Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity.

Opportunity, Opportunity, Opportunity.

Ryan McMahill was born in Los Angeles, raised in Saint Louis and eventually moved to Chicago after attending Miami University in Ohio. Ryan is the founder of the newly formed Feature Creative Studios located in West Fulton Market.

I’ve been shooting since the summer of 2015. I took an intro to photography course my senior year of college to fulfill my art requirements and admittedly skipped way too much class — my priorities weren't very in line back then. Fast forward 2 years and I’m in Chicago working as a third party logistics broker.  My desk is seated right next to our PR and social media manager so I would always talk with them about the cameras they had and the photos they were shooting to market our company. One day my friend in the department, Dana, told me that she was upgrading her camera setup and would give me a great price on a Canon t4i and a 50mm lens (she gave me a REALLY good price). I bit, but ended up letting the camera collect dust on my shelf for almost a year until I finally took it out one day and realized how much more you could push a camera than a phone. 

Now-a-days I use a few different cameras from Polaroids to 35mm film cameras. I have my trusty Contax T2 on me at all times — it’s an old film point-and-shoot but it is no joke. Being able to put a high quality camera in my pocket allows me the freedom to capture everything around me naturally. For most of my commercial and studio work I use a Canon 5D mark iv.

I got into photography around the boom of Instagram and social media. People would constantly tell me “you have to post x times a day” or “all of your imagery has to be consistent or else you won’t gain a loyal following.” That concept seemed so outrageous to me, I love photography so much because it allows me to constantly change and develop a unique style that can’t be pigeon-holed or labeled. If you take a look at my portfolio you’ll realize I have severe ADD; my work touches everything from concert photography to nature landscapes to fashion to street to portraits to sports. I’m a big fan of being involved in a scene and watching things unfold and just following momentum. Who knows, tomorrow my calling could be dog portraits.

Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. There is so much untapped potential in Chicago as a market.  Everyone immediately thinks of the coasts when they talk about art or marketing but nobody looks at the third largest market in the US! I want to change that, I want to bring more attention to the architecture of Chicago as a city as well as the creative underground that is fighting for a platform like the ones established in NY and LA.

Back in the day, my photography definitely had a bit of an edgier motive behind it. I was one of those daredevil kids who loved ”rooftopping.“ Looking back on those decisions I totally regret MOST of them but this one time was different. Me and a few buddies were shooting content for a local clothing line and wanted to get a really street vibe. One of the locations may not have necessarily been sanctioned because it was the roof of a major shopping mall downtown. We got up there just fine and got some really great shots but just as soon as we were going to take the stairs down to the ground floor, the police walked on to the roof. They had their guns drawn and everything thinking we were doing something dangerous, it didn’t help that it was a few days before Christmas. Long story short, they were bummed they had to book us and even asked when the clothes released so they could buy some hoodies! I spent a few hours getting booked for trespassing with a few photographers I barely knew.  One of them ended up becoming one of my closest friends and my mentor. After the charges were dropped I’d say meeting him was a blessing in disguise but I still haven’t been on a roof since without permission.

I used to love VSCO when I was just trying to look artsy and take conceptual photos on my iPhone. I still do. I’ve just learned so much more through Adobe. It allows me to really take a look from an idea and actually apply the right tweaks to the data to get what i want. Lightroom as a tool is monumental. Sometimes (most times), Photoshop is so overwhelming, but Lightroom does an incredible job of putting all the essential tools right at your fingertips. As far as editing is concerned, I’ve learned not to over-edit. I’d rather have the photo, composition, subject, etc. speak for itself the way I saw it naturally.

Social media got me involved in the first place. When it really started to jump off, Instagram was the most organic and genuine platform for artists to get their work out into the world. From a marketing standpoint, that was of huge value as well because nobody had a price back then. Now the market is saturated. Facebook has applied all of these algorithms to help them monetize everything and people are selling out to anyone willing to give them exposure and a free pair of socks. I love social media and Instagram specifically for what it was at first, a community. But times change and markets become saturated and that’s life. I’m just excited to see what the next big platform is going to be and I want to be there first.

I love Chicago to death but sometimes, the blessing of having a city that is so easily walkable makes it seem like you’ve been everywhere once before. For that reason, I try and push the boundaries of format and also play around with themes, whether it be shadows or conceptual portraits. I’ve also tried to jump into the studio more often. People are always different. You could sit in a room with someone in the same chair for an hour and get 100 different emotions out of them. Sometimes, simplifying things allows for a lot more creative expression. As far as photographers, I like to try and follow along with people that are really pushing the envelope; people like Ryan McGinley or Dash Snow, Victor Vauthier, and Tyrone Lebon.

The future. Some days, I wake up craving the outdoors and dreaming of a Nat Geo assignment that sends me somewhere that nobody else has been, like to document new tribes in the Amazon or something crazy like that. Some days the Chicago Hypebeast in me would love to shoot a lookbook for Off-White.  I’m obsessed with fashion photography these days, so many of these guys are reverting back to the older film look and it’s so much more forgiving in a way that allows for some really cool and weird experimentation. Outside of that I’d love it some day if I was in a position to do some real good with my photography, I’d love to showcase some of the conditions around the world that we, as Americans, turn a blind eye to.