By Mira Brody EBS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
BIG SKY – Like many, Big Sky photographer Ryan Turner moved to the mountains to get what he jokingly calls his “master’s degree” at Bridger Bowl and fulfill his dream of becoming a full-time ski bum. Now, in Big Sky since 1998, the Wisconsin native and UWEC BFA graduate is an accomplished photographer, capturing the vibrant lifestyle of mountain living.
“I was just a kid who had a dream to do something with his life instead of working in a blue collar town,” said Turner, who ultimately made the leap out west after a close friend died—a solid reminder that life is short. “As I’ve grown as an artist I’ve realized how much I appreciate the things that I love and that I’ve incorporated that in my art.”
He names renowned Jackson, Wyoming nature and wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen as an inspiration. Turner captures mountain scenes, landscapes and wildlife after beginning his professional career shooting action photography at Crystal Images where he was fortunate to collect hours of practice, shooting close to 10 rolls of film a day. His work has been featured in 60 different publications through the years, including Powder Magazine and Big Sky Journal.
“Taking action shots [with Crystal] was really helpful because I learned how to be efficient with film,” he said. “Everything I shot back then, I developed on slot film and learned how to post-process, post-production…there are lots of different techniques with that film.”
In 1999, Turner started freelancing, turning more to work that interested him, and in that he found a draw toward light, the way it ignites a situation, brings focus to something and creates a mood. He says he appreciates how light can take something really simple and make it extraordinary. Through the years he has traveled around the world, including Alaska and France to name a few locations, growing and developing his craft. He says he moved toward adventure photography because capturing those magical moments in nature always felt more natural to him.
Turner enjoys giving back to the community that has supported his work over the last 20 years of his career. He has donated to a number of local organizations, including the Arts Council of Big Sky, Big Sky School District, Women In Action, Friends of the Avalanche Center and the Gallatin River Task Force among others. He and his family attend annual beautification events as well, including the Community Park Weed Pull and Mountain and River Clean Up Days.
“We have an opportunity as artists to be able to grab people’s attention quickly, and it draws us to it over and over again,” Turner said of the role of art in the community and its ability to communicate to viewers. “It can make you feel happy and sad and calm.”
These days, like any self-respecting Big Sky resident, Turner enjoys fishing, rafting, hiking, snowboarding, as well as reading history and painting. He just finished a major installation in 100 rooms at the new Wilson Hotel, has does installations at the Yellowstone Conference Center as well as homes and offices throughout the region. He is also working on a yet-to-be-titled book—his first—which he hopes will be finished by the coming fall.