Kansas City Photographer, Ryan C. Hamilton exposes greatness through personal enlightenment.
We all grew up wanting to be more of ourselves. Setting goal after goal, yet not quite realizing just how much there is to be cherished in the waking moments it takes to reach them. Only having small snapshots of our endurance remembered. We can lose sight of ourselves when we let the goals define us, or worse, stifle our greatness. Yes, reaching milestones brings on joy but through the journey is where the lessons and value truly present themselves. If anything, it is a requirement to reveal our character. Conversing with noted photographer, Ryan C. Hamilton cements these words and lays new meaning to self-actualization.
Monday, January 13th-
It’s early evening on this Monday, starting the second week of what is yet to be a life-altering year for many of us. I set up a small, quiet space in my dining room to conduct the first interview of the series. An interview differing from many others as I am connecting virtually with Kansas City, KS artist, Ryan C. Hamilton. The insightful photographer sits inches away through the screen, however physically he currently resides in New York. As the questions are fired off, the conversation causes moments of reflections that are resonating with me still, more now than it did then.
Although he states that his career in photography started ten years ago, it was much earlier when he began outlining his mission. At around 11 or 12, Ryan had two dreams; to attend NYU and New York Fashion Week. With a strong strategic mind, both dreams were realized within the same week at the age of 22. Impressed by the quick success, it led to me asking about the process that got him there. After graduating High School in Kansas City, he set off for new experiences in Washington D.C., where he attended acclaimed HBCU, Howard University for undergraduate studies.
At Howard, Ryan’s love for visuals was encouraged within his editorial role for the Hilltop Newspaper on campus. This, combined with his experience as a Chapel Assistant for 4 years, stamped his position as a historian in the community. “Growing in my craft here allowed me to fully express myself as an artist and to live my life fully as a gay man in New York City without shame“, he emphasized.
If it’s one thing we know, is that growth brings on many lessons. When asked about something crucial he learned about himself, the response was clung to me for so many reasons. “It was learning that I actually did not know how to show emotions. I needed to affirm my feelings to create boundaries with people and myself”, he stated directly.
For the next several minutes Ryan spoke openly about a topic that is often taboo; seeking mental health assistance.”I was in therapy for 18 months and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It allowed me to get out of my own way…It taught me forgiveness“, he reflected. His words and tone stressed how imperative it is for him to share his experience on the topic. “We have to talk about it to normalize it. My life outweighed the judgement“, he said. In the coming weeks, the necessity became more prevalent as we settle into our isolated climates.
As someone confronting my own pain points with mental health, Ryan’s words were very grounding for me. As an artist and as a person the world can feel like it’s moving without you but that one decision can change so much about that perception. It’s one thing for sure that has kept Ryan’s focus and conversely rewarded him with amazing opportunities. Through his camera lens he’s had the pleasure of capturing those adrenaline-rushing concert moments of nearly half the artists from this year’s coachella lineup. He has snapped photos of the legendary Janet Jackson at Essence Festival. As if that doesn’t tell you enough about his expert-level photography and networking, Ryan has taken portraits of Former President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama.
Ryan C. Hamilton is tangible proof of how far believing and living your greatness can take you. “I realize that I am a vessel for something bigger than myself”, he stated while referencing the bible verse, Isaiah 6:8. Whether you see the bigger picture right away, Ryan’s journey is a reminder that working on ourselves individually/mentally is well worth the investment.
As creatives, we agree on the narrative that should be told of our Black community in Kansas City. When I think about who is going to tell our stories and capture our history, Ryan and all the artists we’ve encountered these past few months are top of the list. Hope shines through each of them and illuminates our dynamic aesthetic from coast to coast. There is much anticipation to see them lead the way as we come together to navigate this new world upon us.
You don’t have to move away to create. Just reach out to someone. We are all looking for one another.-Ryan C. Hamilton