Written by Margarita Hirapetian

Sometimes it seems like photography doesn’t get the credit it deserves as an art form. With the advent of camera phones, it felt like suddenly everyone fancied themselves a photographer. But true photography takes far, far more than just a click on your iPhone. As photographer Eugene Fryer points out, “A lot of people don’t realize that so much more goes into photography than just taking an image on your camera. This past year I’ve been improving on styling my own shoots which means planning hair and makeup, location scouting, and thinking of every little detail I could incorporate to make the picture better.”

Details are so important to Eugene, who strives to imbue his images with nuance and meaning. He explains, “I felt there was a huge void in the industry in terms of creating images with true meaning, so I made it my goal to not just capture photos but to speak through them.” To this end, one of his most striking images is a photo of brightly colored, vibrant tulips standing out against a blurred background of skyscrapers in the distance. It perfectly embodies a concrete jungle – these delicate flowers blossoming in an environment that is not necessarily welcoming to them, in a world that is not always as appreciative of nature as it should be. It’s a thought-provoking photo, in addition to simply being beautiful. In his quest to instill meaning in the images he creates, Eugene has proved quite successful with this example – and of course, there are many more where that came from; just check out his Instagram (@gene.fry) for proof.

Eugene describes himself as a very visual person who likes to capture memories and make them appear even more beautiful. He was like that growing up, but it actually wasn’t until he was 18 that photography became his passion: “My adopted dad brought me home a relatively cheap, beginner camera from Sam’s Club and it all began. I threw myself into taking photos whenever and however I could.” He also started posting images online via Instagram and began gaining more traction in the Cincinnati photography scene. Although that was a huge accomplishment for him, he says, “I believe that you should always strive to learn more, so that’s what I do every day. I sit down and I research and I teach myself new things as a reminder that my photography journey is only just beginning.” This is so humble of him, and it’s refreshing to know that he is continuously striving to better himself.

When it comes to inspiration, it’s all about “raw emotions” for Eugene. He explains, “I feel things very strongly and deeply, and sometimes it is difficult to explain that to people – this is true for most of us. It is easy to express happiness and excitement, but what about sorrow? What about pain? Those are the most inspiring states to me. I feel like a lot of photography is shallow; I see the easy emotions portrayed and not the hard ones. I want to create art that makes people think and wonder. I want them to feel the difficult emotions inside of them, simply by looking at my work. This happened at the RAW showcase, and it inspired me beyond words. I was able to hear stories from people who admired my work, and it just reignited that flame in me.”

Consequently, Eugene feels most rewarded not only by his work, but also by what his work inspires in others. He says, “The most rewarding aspect to me is definitely when I hear that my art inspires others. I love watching the emotions on people’s faces as they stare at my photos and hearing them talk about the possible meanings behind them. There is no better reward to me than knowing I inspire others in the same way they inspire me.” In addition to that, he hopes that viewers of his work see it as the art that it is. He further hopes they gain different perspectives on life through what they see: “Whether it be a friend, a fellow creative or a total stranger – I just want people to allow themselves to feel.”

Though he is active on social media – as many artists probably feel obligated to be – Eugene also describes it as one of his biggest challenges: “There is great beauty in the Internet, but there is also great tragedy. In order to stay on top and relevant, you really have to put the time in and work at it day in and day out. You have to try not to get bummed out about getting less likes than others or seeming less popular. You have to truly come to terms with the fact that there are millions of artists out there – you have to find your own voice. You either stand out or you get lost.” And yet despite this issue, Eugene has great advice for any aspiring artist that can help them pull through this type of challenge, or whatever else they may face. He advises, “Don’t let anyone bring you down. Pour your heart into your art. There will be days where you feel unsuccessful and small, but you must remember that everyone starts somewhere. You need to put yourself out there and network – don’t be afraid of looking stupid. You cannot climb to the top by yourself.”

As he looks to the future, Eugene would love to expand his circle, network more, and reach the point where he can live off of his art. But perhaps more than that he wants to also reach the point where his photos “truly stand out and are unique amongst the crowd. I feel these small improvements each time I shoot. For example, I never used to style the model or scout a location but now I do. It’s those little things that tie everything together and truly set your photos apart. I hope to keep doing this and just get better and better at it.” We have absolutely no doubt he will accomplish that and so much more. He has what it takes.