The Amazing Sneaker Photography of ryustyler | Grailify
The Amazing Sneaker Photography of ryustyler

The Amazing Sneaker Photography of ryustyler

A conversation with Michael aka ryustyler, a Taiwanese photographer, painter and artist whose prolific work is published under the hashtag #deliciouskicks. He took these pictures exclusively for our April 2018 issue of Sneakers Magazine.

Michael, what sparked your interest in sneaker photography?

The story starts with my grandfather, a former athlete who worked in sports production. Since I was very young, he loved to tell me about the technologies that were being developed, but I was too young to understand. He gave me a pair of trainers, I admired the colour and the shape, and within a school year I had worn them out. Later, in 1997, I saw a pair of "white on whites" shining on the shelves for the first time. It was then that I started to see sneakers differently, realising that each pair had its own personality and vibrancy and that they needed to be cared for - just like a person who gets too tired when you overuse them.

What is your background in art and photography?
I'm into contemporary art and paint with acrylics on canvas. I've also done design for record covers and so on. It wasn't so long ago that I was still taking pictures with an iPhone. After I started working with a real camera, I quickly immersed myself in photography. It's true that life in the arts can be challenging at times, especially in the beginning, you have to be persistent and also learn very quickly. I think my artistic background is what led to my interest in the individuality and authenticity of photography. Painting and photography are two different media, but both are very rewarding fields of creativity - like different planets orbiting around the same sun, if you will.

How do you approach a new project? Can you give us an insight into your creative process?
Sometimes a shoe has its own story or theme, but if not, for me it starts with the colour. Just as tastes or scents can trigger emotions or vivid memories from the past, a certain shade can do the same. Take the Air Max 1 Pinnacle "Silt Red" for example. The combination of pastel purple tones visually reminded me of a garden full of flowers at Easter time, and it also brought back the electrifying feeling of drinking a grape Fanta slushie for the first time as a child. What ideas or feelings a shoe evokes can be random, but I try to reflect the "flavour" of that inspiration in each photo. With the Pinnacles, I mainly wanted to convey a refreshing, cool, but also soft feeling. For the taste, I put sweets and candies together and arranged them to look like they were gently expanding outwards to represent the explosion of flavour. Ideas come and go spontaneously, so it's important to catch the wave and not think about it too much. Sometimes inspiration is just a feeling - it doesn't always make sense.

Do you only photograph shoes that you personally like or do you choose them for their look in combination with accessories?
A bit of both. It helps immensely if I like the shoes and they really have a positive impact on the work. Sometimes I'm tempted to buy a shoe because an idea comes to me spontaneously or it fits an idea I've had in my head for a long time. If a shop or brand asks me to take photos for them, it might not be something I would personally wear, but it can also be an enjoyable challenge to try to go outside and photograph from the perspective of the creator or wearer of the shoe. This method holds so much potential for a good narrative.

What do you look for in a shoe that you photograph, what does it have to have?
I believe that every shoe can be photographed well. For me, it's not just about highlighting the strengths or covering the weaknesses with distractions. It's important to show the shoe authentically. Whether I'm photographing for myself or for other companies, I'm not trying to package the shoe like a shiny product, but my responsibility as an artist is to convey what I saw in that pair and highlight what's unique about it. That's the reason I started in the first place.

What comes first: texture or colour?
For me, the colours always come first, because the possible combinations are endless. I can't even imagine that there are more than 10 million shades, each of which can evoke a different feeling. The possibilities are endless and the colour is what catches my attention when I first see a shoe. Texture complements colour and adds depth. It can make or break a shoe.

Do you have a favourite brand or shoe that always looks good?
The shoe industry is a treasure trove at the moment; there is so much that I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. We all have our classics and favourites, but every now and then there's a new flavour or product and we just can't help but nibble. Twenty years ago, Air Force 1s and Air Jordans were my first love, but since then my range of tastes has expanded. Flyknit from Nike and Boost from adidas are groundbreaking technologies. One of my favourite developments from New Balance are the Customs, which are always well made and offer unbeatable comfort. Asics has really strong collaborations - some beautiful pairs with great colours. With Puma, I like that the models are elegant and sporty, but still classic. There are also some nice handmade premium quality options from brands like Diadora or Kangaroos.

Have you already been contacted by brands and shops?
I've been lucky enough to work with a number of different brands and boutiques, some of which I've been a fan or customer of for ages. Before I started with IG, I was a big fan of Concepts in Boston. I once woke my wife up at 2am to help me order a shoe that had just appeared on their website! So it was great to photograph a pair of exclusive Concepts shoes for her. This was my first partnership and it's always exciting to work with the brands and companies I admire. Things like that and being able to connect with sneaker lovers from all over the world are a great part of working on #deliciouskicks.

What do you do besides #deliciouskicks? Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?
I was born in Taiwan but grew up in Australia from the age of 4. I studied economics, worked in Japan and decided to pursue a career in art in my mid-twenties. Initially I worked mainly with paint, but my big passion is photography. Besides #deliciouskicks and photographing sneakers, I moved into commercial photography for other subjects. I never felt I could express myself well in conversations, so art is a way for me to express myself more fully and better. I currently live and work in Taipei, but I try to return to the Gold Coast in Queensland as often as possible. My wife and I had a baby last year, and I can only hope my son gets a size 10 so we can share sneakers!

Follow Michael aka ryustyler on his Instagram account to see more of these unique sneaker artworks.

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