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Interview with Ryan Koopmans

Ryan Koopmans, a lens-based artist of Dutch and Canadian descent, is highly regarded for his works that examine the built environment and its influence on society. He is particularly drawn to capturing the intersection between nature and man-made structures, resulting in thought-provoking pieces that invite viewers to explore otherworldly architectural spaces.

One of Koopmans' most celebrated projects is The Wild Within, a series of digital artworks created with his partner Alice Wexell that breathe new life into abandoned historic structures.

Through combining photography and animation, they create surreal and meditative architectural scenes that transport viewers to another world.

Initially, Koopmans had planned to become an architect, but during the portfolio making process for Architecture graduate school, he began taking photographs. He quickly realized that his camera enabled him to do things, go places and meet people in a way that a traditional career never would.

Koopmans changed direction and instead pursued an MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media at the School of Visual Arts in NYC which formed the basis of his future as a professional photographer.

He became obsessed with documentary photography and has been working around the world creating stories and shooting on assignment for the past 15 years. After working on photojournalism projects, fashion, travel and automotive photography, he eventually found himself back at the core of his visual and conceptual interests; the built environment and Architecture.

Koopmans is inspired to visit new, unfamiliar places that have not yet been extensively photographed.

His fundamental interest in a subject is driven by fascination with a country and its social, political, historic and economic characteristics. He has made connections with only a handful of locations around the world that share all of the aspects that make it interesting for him to shoot, including Lebanon, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Italy and Kazakhstan.

In 2014, Koopmans went to Georgia for the first time as a member of an international press team invited as guests to attend their fashion week. He fell in love with the country and thereafter, returned several times to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, to photograph fashion. The city of Tbilisi itself is a fascinating and dynamic place, however, after exploring the surroundings areas, he realized the full potential of the country and the depth of the history and its interwoven stories.

Koopmans drove across the country, ending up in the town of Tskaltubo after being advised by a local writer that the local architecture was something that might interest him. Upon arriving, it was like entering a time capsule.

Shortly after, he returned with Alice Wexell to photograph the architectural interiors that laid the foundation of what became The Wild Within. They made close contacts and friendships with people in the town and returned every year to explore and create images for this project.

The town was full of ornate but derelict buildings, many of which housed internally displaced people from the nearby region of Abkhazia since 1992. The combination of witnessing these overgrown, crumbling monumental buildings, and hearing the stories of the people who had been living in them for years without basic utilities, made Koopmans realize that this was a location he was going to photograph and learn about for years to come.

There are still some parts of the country that he hasn’t seen that he hopes to return to. Georgia is changing very quickly as modern infrastructure replaces the old, and the country continues to transform at a rapid rate.

The great thing about photography is that the act of taking pictures in itself is a form of preservation, so even though the face of the country might change, the images of how it once was will be preserved for eternity on the blockchain.

Koopmans says that he is not just interested in abandoned buildings per se, but more so in architecture and cities that have gone through extreme socio-political changes or environmental stresses.

Their abandonment is reflective of much more than simply the passing of time, but is representative of the greater forces that the country has endured. Buildings that have signs of the past but are not totally damaged are the most interesting to him.

Ryan Koopmans had the privilege of Jim Carrey, the renowned actor, expressing interest in the crypto art space and connected with Koopmans' piece, Devotion, the final artwork in The Wild Within Genesis project, all of which was shot in Tskaltubo.

The artwork's serene and meditative qualities resonated with Carrey, and Koopmans believes that the town's magical uniqueness contributed to this connection. Carrey's acquisition brought considerable attention to both the artwork and the town, and Koopmans was even interviewed by a Georgian state TV broadcaster about the purchase, which made the locals proud and excited.

The project's success has allowed Koopmans and Wexell to give back to Tskaltubo and Georgia in various ways, and they find it fulfilling and inspiring to see how the crypto art movement can be a powerful force for making a positive impact.

Ryan Koopmans has also collaborated with some of the top artists in the space including Cath Simard and Tjo. Their collaborations are considered to be some of the strongest and best executed artist collaborations in the NFT space thus far.

Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, Ryan Koopmans has a multitude of plans and releases.

The next artwork will be revealed at Sotheby's in Paris this March, where the artwork will be on exhibition and auctioned. Koopmans intends to continue releasing primarily 1/1 artworks that challenge and expand upon his conceptual and aesthetic boundaries.

Building upon the success of The Wild Within, Koopmans plans to continue exploring and developing this project into new horizons, leveraging new technology and innovative methods to further enhance the visual experience in his work.

As he continues to push the boundaries of lens-based art, Koopmans remains committed to providing audiences with unique and captivating perspectives on the built environment and its relationship with society.


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