Shot on the fly
Whatever his reason—perhaps because he has had to overcome some challenging personal obstacles, maybe because he’s been honing his skills, or perhaps because he just wasn’t ready—at 56, Ron Richman is only now beginning to share what he has tucked away in slide sheets, saved on computer and framed to hang only in his home.
Richman has been a photographer almost all his life. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was introduced to the camera early on by his father. He now lives on the west shore of Tahoe. Richman’s earliest recollection of taking photos is from third grade when he snapped shots of his classmates.
“I found an old photograph of my third grade class from the back of the room,” says Richman.
But school wasn’t always a comfortable place for him, and it wasn’t until years later that he discovered why: He was contending with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. He was 40 when he learned about his dyslexia and in his 50s when his ADD was revealed.
Despite coping with his undiagnosed handicaps, Richman carved out an impressive education and work resume. He attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan as well as the Art Student’s League; started his own woodworking business, which he ran for almost 10 years; worked his way up through the film industry in New York City to become a director of photography for Sony; and learned Photoshop inside and out. Through it all, he took photos but didn’t pursue fine art as a career, despite the praise he received from others, despite his passion. Now he feels it’s time to catch up on what he’s been compiling these many years and focus on where his photographic abilities lead him.
Richman’s photographic interests have been focused on the city, be it New York or San Francisco. But over the years, he has amassed a collection of images with subjects ranging from the Reno Air Races to band shots to Mono Lake landscapes. What all his images have in common is a depth and clarity of color and oftentimes simple but powerful composition.
In his 18 years in the New York film industry, Richman perfected his ability to work with the subtle nuances of light. He has always had an interest in the combination of shapes and color.
“Photography is not so much designing as it is a way of looking at the world,” explains Richman, who takes photos of what he finds versus arranging shots. “When it feels right, I just go for it. I don’t do a lot of cerebral planning.”
This clearly contributes to the candid, timely feel of his images, like a head-on shot of the antique Milan trolley car in San Francisco.
“I was walking around in San Francisco, downtown, looking for things to shoot, and the trolley starts coming at me, and it has a red light. So I got in front of it, right exactly in front of it, and with my wide-angle lens—I only had 30 seconds or so because the light was going to change—I took this image. For me that was the place to be for this shot.”
He was right. The resulting image is spontaneous, direct and bright, as are so many others: Native Americans in full brilliant traditional dress, performing ceremonial dances, are stopped mid-step in an energetic pose. A racing airplane, propeller blurred, more azure sky ahead than behind, evokes the thrill of flight, momentum and speed.
Ron Richman had his very first solo show last year at the Squaw Valley Chapel in Squaw Valley USA, Calif., and more recently, his work was featured at Stony Ridge Café in Tahoma, Calif. If you missed these exhibitions, look to the Web for his redesigned site.
“There’s the next level, which is, ‘Can we push the envelope here someplace?' " Richman says, "and that involves breaking the rules, thinking outside the box, or something. Most times you don’t know what it is. It’s about taking risks and not being safe. You’re going in a direction, but you don’t always know where you’re going to end up."