Greta Rybus is an editorial photographer based in Portland, Maine. Raised in Idaho, in a family fond of traveling and relocating, she studied photojournalism and cultural anthropology in Missoula, Montana, before relocating to Portland. She works with a variety of clients, applying an editorial style to portraiture, food, commercial and photojournalistic assignments.
I recently discovered Rybus’ blog, Who I Met, and I really enjoyed how she combined photography with personal interviews to present her subjects as honestly as possible.
Rybus was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her blog.
How did you come up with the idea for Who I Met?
I have so many ideas for projects, but this one just stuck. It popped into my head one day last spring. I was preparing to spend the summer in Europe, and I wanted to create a project that would allow me to photograph with depth, to get to know the people I met, and go beyond photographing as a tourist. I liked the idea because I can work on it anywhere, meet anyone, and it affords the opportunity to learn along the way.
How do you find so many interesting people to interview?
One of my main philosophies is that photography isn’t as complex as it appears. I don’t think you need a ton of gear to make a great photo. I also don’t think you need to travel to faraway places to make a great photo. You just need to grab your camera and head out your front door. There are stories waiting everywhere if you are open to finding them. I meet so many interesting people every day, but I usually trust my gut to tell who might be receptive to being photographed and interviewed.
Some of the questions you ask your interview subjects are very personal. How do you get people to open up to you the way they do? Are there more questions than those you publish on the blog?
I think it is really important for me to be honest and educate my subjects about the project I am doing, and why I want them to be a part of it. I tell them about the blog, and why I think they are interesting. Most of the time, I let them know that many of the questions I ask are questions that I ask each person I interview. I allow them time to think, and to answer it in any way that they would like. I like to ask questions that we don’t normally ask one another, questions that show me how each person thinks, and questions that allow surprising answers. I record the interview, and usually publish all of the questions.
You are also an editorial photographer, if I’m not mistaken, and the examples of reportage photography on your website have the same textured, personal aesthetic as your photos for Who I Met. What are the different challenges for the different kinds of photos you take?
My background is in photojournalism (it’s what I studied in college). What I love about photojournalism is that I work with what I have—each subject looks and behaves in a unique way, each location has its own given lighting scenario, each client has a different use or purpose for the images. I need to work quickly to tailor my approach to the shoot, and I love that challenge. You never know quite what to expect. It’s always a really dynamic experience.
What kind of advice can you give to someone who’s interested in starting a photo blog?
For those interested in starting a photography blog, I would suggest thinking about their motivation for creating a blog, and what they wish to accomplish. What parts of their photographic skill set do you want to strengthen? What do you love photographing more than anything? What are you curious about? What do you want to share? A blog can take time, so be sure you are excited about your project’s focus. For me, this blog is an opportunity to find consistency, practice photography in a personal way (practice is so important with photography!), and learn about myself as a photographer and from the people I meet. Even if no one read the blog, it would still feel marvelously rewarding.
Visit Who I Met for more!