Andy Ryan studied BA (Hons) Photography at AUB, graduating in 2013. Since graduating, Andy quickly found his style as a sports photographer, landing his dream job as Official Olympic Photographer for Team GB. Andy has photographed a variety of events, most notably Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year.
We visited Andy to hear about his time capturing behind the scenes moments with Team GB, and what it’s like to get up close and personal with the world’s best athletes.
Have you always been interested in photography?
I’ve played sport my whole life, and always been interested in sports. By the time I was about 14 I started getting really into photography and cameras and found a natural merge between the two. I started photographing sport when I was pretty young at school and became the school’s photographer, I used to photograph the rugby team and other events.
It kind of went from there.
How was your time at AUB?
To start with I found my time at uni quite daunting. It was a very arts-based course, and I was more sports and commercially orientated, although perhaps I didn’t realise it at the time. I didn’t really understand the difference between commercial and editorial and arts- based. But I soon found my feet. It was different going from being one of the best at your school to being challenged by everyone, but I kind of enjoyed that.
By the end of it I’d really found my feet and was enjoying the work I was putting out.
What happened after graduating?
Straight after university I did a bit of work experience in a small photography studio, then I was freelancing, taking any photography I could get, doing different events, headshots, and corporate work. Then I started shooting evening events for the Commonwealth Games, so for the individual nations. England, Scotland, Wales etc, and I was shooting Team England. That went pretty well and I started doing more work for Team England. Then Team GB called and they asked if I’d like to start shooting for them.
Then they asked me to be the Team Photographer for the Rio Games. I ended up shooting loads of sport, and they wanted me as a team photographer, so it would be some sport, some commercial, some behind the scenes, so a bit of everything. But I ended up shooting loads of sport, which was amazing for me, because it was exactly what I wanted to be doing.
So, that was in 2016, then earlier this year I went out to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, which was pretty awesome. It’s been great. Then the journey continues and I’m hoping to be out in Tokyo with them in 2020.
How does it feel to be shooting some of the world’s best athletes? Do you ever get star struck?
Yeah, absolutely! It’s always quite daunting to start with. But I’m lucky, I can hide behind my camera, and that’s an immediate ice-breaker because you’re there to take their photograph. And they give you a level of respect too, they understand why you’re there. It’s awesome, it’s a really great experience to be at the best sporting events in the world.
Would you say this is your dream job?
Yeah, it definitely is. It sounds a bit corny when I say it, but it genuinely is my dream role.
And what would a typical day look like at the Games for you?
It’s completely different between when I’m at a Games and when I’m not. So a typical day when I’m at the Games would be a 6am start, and I would go and shoot any number of events, trying to eat lunch whenever you get a break.
My goal was to try and shoot every GB athlete in the competition, which is possible, but a big ask. During the Winter Games it’s possible, as there are about 60 athletes, but during the Summer Games there are around 300 so it’s not quite as easy!
I work as part of the Media Team, which consists of the Social Media team, a Videographer who does a lot of interviews, then me. In terms of Team GB I am the only photographer.
And then we are part of a wider team. Anyone that works for Team GB in any role is part of Team GB, it’s called One Team GB, so whether you’re an athlete, a coach, a photographer, whoever you are you’re all part of the same team. And that’s why we all wear kit all the time, every day, one day we wear blue, one day white, so we always look the same. So we work quite solitarily but as part of a bigger team.
And finally, what’s your one piece of advice for aspiring photographers?
Try and do something different to try and stand out from the crowd. Always work your hardest but just try and think of something different. Try and be unique, try not to do what everyone else is doing.