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From Stand-Up to Snapshots: Nancy Ryan on Balancing Comedy and Photography

Nancy, you’ve had a long career as a stand-up comedian. How did the transition from comedy to photography come about, and what was that process like for you emotionally and creatively?

The great part about this time in my life is I’m still able to continue my comedy career as my photography continues to develop. It’s a wonderful balance.

During the shutdown of the pandemic, I was left for the first time in 30 years without a creative outlet. This left me very depressed and lost. My husband is a film maker and has a canon MD Mark iii and we went for a ride one day to take pictures. We came upon this outdoor temple (temple of sekmet). My husband handed me the camera and suggested I take some shots. He showed me the buttons and as soon as I heard the click, it was as if the noise in my head shut off and I felt peace and quiet. I was hooked. Over time, the creativity became more satisfying through the learning process itself. The editing process also played a big part in relieving my anxiety and helping me feel safe again…like myself again.

How did you go about learning the technical aspects of photography? Were there any resources or individuals that particularly helped you along the way?

My husband has been a huge help and teacher with the technical part of photography. With anything I’ve created whether photography or comedy or writing, it has almost always been created by feel or instinct. Technique always comes later for me but I’ve found how important it is to focus on how things work so I have a strong foundation to lean on.

I’ve had other teachers and inspirational mentors from photographer friends I’ve met on Instagram. Great talents from all over the world and I get to learn from them. It’s wonderful.

Having worked with many dancers and models on stage in a production show, how have your skills and experiences in comedy influenced your approach to photography and working with models?

Having worked with these incredible people for so long and so closely, you learn to trust each other. When it’s time to shoot, there’s very little to get past because we’ve already built a rapport. Other bonuses is that I trust myself to communicate with the person I’m shooting. Respect is the most important thing I can show the people I work with.

What is your creative process like when setting up a photoshoot? How do you come up with ideas, and what steps do you take to bring those ideas to life?

In talking to people it’s important to listen intently to what they say. If one person talks a lot about loving the 60s era and the music of the time, I’ll suggest a retro 60s shoot with a hippie feel. If one says in conversation they felt they should’ve been born in the 1940s, then I discuss doing that type of shoot. I enjoy styling a shoot as well. I love finding deals at thrift stores or even amazon for proper costumes and colors. Accessories are so important to finish a look. Never leave out an accessory!

You’re known for your relaxed approach and integrity in your work. How do you maintain this reputation, and what do you think sets your work apart from other photographers in the Las Vegas area?

I believe staying true to what type of photographer I want to be has played an import part in how people see me. Showing respect, maintaining trust and even setting boundaries when necessary is what helps me maintain. There are so, so many incredibly talented photographers in Las Vegas. I think everyone brings something different to the table. In my little corner that I’m trying to build, consists of an authentic, raw approach with no real rules.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a photographer, and how have you overcome them? Conversely, what are some of your proudest moments or achievements in your photography career so far?

My biggest challenge in photography has been myself. I think when you’ve been doing one thing most of your life (comedy for me) and then start doing something else, its hard to have patience because you want to know everything right now, in that moment. That’s not how it works. Practice and patience.

My proudest moments have come when clients have used my work to promote themselves. Some of my images have been used on Las Vegas billboards which in all honesty, is a pretty cool thing to see! But also, there have been some photoshoots I’ve done for people who’ve just recovered from an illness and they want to have their photos taken to feel “good” again. Together we make that happen and that’s an incredible healing experience for everyone.

Looking ahead, what are your goals for your photography career? Are there any particular projects or collaborations you’re excited about or any new directions you’d like to explore?

I am looking forward to the future and hoping to keep on growing and improving, especially in the lifestyle and fashion area of photography.

Photographer/Wardrobe Stylist/Creative Director/Retoucher: Nancy Ryan @nancyryanphotography

Model: Gracen Hannah @filtered.grey



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