Let me tell you about this woman's potential, grace, and talent. I once had a dream about Houston photographer Ryan Francisco, after celebrating her birthday last October. In the dream, I was visiting her in an underground studio. Inside a dark large space, in the middle of an indoor forest, stood a monumental silver scale. Ryan sat on top of the scale, calmly meditating with her legs crossed and her eyes closed. Soulful disco softly played in the background, glistening lights hung on the walls, trees grew from the floor, and she was wearing a vintage jumpsuit. Each side of the scale held an array of fauna and small happy animals. Like a true Libra, she would open her eyes to peek and make sure that each side was perfectly leveled. My favorite part of the dream was how she flew. Using her fingertips and the energy flowing through her, she landed on the ground to greet me with a smile. This was someone out of this world.
I woke up that morning realizing Ryan's true gift: capturing life and getting it back on track. After her birthday something happened to me. I felt in control of who I am and who I want to be. And I didn't always know her. I remember scrolling through her Instagram feed (@rfranciscophoto) in 2013 and 2014 amazed at how many familiar faces I saw. Ryan has been capturing our generation and Houston's art community on camera for years. I've never personally met anyone who has created this much or this type of work consistently. As my friend Hilary Williams describes her, "she is Houston's historian." Last fall, she DJ'ed with Love Tempo at Grand Prize. Her playlist changed how I want to live every second. I really saw her out there that night, creating a vibe, and loving life. I left with a close community and even better soundtrack. I saw her slay the dance-floor and DJ booth so many memorable nights. At the beginning of this year, our friends gathered and celebrated her editorial shoot for Peach Fuzz Magazine at Cheer Up Charlie's. She is Lady Justice, a superhero to many, and she is my friend. It is my honor to present a great inspiration of mine, Ryan Francisco.
I love your work! In my opinion, I think you mysteriously see and capture humans in a very candid nature. Sometimes even spectrally? You do a great job documenting the faces of our community and produce what seems like so much work! What keeps you going? Having a lot of random ideas and my friends’ encouraging me to want to bring those creative concepts to life. Along with the wonderful support I do receive from them and my family.
What is your artistic upbringing and education? My mother started me off in dance classes at the age of three. From there, I grew into Theatre Arts. My mother thought it was very important for my sister and I to have an artistic upbringing during and after school. Thus, led me to attending the High School for Performing and Visual Arts. I spent my first year in the Dance Department and made the switch to Theatre Arts for the last three years of high school. After HSPVA, I no longer had the desire to perform so I spent about a year and a half at Houston Community College. I was determined to major in History with a minor in Art History. It was during that time I took my first photography class with Eric Zapata. I had the most strangest and weirdest connection with this new found creative outlet, photography. I went on to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas to receive my BFA in Photocommunications.
One of our mutual friends told me that you lived in Spain for quite sometime. How did this affect your process and photography? Living in Spain for almost a year definitely shaped my portfolio and how I connect/work with trying to capture the true essence of people these days. Spain was all new territory to me and I had a lot of time to challenge myself to grow personally within my own work. With that dedication, I also had time to venture into developing my own sense of style with nature lighting.
One of my favorite shows of yours was "Note to Selves" in 2015. How did the idea for the exhibition come about? What motivated you to think strictly black and white? Before I left for Spain back in 2013, Megan Tipps, Julie Worsham, and myself held an open call Photocopy Show called, “The Way We Saw It.” Tipps actually submitted some of her photography work to The Photocopy Club in Brighton, London, UK. The Photocopy Club is known for hosting Xerox photo exhibitions open to all photographers around the world. Tipps thought it would be neat to bring that type of concept to Houston.
For the “Note To Selves: A Photocopy Show," Tipps and I teamed up with Anne Marie D'Arcy. It was D'Arcy’s idea to do a "street photography" theme show. It was such a positive experience for photographers and for the art community that we wanted to do it again once more! The title came from one of my dearest friends, Andi Valentine, when she made a tweet on Twitter about eating bananas as a good choice of breakfast in the morning. Note to Selves.
Designs: 8 Palms by Brittney Anele
Photos: Ryan Francisco
Who are your early influences and who are your influences now? When I first started off in photography, my influences were Richard Avedon, Richard Bailey, Helmut Newton, Man Ray, and Imogen Cunningham for portraits. I looked up highly to Lorena Simpson, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems for identity and race. A few of my influences still to this day are Corrine Day, Jenny Holzer, Nan Goldin, Guy Bourdin, Peter Lindberg, and a lot of music from the disco era.
How do you describe your photography to strangers? My photography is mainly based on portraiture. Through photography, I try to capture a person’s inner reflection along with side of how I see them as a person.