Interview with Ryan Monroe

Ryan Monroe in front of RyArMo Photography Studio. Photo courtesy of Ryan Monroe.

Since opening in September of 2018, RyArMo Photography Studio has been an exciting new addition to the Lower Broadway section of the city. We sat down with the owner, Ryan Monroe, to find out more about his story and future plans for the photography studio that also serves a social hub for local artists and entrepreneurs.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to Newark? 

I am a bit of a unicorn: A working professional creative who functions within the bounds of order, process and precision and a ”Wall Street burnout turned impact finance guy” whose creativity allows me to do my day job better. I grew up in suburban Denver, moved to San Francisco for university (finance major) and in 2005, I moved to New York City for a job with a Citi.  

I came to Newark out of a strategic desire to relocate my photography business to an arts-centric, transit-connected, predominately minority city both close to NYC and along the 1-95 corridor. I have a lot of well-connected friends in Newark who sold me on the city over the years, mission accomplished. 

How did you get into photography? 

Photography has always been an interest/hobby. In 2009 (the middle of the financial crisis), I worked in the home office of a Swiss bank in Weehawken, commuting daily from Brooklyn. I was going through a lot of personal difficulty and needed a creative outlet. I enrolled in a Black & White Film Photography class at NYU and purchased a Nikon FM10 on eBay. B&W Film Photography was my escape from the reality of life at the time and my only source of happiness. 

About a year later, I purchased a used Canon Rebel and decided to teach myself digital photography. The first time I got paid to do photography was at a friend’s weekly party. In 2013, I used my bonus for an upgrade for professional photography equipment. That May, I was laid off by Merrill Lynch. After a lot of grinding, hustling, and building a name for myself here, I am in awe of the entire journey. 

What made you settle on Lower Broadway as the location for your studio? 

It was divine intervention! I was looking to purchase a mixed-use building for a live/work commercial space. My friend Melvin Sykes connected me with Tara Robinson, who connected me with Tony Gibbons. Tony had a commercial building that was “perfect for an artist.” The common notion is you should or need to be downtown in order to find success, but that’s not true. In the two plus years since relocation, I have come to love Lower Broadway endlessly. The neighborhood has its challenges like any other, but the grit, togetherness, & support are unmatched.  

A look inside the studio. Photo courtesy of Ryan Monroe.

Do you have any favorite projects or assignments that you’ve worked on during your time in Newark? 

Yes, the product photography work I do on behalf of Makerhoods has become the photographic capture most aligned with my purpose. I am emphatic about entrepreneurship, economic self-sufficiency as the great equalizer for Black/Brown folks & feel it’s a great honor to contribute my talents to help microentrepreneurs leverage theirs! Supporting of Black Entrepreneurs (micro or established) perpetuates positive charged energy towards racial equity, increased access & localized opportunities.   

In addition to being a photography studio, what other kinds of events happen at RyArMo? 

RyArMo Photography Studio has morphed from being solely a commercial photography studio to a flex-use space dedicated to creative placemaking rentals. Content creators rent the studio to shoot movies, television series, music videos; photographers/videographers rent the studio for their own shoots; I’ve provided space for local community groups and I collaborate on a wide range of arts centric events with folks who are apart of my creative collective for a wide array of unique events based here as well. 

That’s such a cool range of partnerships! Did that help you build a sense of community here? 

Absolutely! I purchased an abandoned building which has become a beacon of light/positivity in a historically blighted and maligned area. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work? 

Ha! Where to begin, every insidious thing about COVID-19 has affected every one of my business lines (studio photography, creative placemaking rental, bespoke event rental, freelance photography). My studio was closed to the public March-June 2020; I am fortunate to have had the foresight to pivot/adjust to the realities while having the financial resources to weather the storm. I am a prodigious planner, eternal optimist, have a solid business plan and advocates for my studio in the right places. I believe with every fiber of my being 2020/2021 will make my business stronger. 

What kinds of things do you have planned for the return to normalcy? 

Getting back to planning and executing kick-ass arts-centric events and being unapologetic about my purpose/path in Newark. 2020 slowed me down, but did not stop my vision. 

RyArMo Photography Studio

74 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd

Newark, NJ 07104