Photographer, Farmer and Kind of a Loner
Interview: Julie Benoit
Ryan Muglia is a photographer, a farmer and kind of a loner. He is an old soul who lives by himself in a tiny Airstream on a farm where he works. He seems to enjoy the quiet and his solitude. He doesn’t leave the farm much, except for his once a week trip to Boulder to grab some coffee or maybe a solo hike someplace. He takes beautiful photographs of vast landscapes. There is a sense of desolation and loneliness in these human-less pictures. After talking to him we learned that his photographs serve as journal entries that document his own life experiences. He has a show that opens at Yore, Friday 13 October. Swing by Yore at 381 Main Street in Longmont and see some of his photos for yourself…you won’t be disappointed.
Photo: Ryan Muglia
JB: Tell us a little about where you are from and how you ended up in Lyons? What brought you out this way?
RM: I’m originally from the Midwest. I grew up in Michigan, and went to school there, but I’ve been on the move for the last few years. I came to Colorado for the first time on a bit of a whim – a cheap plane ticket that I couldn’t pass up – and I almost immediately fell in love with the Rockies. I knew that one day I wanted to live here, and an opportunity to live and work on a small farm in Lyons came up, so I took the leap. I now spend my spring, summer and fall here, and once the season concludes, I spend my winters traveling.
JB: You live in an Airstream!!! Can you talk about that at all? Does your trailer move with you? How long have you lived in a trailer? How many different trailers have you lived in/had?
RM: Yeah, so I live in a 22 ft Airstream Land Yacht that I’ll guess is from the mid 70s. It’s been used as intern housing on the farm I currently live on, but I’ve kind of claimed it as my own over the past two years, put some much needed tlc into it and gotten it to the point where it’s quite comfy – at least to me. Prior to this I had a little 13 foot travel trailer that I pulled behind my Volvo station wagon, and lived in that for 6 months while traveling the US. Put just over 20,000 miles on my car during that trip, visited 23 states, and 15 national parks, setting in motion the lifestyle I currently lead.
JB: And then from here you take off to winter in a castle (( i think you said that? )) in Tuscany? Can you tell us about your plans? You will be traveling alone… Do you want to talk a bit about this?
RM: Yeah, so the winters I have off from the farm and am free to travel as I like. I spent last winter in Hawaii, working on some farms, and had a booth at the local farmers market chopping coconuts.
This year I’m heading to a farm/castle in the Tuscan countryside, working in the vineyards, pruning olive groves and caring for heritage breed cattle and pigs.
Photos: Ryan Muglia
Photo: Mat Bobby
JB: What is a typical day like for you?
RM: Typical day on the farm starts with a cup of coffee and some eggs from the chickens we have. If I’m on animal duty, I feed the alpaca, goat and llama, let the chickens out, make sure they’re all fed and have water, and collect chicken and quail eggs. After that I’ll water the various gardens we have around the property, and from there, the day can really go in any direction. Today, we designed an update to our chicken run, and will be constructing that over the next couple days. One of the things I like about life on the farm is the variety of tasks and projects take come about, it never really gets boring.
JB: Do you ever get tired of working and living in the same space? Do you ever need a break?
RM: Sometimes it’s necessary to get away for a bit – a camping trip or short getaway. It definitely helps that we get those three to four months off at the end of the season. The refresher is always nice.
JB: How often do you get away from the farm?
RM: During the season, I get a day off per week. I usually try to spend that time hiking up in Rocky Mountain National park or the surrounding areas. I’d say that’s my number one hobby, going for long walks in the mountains. Either that or I’m reading books in whatever shade I can find, haha.
JB: When do you typically shoot photos? What is your process like?
RM: At this point, I’m not really shooting photos for anyone but myself. I’ll shoot the occasional wedding, or farm dinner, or do a favor for someone, but mostly I’m shooting photos just as a documentation of my own life. I have always loved looking through family photos. I’m lucky enough that my grandparents super 8 videos survived, even. As a kid I would load up my grandparents old projector and watch reel after reel of family vacations or birthdays or backyard parties. To anyone else these would probably be pretty boring, but to me they capture a time and place of people I love and who mean the world to me. I’ve always treasured those, and I think my intention is to capture my own life to pass down someday, hopeful that they will be appreciated in a similar way.
JB: There is a loneliness, emptiness and smallness in your photos? How intentional is this idea of transcendentalism?
RM: I’m not sure if it’s intentional, haha. I’m always alone when I go hiking, it just happens that way. But I like going places that make me feel small, and I’m glad that comes across in these photos.
JB: What is your relationship with the landscape? what is your favorite landscape? If you could be in any landscape where would that look like?
RM: I love living in places where the natural environment is really emphasized – on a flower farm surrounded by mountains, or the rainforest in Hawaii, a farm in the Tuscan countryside. One day I’d like to experience rolling hillsides, rainy weather and a sea scape. I’m still searching for my favorite.
JB: You were talking about how your photos are kind of journal entries…. I love that there is no text but there is definitely a story in the work. Have you ever considered using text in your work? Do you title your photos?
RM: haha, I used to keep a captains log while traveling, keeping track of where I camped, what trails I hiked, how many miles, etc. but that didn’t last too long. I’m trying to get better at this, and have some hope that I will.
JB: And your best buddy Waylon the goat… How did he get to be your best bud?
RM: It was love at first sight. We were both new to the farm, he arrived about a month after me, and was having a bit of trouble fitting in with the other farm animals, so I just smothered him with love and hay.
JB: You have a show at yore that opens Friday! Can you tell us a little bit about the images you have chosen for the show? Where are the photos from? When were they taken?
RM: The photos in the show are mostly from the last year, a few images from around Colorado, one from Arizona and one from Washington. Pretty much they’re just a collection of the places I’ve visited that I either found most unique or stopped me in my tracks; they’re places that I have been that I want to share with people.
JB: What do you think of Longmont?
RM: I like Longmont, though I haven’t explored it as much as I may like to. It seems there are a lot of creative people coming in and doing some really awesome things to better the community.
JB: What is next for you?
RM: Finishing up the season in Colorado, packing my bags, and heading for the old country.