15 Questions With… Ryan Debolski

How are you at the moment?

I’m doing ok.

What is your morning ritual? How does your day begin?

I don’t specifically do anything that can be considered a morning ritual. Every day is different, but I usually like to get going quickly.

What, right now, can you see?

Four walls and a window. It’s snowing outside.

What artist, project, book would you recommend we see/follow?

I recently saw a draft of an upcoming book by my close friend, Aleksey Kondratyev. I’m excited about it and can’t wait to see the final result. If you haven’t seen his work before, I’d recommend taking a look.

Tell us about your process when starting a new project.

Honestly, some of the time it’s just by accident. I like to put myself in situations where things can happen and then rely on intuition. Repetition is key for me. I also find having constraints is a really necessary part of my workflow.

What has been your favourite collaboration?

Collaborating with Jason Koxvold on my book, LIKE, was a rewarding experience. He has an amazing eye and design sensibility. We both have done extensive work in the Middle East so there was a mutual understanding of the subject matter from the onset. His vision for the book closely aligned with mine. I’m grateful he also contributed an insightful essay that eloquently put words to what I was trying to convey visually.

What is your greatest achievement?

I hope I haven’t achieved it yet.

What is your greatest regret?

Too many to list.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would definitely try to convince myself to take more chances and not worry as much. Focus more on making work instead of spending so much time judging it. I would also tell myself to take some classes on learning to run a business. It would have been a great supplement to art school.

What is your latest project about?

I published my first book this year. LIKE looks at migrant labor life in the rapidly modernizing country of Oman. I developed friendships with migrant workers I met on the beaches of adjacent worksites. Our interactions primarily came from using WhatsApp to communicate, since the time we could spend together was limited by their gruelling work schedules. The book consists of transcripts of our text conversations alongside photographs depicting scenes on the beach and landscapes/worksites throughout the country.

What are you researching at the moment?

I’ve been reading a lot of books about different topics during the last several months. Science fiction, history, and geography have always interested me. We’ll see where it goes.

What can you not work without?


What challenges have you faced working in your industry?

My biggest challenge has always been trying to figure out where my work fits in. A negative by-product of that is comparing myself to others. So it’s been challenging to find my own voice, be comfortable with it, and confident enough to put my work out there.

What are you hoping for in 2021?

I would like a fresh start.

Share a song with us, what are you listening to at the moment?

Ben Chatwin – Chiral. One of my favourite artists from the past couple of years. Looking forward to hearing his latest release.

All images and spreads courtesy Ryan Debolski. LIKE (Gnomic Books, 2020), shortlisted for the 2020 Aperture/Paris Photo Photobook Awards, is available to purchase here.