Ryan Brown is a local art photographer living in rural Westminster. He has been employed at the book publisher Penguin Random House since 2019 as a customer service representative, managing independent bookstore accounts in the Midwest.
Brown took the standard art classes when he attended Franklin High School in Reisterstown, with no exceptional skill, other than having an eye for style and color. He was always surrounded by art and artistic people. His brothers Ralph and Russell are illustrators.
“My dear late friend Carlos Batts, who passed in 2012, was a professional photographer from Reisterstown as well,” Brown said. “He was a very big influence in my life.”
id. Batts inspired Brown said Batts inspired him to take chances with art and be fearless with it. Ryan did not begin to create art and music until he was an adult.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Brown made music as a DJ. At that time, he was living in downtown Baltimore and working for Henry Wong, owner of An die Musik, a highly respected and intimate classical and jazz music space on Charles Street. Because An die Musik is just down the street from the Peabody Conservatory, the students frequented it often.
Brown met a Peabody student, Jay Seay, a trumpet player.
“He and I started hanging out and began to create music together. It was a mixture of music including hip hop, improvisational jazz and fusion rock,” Brown said. “A couple weeks later, we met Greg Gaither, another musician that played bass.”
They formed a band called AudioFix and between 2000 and 2006 they played shows in Baltimore, Washington, and Virginia including local festivals such as Artscape and the Charles Village Festival. They recorded three CDs, one of which was recorded live at An die Musik.
After getting married in 2008, Brown and his wife moved to Westminster. At the same time, he began taking photographs.
Brown worked at the Walters Art Museum for 17 years. There, he got to meet a lot of people and see all the exhibitions. He also had the opportunity to see the behind-the-scenes activities daily.
While working for the Walters, Brown was able to study different art forms, styles, and mediums. He began to pick out what he liked, preferring classic art such as Renoir, Picasso and Klimt.
In 2016, after having two daughters, Brown and his wife were separated. During this time apart, his wife Tere suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed.
“I was under a lot of pressure and stress, and I was scared about the future of my family,” Brown said.
After almost two years in the hospital, Brown’s wife was finally ready to return home,
“I had decided then that it was paramount to keep our family together,” Brown said.
He reunited with her, moved back to Westminster and is now her caregiver.
“When you are a caregiver, everything changes; you develop new insecurities, new routines, new vices. You question yourself, your level of empathy,” Brown said. “You sacrifice something every day.”
These life transitions provided time for Brown to look at the clouds more closely, taking more photos. He studied his photographs from prior years. He looked over everything. Brown’s photography was about isolation and that was changing.
“My art wants to live. There’s passion in the sky. The images were coming to life as I studied them. I found another world,” Brown said.
“Going through the pandemic, I was home a lot, and there were times when I’d be up all night. If the moon was full and there were clouds out, I would go outside and take photos. Those photos are some of my favorites; there’s something about moonlight. Nothing really looks like it. We are so busy, out there driving around, consuming, working, and the world is moving too, the skies are constantly changing. I am just catching a moment in time.”
He started making developing photo series. One is called “Deities” because the images look like divine figures in the sky. The “Nocturnal” series consists of images of the moon and clouds.
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“I like to shoot at night and early morning,” Brown said. “Catching the sun coming up can be so magical. The colors are magnificent at dawn.”
Another series he is working on is called “Trees.” These images resemble trees made of earth and industry. Brown decided to get his images printed on big canvases.
“I want to print them all. I want the public to see my photographs,” he said. “I think they are powerful images with great colors. I want people to want to decorate their homes with my prints.”
“My art is how I interact with nature. The sky is a great model. There is still natural beauty out there and to be able to capture a piece of it is most inspiring and uplifting. Finding anything beautiful is important.”
Brown is a member of the Carroll County Arts Council. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Lyndi McNulty is the owner of Gizmo’s Art in Westminster. Her column, An Eye for Art, appears regularly in Life & Times.