“Cheltenham Hip-Hop”, 2019 | Ryan Free

Contact Sheet in Sketchsters House.jpeg

Ryan Free is a photographer soon to be graduating from the University of Gloucestershire with a degree in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.

I am not a photographer photographing Hip hop, I am a Hip hop photographer, and I have created thousands of negatives and fibre prints and contact sheets, documenting the local hip hop scene in Cheltenham and surrounding areas. I frame and isolate the world with my camera; what is important, what is meaningful, what is real. When I put that camera to my eye it’s as if I am gripping an archetype, a collective vision that wants to be seen. A vision that is rising up through time. There has not been a more convenient time than now to talk about community, family, culture, what it means to be British.

We spoke to Ryan about his work documenting the hip-hop scene in Cheltenham.

To me, Hip-hop means to embody the independence of taking back your mind from the mass cultural consumption of everything. To simply slow down and think for yourself. It starts somewhere and for me, it was on the streets where I first met Dave, Ryan and members of a local group ‘Motion Enterprise’ (ME). We were in an underpass, one of the only legal graffiti spots around, where artists paint their ideas onto the white walls of the world.
There is no question in the precision of Ryan Free’s technique. Hours of dedication and practice were repeated, whilst striving to produce perfection, quite clearly achieved in this project. However, some may say that only a select few people are attributed with the capability to truly connect with others. For example, here Free not only discusses the origins of these artists work but in turn their personal beliefs and character. It is this attributed human characteristic which within this work resonates itself, as the work of artists who paint with their tongues is epically canvased through Free’s lens creating a truly exceptional document of these individuals lives and thoughts. Relationships and emotions from an over three-year collaboration, dance throughout the pages as the rhythm of hip-hop bleed through the binding of this book’s spine.
— Ellie Allsopp

To see more of Ryan’s website, visit www.ryanfreephotography.co.uk

All images and text © Ryan Free