planning and modernist/futurist architecture. I find that the topographically surreal environments that are products of that planning and architecture set the state for interesting photo opportunities, from close up and afar. Cities in Asia and the former Soviet Union are transforming particularly quickly, and are very interesting to me at this point in time.

I’m fascinated by the way the oldest cities in the world are being dwarfed and rapidly encroached upon by mega development. New centers are being built from the ground up, some rising from towns to metropolis within only a few years. National identities and ambitions are increasingly blurred into a big hypermodern spectacle of re-appropriated cultural forms and traditional architectural motifs.

The rate of global transformation in our built environments and its effect on the natural world has become increasingly important to me. I’m drawn to the ironic aspects of our relationship with nature, like bulldozing a rainforest to install eco-friendly infrastructure that ‘improves’ the surrounding environment. Similarly, I look for points of discrepancy where fantastical computer-generated renderings of a landscape or building proposal either reflect or fail to portray an ideal.

On top of that, the places I find interesting to shoot usually have an important personal history to me, which is also why they are significant. A friend was killed there, a girl I loved once moved there, everything I own was made there, or an obsession since childhood drew me there.

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Avant/Garde Diaries