Question and Answer
with Creative Director Ryan L. Sumner

Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?
A. I've been an artist as long as I can remember. First crayons, then pencils, pastels, eventually lots and lots of paint. When an uncle gifted me a 1970s-era camera and a couple of lenses I started shooting for art purposes. I was 15.

After college, I took a job at a local museum where I was in charge of photo management--everything from researching and locating historic images for display, retouching hundreds of images for some shows, designing the exhibits themselves, and coordinating photo-production with the labs and print vendors. I was there eight years. Then a different museum for two more.

In 2003, I founded Fenix Fotography and boot-strapped it into one of Charlotte's most recognized photography brands.

In the years since, I've done double duty in the publishing industry. My work has appeared in Forbes Magazine. I worked as a freelance photojournalist at The Mecklenburg Times and spent three years as head photographer/fashion director for Uptown Magazine. Later I helped start Seen Magazine as the main shooter and photography director.

Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?
A. This year the readers of Elevate Magazine awarded me the Best in the City Award for "Favorite Artist."

When I was notified I'd won an award, I thought it was for just photography. I was floored when I got overall ARTIST. It was especially sweet since I was then serving as the director of photography at SEEN a competing magazine to Elevate. I felt a little guilty about accepting it--photographers sometimes have a bit of second child-syndrome compared to painters and scuptors.

Q. What do you like most about your job?
A. I like that every day I get to creatively problem solve. Each of our corporate clients has unique image needs and I enjoy constructing solutions for their brand. If I shot cookie cutter photos, it'd drive me bonkers.

Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A. Find a photographer whose work you really like.
Shop on quality and not price--these photos will be used a long time and if they are shoddy it will reflect poorly on you and your company. Meet with them and see if they are listening to your needs and that you get along.

Most importanly, make sure they have extensive training and experience and can handle the job. There are suddenly a lot of "faux-tographers" passing themselves off as professionals. They have a camera and some business cards, but they don't have the diverse experience and knowledge that comes with many years of working on this craft.

Q. Describe four recent jobs you've completed.
A. Photographed 40 executives and staff for a major international consulting firm in uptown Charlotte. Also created uniform style and visual standards that could be replicated throughout the organization.

Created a multi-location, multi-look set of photographs for five executives at a local convention bureau. Each set contained photos appropriate for different types of media needs (magazine cover, inside lede, two-page spread, etc.).

Provided three days of photojournalism services for the annual meeting of a financial services trade organization, documenting all events surrounding the conference.

I created an 8-page fashion spread for a local magazine that was based on my love of mid-20th-century detective novels. I planned it for a very long time and the final product was premiered as a fine-art exhibition prior to the print-release of the images.


Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
A. Visual Style: My work looks unique compared to other photographers. I think this is partially because I don't chase trends. I shoot what looks good to me and suits my own style.

Knowledge: I know photography and lighting inside and out and have dozens more techniques and tools than my competitors who are very limited in what they bring to the table.

Fashion Background: I've shot a great deal of fashion professionally, so I know how to make all people look their best through lighting, posing, and lensing.

Creativity: Having spent a long time in the ultra-competitive world of magazines, I'm used to an intensely visual and varied medium where images have to be eye-catching to keep a reader's attention.

Reliability and Service: I'm used to making deadlines and editors who don't wait. Your images will be right and on time.