A photographic journey
Looking back at two decades of images with Ryan Turner Photography
Ryan and Angi Turner celebrate a milestone in Big Sky this year: the 20-year anniversary of Ryan Turner Photography.
“Lots of thanks to all of the companies and clients who have supported our endeavors through the years and constantly give us positive encouragement to continue on with the journey,” Ryan said. The high school sweethearts headed west from Wisconsin after finishing college: Ryan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in photography and Angi with a degree in accounting.
Family is not what led them to Montana – adventure did. They tried the mountain life and never left. “No, I am not related to Ted Turner,” Ryan said with a laugh before he could be asked. “I met him once and he was a very nice man.”
The Turners moved to the treasure state in 1996, living in Bozeman for two years before heading to Big Sky. Angi maintained work in her field doing public and private accounting for various companies and Ryan “had every job you could ever have, unless you had to go to college for it,” he joked. His first photography job taking pictures was for a few years with Crystal Images in the late 1990s before he started his own company in 1999.
The couple was always adventuring – exploring nooks and crannies of the state with Ryan toting his camera on every excursion. He initially became known for ski photography: His images were being seen in publications like Powder, Ski, Transworld Snowboarding in addition to local newspapers and magazines.
His clients were growing too, as his images were being bought by companies like Patagonia, Black Diamond and Never Summer to name a few. His name started to become known, and his commercial clients continued to grow, which led to people wanting to purchase some of his images as prints.
When the Big Sky farmers market came along, Ryan gave selling prints a try with his custom hand-made frames. He was soon selling out of his wares.“The art just kept selling,” he said. “I’ve been developing a system and picking my collection of work that has stood out over the years.”
The high sales from the market and people wanting to meet with the Turners to purchase prints made gave them the courage to take the next step: a storefront. They opened a gallery in the Big Horn Center in 2010. Ryan initially did all of his work there: printing, framing, editing, interacting with customers. But with that work, he started to lose his time in the wilderness: days of solitude of just him, his backpack of essentials and his camera.
“I love being outdoors and being in nature: skiing, hiking, biking, fishing. Capturing the essence of the moments. I love night photography. I love going out, taking a few days,” he said.
After evaluating the direction of the business, the Turners decided to move into a tiny gallery in a higher trafficked area near Caliber Café with the sole purpose of showcasing Ryan's work and meeting clients. It was primarily appointment-based, so Ryan could get back to what he loves to do.
Turner’s work is also available in the Town Center at Montana Supply and up on the mountain at JP Woolies. Then there are the greeting cards, found for sale all around Big Sky. The greeting cards line began in 1999 highlighting some of Ryan favorite shots, and he’s been adding to that collection over the years.
Other shifts also occurred in the business as the years progressed. About four years ago the business grew enough to support their family – including two daughters and two dogs. Angi stepped in to do more of the business-side of things full time, allowing Ryan even more opportunity to further explore and discover the shots that continually add to his collection.
“I’m trying to do whatever I can, so he can be out shooting,” Angi said, also noting he has a lot of great creative ideas yet to come to fruition.
Then there are Ryan’s business installations: the first at Big Sky Resort’s Yellowstone Conference Center: a collection of large format prints, some of which are 14-feet in length. The other Big Sky installation is at the Big Sky Medical Center.
Reflecting on a 20-year career, Ryan said he continues to grow as an artist, following the paths which struck him. His current favorite works have been his animal square series, his trees and his more abstract images, which he said are increasing in popularity. “I am pursuing my own artistic voice now. As a landscape photographer, I've always been inspired by Ansel Adams. His work helped me understand composition and light and grow fond of black and white,” he said.
Now, he experiments more and looks at photographers and painters like Claude Monet for inspiration.
“I’m lucky to be where I am because of all of the beautiful subject matter. And there are people here who appreciate and buy my artwork – people who allow me to be an artist,” Ryan said.
He is now venturing into painting and has a series of works that will be released publicly when the time is right.
Angi said it’s nice to see their 10-year-old daughter Lily with her easel set up next to her dad’s and the two of them painting together. Elia, their 13-year-old, is the craft artist who loves the photography side of things and is becoming a master at iPhone photography.
“They’re both taking more after him than me,” said Angi.