Drag is a series of photographs that comments on the art of drag performance and it’s ambiguous relationship to masquerade, public and private identity, and the project of self-making. Creating still lives, portraits of drag performers, and self portraits,Van Der Hout explores the space between the mask of the performed self and the mask of the everyday. Documenting drag performers as they put on their stage makeup, Van Der Hout captures moments of vulnerability and transformation. This liminal space between two self-constructs offers two images of power: the power of persona and the power of unveiling.
Water is often thought of as an accessible commodity in most Western cities. With global climate change, this expectation is becoming less certain. Draughts, contamination, and flooding in places like Cape Town, Los Angeles, Flint, and Manitoba have made obvious that a limitless supply of water does not exist.
Dark Waters is a series of images of water, clouds and deserts looking at our culpability in commodifying and altering nature. Using a laser cutter, Van Der Hout burns holes into the photograph, allowing certain portions of the image to remain and others to fall away. He is interested in how far he can destroy the physical structure of the photograph before it falls apart.
Creative Destruction explores ideas of modernization, progress, and loss by etching into the surface of photographs from the Toronto archives.
At this time of transformation, I became interested in exploring Toronto's past, as a means of framing the changes we are currently observing – in the realms of transportation, architecture, and the nature of work – and shedding light on the connections between past and present.
For this series, I combined photos I took of the desert in Joshua Tree and Arizona with images from the Hubble Space Telescope. While both landscape and spacescape create a sense of expansiveness and possibility, the contrast in scale reminds us of our relative smallness in the bigger picture.
The utopian aesthetic is reminiscent of early sci-fi, like the original Star-Trek I grew up watching, where California deserts were stand-ins for other worlds.
Through the course of my work I have looked to the nature of photograph -- distilling the medium to its most essential elements. In so doing, I have discarded from my work much of what has been considered central to photography. The modernist movement in photography took it to be self evident that the nature of photography lies in the recording of "the thing itself," meaning the outside world.
The studio is both a magical and profoundly practical place. It is a site that serves the grand pursuits of contemplation and creativity while meeting the functional requirements of production, storage, and distribution. In the studio, artworks coexist in an entirely uncontrived dialogue.
The photographs in this series document artists at work in studios that range from monastic to whimsical to chaotic. These private and highly individual workspaces speak volumes about artists’ processes and personalities.
In 2006, my cousin came to me with a set of slides she had found while cleaning out her parent's basement. The slides had gone through radical changes in the time they had been in the box. Most probably subject to a flood at one point, many of them had begun to disintegrate. The very fabric of the slides had been compromised, in some cases leaving nothing but abstract traces where images had once been.
Ryan Van Der Hout's work explores the intrinsic nature of the photogram as it is applied to various streams of art. A photographic image made without a camera, the photogram is produced by placing objects directly onto the surface of a photo-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The varying tonality of the resulting silhouetted image is determined by the transparent, translucent and opaque qualities of the object photogramed.
In Collecting Dust, Van Der Hout photographs still life scenes covered in layers of dust and decay showing the accumulation of time and neglect.
By covering recreated Dutch vanitas paintings and famous artworks, in dust Van Der Hout imagines what our most prized artworks would look like in a world long neglected. What would it look like when all that is left to do is collect dust? The butterflies in the vanitas arrangements offer a note of hope - a symbol of the renewal that is possible after civilizations collapse and nature renews itself.