Radcliffe “Ruddy” Roye is a Brooklyn-based documentary photographer specializing in editorial and environmental portraits and photo-journalism photography. A photographer with over twelve years of experience, Radcliffe is inspired by the raw and gritty lives of grass-roots people, especially those of his homeland of Jamaica. Radcliffe strives to tell the stories of their victories and ills by bringing their voices to matte fibre paper. He was recently recognized as TIME’s pick for Instagram Photographer of 2016 for his images that intersect stories, struggles, activism and truth.
Please describe why you use photography as a means to communicate a message and why you think it it is the most powerful in terms of activism.
I use photography as a vehicle to communicate because of my need to change the ugly and distorted perceptions of the black image and also to change the stereotypes out their about black people. Photography is sometimes how these images were forged in the first place. These perceptions began sometimes without a conversation. I believe that I can use the same images to deconstruct and help reconstruct the mired image of the black image.
You were selected by Time Magazine as the Instagram Photographer of 2016, congratulations! Why do you think you were recognized and how do you feel about it?
I believe that I was selected because my images have been recognized by my peers and colleagues to be a window to the folks who are oftentimes disenfranchised and invisible in our society.
Talking about Instagram, it’s a very easy and straight forward app to to share images. You have you reached almost a quarter million followers. Is there a strategy? Or is it simply about discipline in sharing compelling images?
I believe it is a variety of things. I believe that it was consistency. Instagram allowed me to talk about very sensitive issues in ways that bent the way people engaged with images. It’s sometimes hard to push through an idea that is driven by social justice in the various publications, but with Instagram I was able to talk about social issues and engage with an audience that felt the same way about the issues as i do.
These images, they tell stories of people and their backgrounds. Yet in a way, you choose which of these stories to share. What is your objective behind this documentation of people’s lives?
I truly just wanted to talk about the lives of people that felt familiar. It was easier to talk about someone in my community than it was to talk about my own life. There is a little bit of me in every story I tell. It was less narcissistic to frame someone else’s story than it was to frame mine.
Can you share a story or two of some of your favorite images? Or the ones you consider the most powerful?
Recently I did an assignment in Milwaukee and another in Chicago and they both change the way I look at African American struggle. After each assignment I realized that it was way more complex than not doing well in high school, end up not going to college, can’t find a job, end up in a life of crime, find oneself in prison and thus begins the life of a career criminal. Talking to a number of young men, some of them in their teens, I realize that some of them didn’t even make it to high school. That their lack of opportunity could have started from kindergarten. That struggle started after emancipation. Most of the boys I photograph were poor. They did not have a dollar to their name. They had no hope of finding a dollar the next day either and finding food by any means necessary was a reality for them.
What do you use in terms of equipment?
These days I use two Leica M’s and a Leica Q. I like the 35mm 50mm Summicron. They are my go to, it’s how I see the world. I recently got a Monochrom and an old 35mm is glued to it. I like challenging myself by looking and capturing the world in only black and white sometimes. But I have to say I see the world in colour.
Why is it your preference and how do you compare it with other equipment in terms of performance?
I fell in love with Leica 15 years ago and ever since then I have never been without one. It was with my first Leica that I sat down and understood zone focussing, reciprocity, foreground and background and depth of field. They all made sense to me because i was able to grow with a camera that forced me to move slower. However as I have gotten older I am realizing that I am developing a need for autofocus. Nevertheless, I am happy for my analogue background. I have used almost ever camera under the sun. Its hard to compare. I left Leica when the industry developed a taste for digital technology, but after experiencing the Leica Q and the Leica MP on assignment, I was happy to own the brand again. For me Leica has always been about being comfortable with a camera, having confidence in the technology and being confident that what was going to be reproduced is what I had envisioned in my mind.
What are your plans for next year in terms of other photo projects?
I intend to photograph two new series over the next four years. Without giving much away they both have to do with showing the link between crime and poverty.
Thank you Ruddy!
To read the Time Magazine article on Ruddy’s recognition, please visit this link.