The greatest gift to any artist is an audience. One of the hardest challenges to being an artist is staying an artist because the passion tends to die without anyone reinforcing the work. Ryan Sweezey, a mere sophomore in high school, has become a breakout photographer in the South Shore art scene with his poignant, dramatic, and paradoxically ephemeral works that tell a whole story in a fraction of a second. Ryan’s moving, intricate, and pensive shots belie a wisdom and skill set well beyond his 16 years.
As publications have lamentably been downsizing their staff for a leaner overhead to survive the death of print media, many reporters often serve as photographers for their stories. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, only a true professional and gifted artist can ever really produce the type of image that can attract and engage a reader enough to want to read a thousand words. Making his debut as a photographer for a local paper through his dapper coverage of a charity fashion show last year, Ryan turned a VFW Hall into the glam runways of the ’50s’ society models. Having a consummate artist’s eye, Ryan’s take was both encompassing of the overarching occasion and embracing of true human delight.
Falling into photography after some amateur work on his new iPhone, Ryan’s father, Craig, nurtured and funded Ryan’s newfound interest. After posting Ryan’s photos of the Sayville Pet Parade on Facebook, the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce took notice and hired Ryan and Craig to cover other events.
“I had just taken the photos for myself and wanted to share with people online, but I never thought I would be recognized for my work,” Ryan said of his first assignment.
Chamber president, Eileen Tyznar, has been instrumental in Ryan’s success and sustained work as she has made Sweezey Photography her go-to for chamber events.
“Eileen has been such a force of growth and positivity for Ryan,” Craig said fondly. “She has been so supportive and unbelievably generous in her praise.”
“Ryan’s energy, his balance of creativity and inspiration that drives the photos, are what brings a new perspective and outlook, even a personalization, to our chamber and town events,” said Tyznar.
But what is it about Ryan’s work that sets him apart from the basic sun/beach crowd that tends to dominate the Long Island art scene? In short, Ryan’s genius comes from his reticence and admiration for the other players in the game. Never one to dominate his space, Ryan hides among the crowd, constantly on the move, to capture the true spirit of a moment unposed and inspired. Whether it is the stillness or the action of a shot, Ryan is able to flow with the energy of his subjects and tell their story as only a true artist can.
In covering a Civil War reenactment, Ryan’s photos were cinematic in their quality, telling the tale of a hard-fought battle, but keeping in the forefront the cost of life sans the politics. During the busy holiday season, Ryan was able to tell each Santa visit with its own unique narrative. Finally, in his year-end review of photos, Ryan was able to compile the town’s rich history in the past 12 months with awe-inspiring photos that celebrated the desire of everyone to enjoy life.
As his technical abilities grow, Ryan’s work can only get more probing and more moving. Continuing his journey as an artist, Ryan is a welcome voice of his generation in his ability to see and capture life in its grandest and quietest moments.