Our featured artist this month is Ian Lyn, an East New York based photographer.
Where are you from? How long have you lived in Brooklyn?
I’m originally from Brooklyn, and I’ve been a resident of East New York since 1997.
How long have you been a photographer?
On the level that I’m on now, about 2 years.
Who or what influenced your decision to become an artist?
The fact that people need to document their lives, the daily things that go on around them. Also I find art makes people happy, and that’s one thing that I do, I like to see people happy.
What else or who else inspires you artistically?
Really, my family, friends, other photographers, other artists. I’m new and I’m kind of learning my contemporaries. But as far as looking back to the past – of course there’s Gordon Parks, several painters, and my peers around me who push each other to do art or photography projects. I also credit God, my wife, and my children.
What defines your particular style?
Basically portraits, captured moments. I like to capture motion, I don’t like posed photos.
Most of the people [I photograph] – either from my church or my community or where I live – most of them are East New York residents. I kind of use that as my test subjects.
I see so much beauty in people; I want people to see themselves clear and vivid. I have an album on my Facebook called You! that I started maybe three years ago. Just people that I know. If you ever read the stories behind You!, all those stories are true, there’s nothing made up. I’ll catch you off guard. You may think it’s your worst timing and I’m like “No, I see something, I see the lighting, I see the shadows, I see your hair.” You might be worn out from work but there’s this glow of you being worn out from work. Or you may have had a hard day, but no, there’s something I see that you can’t see, and I’m gonna capture that for the moment. I get “Oh man, nah nah nah nah.” I’m like “Trust me, When you see the final product, you’re gonna see what I saw.” And the majority of time, that’s what people see.
What’s your favorite place in Brooklyn to visit for inspiration?
I drive an MTA bus, so I’m all over Brooklyn. Actually when I’m driving, I’m scouting.
There’s an old Long Island Railroad track – it’s called the Sheepshead Bay line.
One day I was on the B7 and I saw some old rusted freight cars. And I thought “God, if I could just get up there one day just to see what it looks like.” One day I decided to drive by and I saw there’s a hole in the fence. I’m an artist – most artists, you know, they take chances. I saw the hole in the fence and I said “I’m gonna climb up the hill and check out these railroad tracks.” When I got up there, it is completely different. That was around the time that I was involved with a project called New York Country, with myself and a lady named Sena Danquah. We did an exhibition at Zion Gallery in Bedford Stuyvesant. I had just bought a DSLR and I just started taking pictures. The curator of Zion Gallery asked me to do an exhibition, and I said, “I wanna do a theme called New York Country.”
Again driving the bus I see a lot of things that other people don’t see. There’s a lot of country elements in the city, and I like things that way in my mind. Even though I’m in this concrete jungle, I’m in the city, I always want to look for the country, the serenity in the city. That’s basically what the theme of New York Country, that exhibition, was – the serenity within the city. You might see a bale of hay on the sidewalk, you may see chickens in a backyard right down the street…there’s certain country elements that’s still left inside the city that’s untouched. And that railroad track was one of them.
How did you get started presenting your work publicly?
The first one I’ve done was at the James E. Davis Arts Building. I just took some photos – this when I just had a regular point and shoot camera and took some photos. Geoffrey Davis was really the first one to really acknowledge the work that I was doing and he said “I’m gonna put your work in a museum.” So he forced me into doing gallery work when I wasn’t even ready for gallery work. He said, “Ian, your work’s outstanding.” I look at that work again and I hate it. As you grow as a photographer and a artist, you learn about the thirds, you learn about position … I did none of those in those photos, those were just snapshots. He loved them, that’s the point. That was my first time ever being in an exhibition.
I’ve [also] done [shows with] Arts East NY. Its was the “Off the Streets” series where they were looking for artists from the neighborhood, and that’s when I first meet Erika. It was by accident. I was on the B6 bus going to Manhattan and I see this little gallery on the corner and I’m like, “Arts East NY? What the hell is that?” And when you talk to most people who have discovered Arts East NY, that’s basically their story.
I give out a lot of free work. It’s strategic. The only way you’re gonna know if you like something, is you get a sample. And there’s money in art, and I learned that at Arts East NY. One of the older artists, he said “Look man, if you’re not getting paid for it, you can love it all you want but you wastin’ your time.” He said, “Where do you think the term starving artist came from?” and that resonated with me. See there’s the art and the creative aspect that just happens, just comes out of nowhere sometimes, but then there’s the rent side, there’s the bills side.
Again, with the photography, I like to give back. I try to bring out the best in a person, for them to see themselves. I like to see people happy.