I didn’t take high school too seriously. For the most part, my life centred around skateboarding. Upon graduation, I knew I wanted to tell stories. I went with the university that offered me the best scholarship.
I left that fall, my car bursting with skateboards and bedsheets, for the University of Windsor. I studied creative writing. A.k.a. I read a lot. Wrote a bit. And I sat in circles critiquing other student’s half-baked, love-scorned stories 93% of the time. In the middle of the second year, the house that I was living in with close friends burned down. (It’s a story that involves a friend cooking with grease and using water as a fire extinguisher. Also a dumb move.) That was the last straw for me living in the armpit of Ontario. I was out.
After transferring to Wilfrid Laurier University (in part for chasing a woman—a woman that became my wife), I completed my English degree. More than the education, though, I worked as an editor for the school’s magazine, Blueprint. I also contributed to the award-winning school newspaper, The Cord Weekly. I was hooked. I wanted more. To see your name in print, with a story below that you pored over is intoxicating.
I decided if writing was the route I was going to take, I would do an authentic test run. Following graduation, I boarded a commercial plane for the first time and headed to Ghana, Africa. I volunteered with Journalists for Human Rights in a Liberian refugee camp, named Buduburam for a few months. I simply listened to their stories. I started to take photographs. I told their stories. Living with these proud, resilient refugees in this haphazard, 30,000-strong refugee camp cemented my desire to relay stories that had a purpose.
That fall, I enrolled in journalism school at Sheridan College.
Once again I started to work as a writer and editor. This time with Sheridan’s culture magazine, TRAVIS, which dripped with cool and creativity. I became editor-in-chief of TRAVIS and working with a team that oozed talent. We won a couple awards. I was published in national publications. I got serious about writing and photography. About storytelling.
I then joined the social enterprise Me to We as a book editor. I travelled the world with Me to We—from Ecuador to Kenya to China, sharing stories that had a purpose. Stories that were bigger than me. I eventually become the creative director of Me to We. I saw firsthand how powerful words and images, when naturally coexisting, can bring about real change.
My photography was originally a conduit for my writing. If I was out writing a story, I always had a camera with me. (My mom taught me how to use a Canon AE-1 when I was a wee one). And like writing, I was hooked. It’s about capturing the full story—with both words and images. Now I can’t write without getting an accompanying shot and vice versa. The musing of the great Ansel Adams comes to mind: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
To date, I’ve travelled to five continents and dozens of countries to tell stories. I’ve been published in hundreds of publications for both my writing and photography. I have my name on seven published books, from editor, to writer, to art director. I’ve worked with clients like Apple, Red Bull, Spotify, Lexus, Intrepid Travel, Universal Music, Me to We, the JUNO Awards, the Red Cross, and published in Vice, Toronto Star, Fortune magazine, Applied Arts and Billboard magazine. I’ve been featured in national media, on major websites, yadda yadda. I’ve photographed movie stars, rock stars, the down and out, and beautiful souls. I’ve been commissioned to photograph from Morocco to Sri Lanka to Iceland to Peru. I won major photojournalism awards.
But more than this, if I can impact just one person with a story or photograph, to help them see the world a little differently, to see a glimpse of true beauty, I’ve done my job.
CONTACT RYAN BOLTON
Email Ryan by clicking right here.