Meet California will give four photographers the opportunity to road trip across the Golden State on a 10-day British Journal of Photography commission, in partnership with Visit California. To introduce the competition, British Journal of Photography is profiling a number of photographers living and working in the state.
Ryan Shorosky’s relationship with California can be split into three different points in his life. It was on holiday, some seven years ago, while studying in New York, that the 29-year-old photographer first ventured to the Golden State. “I always had that aura of California in my mind,” he says. “Photographically, the East Coast is a lot more disciplined and structured. When I started coming out to California, I felt this real sense of freedom.”
Upon graduating, Shorosky’s life took a different turn. “My second introduction to California was through truck driving,” he says. Driving seven days a week, he spent an entire year living an anonymous life on the road. Shorosky would mostly drive west of the Mississippi River, through the western states of America. California was a regular stop. Now, having lived in northern California for the past year, Shorosky is in the midst of relocating to Los Angeles.
Shorosky’s idea to spend a year on the road started as a joke. “My father has been driving trucks for pretty much all of his life and I remember joking about doing it too, just to see his reaction,” he says. “At first I was just joking, but then I started to think about that conversation. In one way or another photography was always on my mind. I was drawn to the idea of adventure and exploration, and once I realised that I could do it in a very structured way, living and working as a truck driver, it struck a chord with me.”
Shorosky’s year spent driving up to 600 miles a day, seven days a week, resulted in a series of photographs documenting life on the road. The experience made him see California, and America, in a new light. “For the whole year I experienced the country from a truck. It is entirely different than any other form of travelling,” he says. “As a photographer it forced me to focus on what I had right in front of me instead of being overwhelmed with the freedom to travel wherever I wanted and take whatever picture I wanted.”
After 12 months, Shorosky returned to New York. It was not long however until he moved to California. The sheer diversity and visual eclecticism of the vast state was one of the main appeals. “You can drive for a couple of hours in California and the scenery is so different that it could almost be a different planet,” he says. “Over the past few years, a lot of my time in California has been spent living somewhere very specific for a couple of months – say northern California– and then leaving for somewhere very different.”
The photographer has sporadically documented his exploration of California over the past eight years. With no specific agenda, the photographs reveal Shorosky’s photographic approach at its most creative. “Visually, these photographs are exploring my own relationship with California,” he explains. “It is nice because I am not making these pictures for work or a more specific reason. It has allowed me to take a step back and make work over a long period of time that explores my relationship with a place, which I have always been fascinated with.”
The resulting photographs are deeply personal. “I usually look for things that represent the feeling of what I am going through at that time,” says Shorosky. A number of the photographs taken in California – namely the white roses and the portrait of a lone woman in a white dress – were taken during what Shorosky describes as “a romantic” period while living on the coast in northern California. “It was feeling this freedom to explore parts of my femininity, opposed to something like truck driving when it is all about masculinity.”
Meet California, a competition organised by British Journal of Photography in partnership with Visit California, will encourage narrative-led bodies of work that hone in on the individual details that give the state its distinctive character. The competition will take four winning photographers to some of the the most vibrant pockets of the the Golden State; allowing them to witness its contrasting scenery and diversity first hand. The 10-day commission will allow each photographer to create a standalone body of work responding to their experience venturing across the vast state.
Although Shorosky has spent much of his adult life exploring California, the state continues to provide the photographer with new challenges. Next month he will move to Los Angeles. “I am moving more towards working with video and film so LA is a big pull for me,” he says. “A lot of the stories that I worked on have started to feel as if they were some sort of prepper or research for film. It was a couple of months ago that I realised that I was ready to make the move to Los Angeles and give it a go.”
Meet California is now open for entries! The competition is free to enter and open to photographers anywhere in the world. Enter now by simply submitting examples of your work – you’ve got until 11.59pm (BST) on Thursday 28 June.
Meet California is a British Journal of Photography commission made in partnership with Visit California. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.