interview by Shristi Jaiswal
Reading, learning, photography and skateboarding; a few of the many things that Ryan Winter, a New York based model, loves to immerse himself in. Living in one of the greatest city on earth is not always as euphoric as the movies make it out to be. Often one feels overwhelmed among the bustle and tries to make a world within the one they live in in order to feel a sense of peacefulness and familiarity.
During our conversation with Ryan, we learnt how he loves to read books that invokes critical thoughts and ideas, skateboard around with close friends and work with people that often inspire him. Further, he also talks about matters which are highly relevant in our ever changing world, expressing his views on political and philosophical matters that have come to dominate our current society as a whole.
What called you to the city New York?
I had just finished college and my agency that I worked with back in Minnesota was bringing models to New York hence, I spontaneously decided to jump on the bandwagon and come along. Here, a few agencies wanted to me sign me and ultimately I decided to sign a contract with New York Models I went home to pack all my stuff to finally move here for good. It was a seventy two hour decision and the path of least resistance.
Why did you choose modelling as a career?
It all started while I was in college. I worked as a barista then so modelling was like my job on the side. I was lost as I had just broken up with a girl I dated in college. I didn’t know where my life was going so the spur of the moment decision to move to New York felt right. I thought I would work in the city for a year in order to “find myself” like most people say when they first move here. Nevertheless it’s been four years since that decision and I have been a model since.
What in your opinion makes being a model an interesting job?
I guess most of what I do isn’t that interesting. Ultimately I’m standing around clothes. The most interesting thing about modelling hasn’t been any particular moment. It’s just meeting so many creative people who have been able to turn their passion into a job.
How has the current scenario with Covid and quarantine affected your career plans?
Well, things have been slow for sure. I didn’t work from March eleventh till mid-August. The city was completely shut down and there was absolutely nothing going on. Now however things have started to pick back up. I went to work just a few days ago and the surroundings in the sets have completely changed. There are much fewer people, the makeup artists have to be certified, people are getting regularly tested so all in all it’s been an interesting experience.
You dabble into film photography, what intrigues you most about it?
All of my friends in New York whom I go skateboarding with are all photographers so they always take cool photos of me and all of us hanging out together. I felt bad that I couldn’t give anything back to them so I ordered a bunch of disposable cameras off the internet and started documenting my life. This was my way to give back to my friends because they gave so much to me. I enjoyed it a lot and soon started clicking pictures of moments and things that I think look cool. So it started out as this thing that I do for my friends and now it’s just something that I do on the side for fun.
“I used to be a treadmill guy but now I love running outside midst nature.”
Can you describe to us your ideal day?
For my ideal day I would be back home so I could see my family. I would wake up early, make coffee and then go out and be among nature, maybe go on a hike or go swimming in the lake. The day would then end with me having dinner with my family and enjoying my mom’s delicious cooking.
A song/album you have on loop?
I have the song Astrovan by Mt. Joy on repeat. Also, I have been listening to Field Medic a lot.
A hobby you have picked up during this lockdown?
Not a hobby exactly but I’ve been enjoying working out outside a lot. The gyms have been opening up but I don’t think I’m going to go back. I used to be a treadmill guy but now I love running outside midst nature.
Books that you believe has changed the way you look at life?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is really good and very well written. It’s a coming of age novel about a Brooklyn that doesn’t exist anymore, an America that doesn’t exist anymore. Reading it in the MeToo era where we are having this reckoning around the ways that women are treated in society, I think it was really interesting and illuminating. As an adult man it was really eye opening to read what was expected of women during that time in America and what women had to accept that are no longer okay. Another book called Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward is amazing. It helped me understand a woman’s pain in a relationship that is caused by the man. It made me realise my own maybe problematic behaviours in relationships. Also I really loved Revolutionary Road, it’s a classic.
“I don’t know if we can democratically change an undemocratic system and the farther down the road we go the harder it will get.”
You are quite vocal about politics so, with the current political scenario in mind, would you say that our world is leaning towards a “dystopian future?” What are your thoughts about it?
I think my political knowledge is very America centric. Therefore speaking domestically, the dystopian future seems plausible and I really hope that I’m wrong. I’m hopeful that we can come out of this better and stronger. I hope that there are democratic reforms such that we don’t slide into autocracy or plutocracy.
Currently we can see democratic decline happening all over the world in all types of democracies. We see a rigging of electoral systems to prevent people from voting- a system where votes of certain people matters less. There is this thing in American politics where people talk so much about policy and I think policies are really important for example healthcare. That’s a universal right and I strongly believe that everyone should be provided the same.
Republicans control so many branches of government but they don’t seem to have a lot of interest in actually governing so the system in a lot of ways has been tarnished. I think we need to spend more time talking about how we can reform the system such that our democracy functions. I don’t know if we can democratically change an undemocratic system and the farther down the road we go the harder it will get.
You are a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut, what themes in his writing would you say fascinate you the most and why?
The exploration of whether or not we have free will. I think it’s really interesting the way he ponders over this theme. There’s a thing about Vonnegut’s writing where he throws light upon his personal dissatisfaction with the world but it still somehow retains hope for a world that could be. In his writing you see the ugliness of life but you still come out of it hoping for the best. I think that’s really endearing. In his stories he disassociates a lot from regular activities. The literary technique of making activities as simple as making coffee seem foreign and strange is pretty commendable.
Do you read books as a form of escape or as a means to help deconstruct reality?
Definitely as a means to deconstruct reality. We never read the same book twice; even if we do we are at a different point in life, a different person so we pull out new thoughts and ideas from the book. For me personally, it’s a search for someone else to put into words my own experiences of reality in ways I can’t.
A subject/topic you are passionate about?
I would say environmental policy. I have a degree in environmental science and policy from the University of Minnesota. Though conversations about our environment, sustainability and such tends to happen on the side, I think they are really important and deserves to be on the spotlight especially now.
A genre that is your absolute favourite? Why?
I don’t really read genre specific books. I like a little bit of every genre for example political literature, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, science- fiction, etc.
“I feel much more inspired when I leave the city. I like when I leave the city and have space.”
A principle that you diligently follow?
Wherever you go that’s where you are. There are times when I think that my life would have been better if I were back home in Minnesota but ultimately I think a lot of things that I dislike reside within me and not outside. A change in location will not change the degree of my own happiness.
An artist, living or dead, you admire the most?
I’m really into art created by André Fortes. I have two of his art pieces hanging on my wall. I think his art is very smart and psychedelic. He makes you question assumptions about reality that you hold in interesting ways without necessarily trying to be edgy.
What inspires you most about NYC?
I don’t know. I feel much more inspired when I leave the city. Few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were camping out on Long Island. I felt really inspired there just like I do in places like Minnesota and out west in California. The city for me feels too big and overwhelming. I like when I leave the city and have space.
A place in the city that’s your escape away from all the bustle?
There’s a park by my house where I always go to. I work out there on a regular basis and in doing so have made some good friends. I usually leave my phone at home and also go there to read. On weekends I like to go to the farmers market. It’s my little escape from the city and I feel a little bit more at peace there.
Which city would you move to if not New York?
Probably Los Angeles; I have so many friends there and I absolutely love the weather.
Would you say you feel at content with the life that you have made for yourself?
Yeah, on the whole I think it’s pretty good and that I have done a good job.
Any quote you want to leave us with?
I’ll leave with one of Kurt Vonnegut’s quote, Love whoever is around to be loved.
all images provided by Ryan Winter