I like Daniel Ribar‘s photographs for their symmetry and simplicity. Ribar’s work is clean and attentive; the color theory is close to flawless and the subjects are precise. While these methods could suggest some sort of sterility or as being rigid, the outcome is actually tidy and the narrative almost precious – a word and a style that I feel has gotten a bad rap in a pool of photographers reaching a little too far for the avant-garde. In that sense, Ribar maintains a steady balance between strong composition and a slight inclination toward the abstract. In his images I see moments of intense solitude, the grandeur of silence, and the familiarity of observational friendship. I had the utmost pleasure of corresponding with Ribar as he shared some insight into his work.
How did you first come into photography?
I started taking photographs when I was given a Polaroid camera for my tenth or eleventh birthday. I would shoot my friends and cousins skateboarding and hanging out, I wasn’t too concerned about what the image was, I just really loved watching whatever it was appear on the film. I would try weird things to try and get the most saturated colors, like letting it develop upside down in the sunlight or under my armpit for warmth. I think that’s where my fascination with color began.
Sometimes I worry about pigeonholing an artist in my interviews by creating themes and concepts that I find in the work that maybe they didn’t necessarily intend. What would you say are some of the themes in your work?
I am really interested in tonal and color relationships. I love working with gradients also. I really like Josef Albers work. I am always looking to find symmetry in things, whether it’s a line in a rock or a beam of light in a shadow. I try to be patient with things and look at subjects in as many different angles as I can, seeing if I can find a way to line things up.
Which of your series/portfolios is your favorite to look at/review and which was your favorite to make?
I really enjoyed making the Fabric Portraits series, because I don’t usually shoot digital or in a studio and I really like how strong of colors you can get with strobes. I would say my favorite series to look at would be Maria F, because of how open it was. I think we shot it all in a week or so. A beautiful girl up north is always easy to look at.
Lately it seems that many of your photo’s subjects seems isolated or individualized. How do you chose your subjects and what is your take on centering the subject in the visual plane?
My father is an engineer and very strong in mathematics, so I feel like the symmetry in my work is a bit of him. Although I was never the best at math I have always had this urge to line things up and look for symmetry in subjects. I don’t like to shoot with anything less than a 50mm lens because of that.
Where are you from and how do you feel your location and the relationship you have to it informs your work?
A great deal of my work is shot in the northern parts of my home state, Michigan. I have a good friend who lives in the tip of the Upper Peninsula in an old mining town with rivers, lakes and cliff jumps all around him. I also have a cabin of my own about an hour south of the Mackinac bridge in Gaylord, Michigan, where I spend summers and autumns with friends. We have around 100 acres of woods, trails, and a small private lake, so there is a sense of isolation and freedom that really sets my mind at ease.
Friends and I will make trips up that are comprised of dirt bikes, fireworks, guitars, fishing, rifles, swimming, campfires, relaxing and anything else we feel like doing. I have been making these trips my whole life, and at first I started to shoot photos just to document these trips, a lot of very straightforward Polaroid shots of fish that had been caught, or group shots when we first arrived and then before we would leave, just so I would be able to remember who was there at the time. But as the years went on, I started to really use this piece of land as kind of my own large-scale studio. Here, I have the opportunity and freedom to shoot whatever I want to, whether it is a shot as simple as my grandfather’s old axe, sticking into a poplar tree, or something as bold as a friend launching a dirt bike over a mound with another friend firing a rifle in the frame.
The fact that this freedom exists on the property really excites and inspires me and allows me to focus on this love of nature I have along with the love for my friends. I’m trying to capture as many memories as I can, and if others are interested in the images I have captured, I’m honored.
Who or what influences you and do you have any favorite artists or photographers you admire?
My friends are a huge influence on me as well as vacations.
There are so many great artists out there its hard to hone in on any few but I would say in the past year Bruno Zhu, Josef Albers, and my friend James Noellert.
What are you working on currently and where do you see yourself in a year?
This winter has been so odd in Michigan, it’s been so grey and we haven’t had any snow at all so I feel like I am stuck in a rut where I stay inside all the time. I have been trying to stay active by playing soccer and hockey but I really haven’t been shooting nearly as much as I usually do. I was given a small digital camera for Christmas so I have been shooting mostly with that, but nothing that I would consider real work. I think that I need to get back in the studio and work on more still lifes. There just isn’t enough color outside for me right now. I hope to have my own place in a year with a larger studio and a job that makes me happy.
Daniel Ribar is a photographer based out of Michigan.