No hands Presents: Buildings x Chrisarrrrr

Toronto. Photo: Christopher Ryan.
Toronto. Photo: Christopher Ryan.

In one of its newest projects, creative studio no hands follows photographer Christopher Ryan as he explores and documents the city around him.

Canadian Architect spoke to Ryan about his robust collection of images on Instagram, and how his work aims to inspire an appreciation for the often unseen built environment that surrounds us.



Canadian Architect: When did you start taking these photos, and what inspired you to post them on Instagram?

Christopher Ryan: I was a bit of a latecomer to Instagram, having only signed up in 2013 when I purchased an iPhone. After I finished a degree in Public Administration that year, I was looking for something to fill the time between graduation and finding work. I’ve always been both a walker and a shutterbug, but had not ever had the courage to share what I was taking pictures of. It all came together at the same time. 

A significant motivation outside of that, as an urban historian, I tend to be most curious about the everyday things we walk by in the city but don’t pay attention to. To that end, I figured it would be fun to share the city (principally Ottawa, but also wherever I happen to be at a given moment) as I see it. I’ve benefited greatly from collections of photographs taken around the city in my own research, and it would be gratifying if what I take could be used by future historians. 

Toronto. Photo: Christopher Ryan.
Toronto. Photo: Christopher Ryan.
CA: What’s your process like? 

CR: Although I will often get out for a longer walk with the intention of taking pictures (weekend mornings most often), I shoot most of them while I’m out and about on my day-to-day business.

I try not to edit them heavily, but most of the time, I will run them through VSCOCam and through Skrwt (for perspective correction) before sharing them on Instagram. While I have gotten away from sharing them in real time in the last year, they are usually from the last week.

Ottawa. Photo: Christopher Ryan.
Ottawa. Photo: Christopher Ryan.
CA: What do you hope that people will take away from your photos?

CR: At first, it was just a matter of sharing the city as I see it. As time has gone on, I have come to hope for a bit more. I hope that people can take away a greater appreciation for our built environment, rather than directing so much of their energies into a few select buildings. There has always been good work being done in cities and I’ve always wished we’d see more of it. Every part of town is somewhere where people live, and/or play, and – this is where I tend to be a bit more documentarian than artistic – we should be able to see more of it.

Part of what I talk about in the video (and something I’ve been toying with lately) is that these visual reminders can help jog memories. I’ve always loved when people share their memories with me when I post a picture, and I’ve always found that past experiences (and other less tangible elements) are so often a missing ingredient in our discussion and practice of history and heritage preservation.

Finally, with those pictures that are “elsewhere” in the city – underappreciated neighbourhoods, underappreciated buildings – I hope that people are encouraged to explore them and perhaps appreciate where they are more than they may today. It’s also a bit more of a benefit to me, as I get to see more areas myself, study them, and get some inspiration while I’m at it.

To see more of Christopher Ryan’s work, following him on Instagram @chrisarrrrr or visit his page here.