Artists Up Close
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Ryder Collins’ Photography Through the Empathy Lens

Ryder Collins’ Photography Through the Empathy Lens

Photographer Ryder Collins bridges urban and rural divides through his compelling black and white imagery of Washington State’s county fairs.
Ryder Collins, photographer

“Photography, this type of photography, in general—although it's extremely lonely at times—it's just taught me a lot about humanity. And more in a neutral way of people aren't good or bad. It just sort of removes a lot of my opinions about the world. And I can kind of see the world for what it is. And I'm so grateful for that.” ~ Ryder Collins, photographer

Before the advent of photography, the average individual—unless they were well-traveled or well-read—could only imagine what life was like for people different from them. And some of those imaginings could be fantastical, mythical, or downright bigoted. But today, photography can serve as a portal that transports the viewer to worlds they would otherwise have no access to. It can make visible the hidden parts of our society and humanize people who, in the darkness, might be imagined as the monstrous other. When photography serves as a portal, it can cultivate empathy by illuminating in ‘the other’ our shared humanity. And it’s this empathy that photographer Ryder Collins harnesses in his urban street photography and his photographic exploration of Washington State’s county fairs in his latest work Fair Season.

On left three girls display chickens. On Right a boy displays a goat. On left three girls display chickens. On Right a boy displays a goat.
County Fair photos by Ryder Collins

A recent transplant to Seattle, Ryder Collins grew up in Los Angeles but he’s no stranger to the Pacific Northwest. As a kid, every Summer he would spend two or three weeks with his grandparents who lived in northern Washington, just south of Bellingham. And in part, those early rural experiences have planted the seeds for Collins's unique photographic philosophy rooted in empathy and influenced his decision to document the rural lifestyle in Washington State.

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