In the year 2000 a competition by invitation was held for a new headquarters for The New York Times. The winning design by Renzo Piano Building Workshop¬†incorporated an outer layer of 175,000 ceramic rods acting as an effective sunscreen while allowing natural light to flood in through the transparent glass inner facade. Light and shadow in interesting shapes and shards sweep through the offices with each news cycle as the day develops from morning into night.
Long time director of photography¬†at The New York Times Magazine, Kathy Ryan spends her days commissioning and considering images made by the best photographers in the world, but it was only noticing the light in her new sixth floor office one day that inspired her to look through the lens herself. So to speak; her photographs are all made with the camera on her phone, and her publishing platform is Instagram.
Through Ryan’s command of light and shadow, a stack of papers, old flowers somebody has forgotten to throw out, and a tangerine brought for lunch are transformed into formal still lifes; regular office scenes become dramatic or peaceful depending on the time of day. Ryan’s photographs offer a different perspective on ‘the office’, so often thought of as a place to anticipate leaving every evening or lunch break. Her passion project reminds us of the intense inspiration found in a fulfilling job and in these spaces where we grow, become uplifted by a new idea or make meaningful connections with the people we work with.
While Ryan’s exploration is ongoing, a selection of her photographs were compiled in a book, Office Romance, published by Aperture, who describe her work as a¬†photographic love song to life at her office. This is an excerpt from the Afterword in Office Romance, in Ryan’s own words:
Office life is underappreciated as a subject for photographers. Family albums¬†are filled with snapshots of holidays, celebrations, and vacations. You won‚Äôt¬†find many pictures of people at work. Thanks to the light in this extraordinary¬†building, I can bring some romance to this subject. In my case, there‚Äôs an¬†extra twist. I work every day with photographers all over the world. I call¬†people up and ask them, ‚ÄúCan you hop on a plane and get to Uganda by the¬†day after tomorrow?‚Äù or, ‚ÄúCan you be in Brazil next week?‚Äù I am in awe of¬†how photographers drop everything, gather up their gear, and get on a plane.
But that life wouldn‚Äôt suit me. I like reporting to the same place every day, in¬†the middle of Times Square, in the middle of New York City.¬†I love it that in my world of exotic photographers, doing ambitious projects¬†all over the world, I‚Äôm here at this one place all the time, in an area the size of¬†a postage stamp, making my pictures.
Follow the ongoing project at¬†www.instagram.com/kathyryan1.
Office Romance, photographs by Kathy Ryan (Aperture, 2014)