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Artist Statement

Ryann Cooley is a conceptual artist and educator who works in photography, sculpture, and immersive installation to examine the relationship between the viewer and the image.


Cooley’s work responds to the intangible digital image, the steady stream of content that permeates and influences our daily existence, and the ever-growing virtual space we inhabit. With an interest in how these contemporary visual communication modes might affect our memories and emotions, he invents new ways for the viewer to physically experience and relate to the materiality of the photographic object.


Through each of his sculptural works and installation environments, he draws attention back to the photographic object while simultaneously allowing the viewer to be mindful of the subject within the image. He often does this by enhancing his photographs’ physical qualities, combining them with sensory altering elements like space, color, light, glass, and sound. This may mean creating multiple viewing points to the photograph, leading the viewer to engage the image from different angles, or using mediated forms of projection to explore what information is lost to the limitations of sensory experience itself. Ultimately, by engineering opportunities for sensorial involvement, his work finds various new ways to challenge photography’s boundaries and draw the viewer’s awareness to their own body’s physical and temporal presence in relation to the material image.


Having been nearly robbed by monkeys on a mountain in the Sichuan province of China, documented the claimed location of the Ark of the Covenant in Aksum Ethiopia, photographed the rituals of Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala; Ryann Cooley has many stories to share. He says that his travels as a documentary photographer to over 50 countries have helped shape his ideas. Additionally, his years of advertising and editorial work in New York City–with clients including American Express, Intel, InStyle, and Vibe magazine–further refined his skills.  In his current practice, Cooley classifies himself as a conceptual artist and educator working in a blend of mediums challenging the boundaries of photography. His work–which includes photography, mixed-media, sculpture, and immersive installations–exists on the fringe of photography, examining the relationship between a viewer and the image.


Ryann Cooley graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, and received his MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts, in New York City, NY.  Cooley is a Professor of Photography and Digital Media at Houghton University in Western NY.