The Downtown is a chic establishment in Red Bank, NJ. It has what you might call atmosphere. The contents of 25-year-old Ryan Struck's show hang on brick walls, above hardwood planks, below exposed ducting. Languorous candles chill on the tables and a cute waitress serves wild mushroom quesadillas.
"I feel nervous," he says. "Honestly. It's just like, this is my solo show, you know? It's all kind of me–it's weird. I'm just stoked that people are showing up; I'm honored."
Around 9:30 p.m. the band, Only Living Boy, plays a mellow, alternative cover of R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)." The lights are dim—a little too dim to see the minutia of surf photographs, but Ryan's work refuses to be ignored.
Some of his photos are matted behind glass, others are printed on canvas and wrapped around wooden frames. The waves are green and brown, and heavy. Some rise behind a beach cloaked in snow. The images are beautiful, brawny, and just a little bit brusque. They're Jersey—but the antithesis of Jersey Shore.
Ryan points to a near white-out shot. "Probably that one [is my favorite]," he says. "I just love the snow—you can barely see that wave out there, because it's a blizzard, basically. I think it was from February or March, and the snow was just really coming down. If you look close enough, you can see somebody's shoulders and head just before that wave, so it really gives it some perspective. And then the footsteps are leading down through the snow. It's just like classic Jersey—if you're around in the wintertime."
Ryan's blog, The New Surf ("Sessions Recounted"), is a favorite online haunt of the Garden State's surf community. "I've got to
give it a facelift eventually," he says, "probably early next year. It's cool because it's like a running portfolio for me. And at the same time, my buddies can see what I'm doing, see what they're doing."
"The best part about my job is just doing what I love," Ryan continues. "It's not like we have waves every day, but when it's good here, it's just as good as anywhere else."
Ryan's photos will be at The Downtown until Wednesday, Oct. 27th as part of their "Music, Art & Drafts" event.