About Me

Hello my name is J. Ryan Stanley.
I’m a Documentary, Street and Art Photographer.

J. Ryan Stanley is a photographer and graphic designer specializing in a blend of documentary, street and fine art photography.
Stanley’s experience in the industry includes 14 years as a graphic designer and 20+ years as an artist. 


“As an artist, my work has always resided where fine art and documentary meet. I aspire to photograph varied communities–to better understand their worlds, tell their stories and better understand what makes us all human. I hope that my work spurs questions, conversations and understanding while showcasing beauty and eliminating mystery in these spaces.”

– J. Ryan Stanley



Stanley has two goals with his art.  The first: To foster conversation about cultural groups, ultimately leading to more understanding and appreciation of differences. The second: To show people and situations in their most authentic ways, capturing their natural expressions as they are thinking, speaking, acting and doing. This is something that he learned from immersing himself–walking around, camera in hand–in the “real world.” Stanley is inspired by life, “outsiders–the people who are forgotten by society” and contrast–such as that between “the rich and poor and ‘beautiful’ and ‘rough.’”


What inspires him most of all are situations that are potentially more dangerous and uncomfortable: getting as close as he can to the action.


“The difference between the ‘good’ and ‘great’ shots is if the person got past the fear. If a viewer can’t physically or emotionally ‘feel’ the photo, you’re not close enough to the subject or action. A lot of what I do is try to get that ‘closeness.’ I can usually ‘see’ the shot, but what I try to figure out is how to convey the emotion, so I spend a lot of time observing and waiting for ‘the’ shot. My art is like street photography in that sense, but I bring it into a different space and use different methods to tell those stories.”

– J. Ryan Stanley’



Expect to be pulled into any scene or subject Stanley photographs. 

Jason Gray–image rights manager at St. Louis Art Museum and creator of Photoflood Stl–said, “Ryan’s work looks to document the photographer’s own reaction to the subjects as much as the subjects themselves. This is because the artist is searching and investigating with his camera at least as much as he is telling with his pictures. This is an important distinction from work that simply wishes to document a person, place or event; The trajectory of Ryan’s photography changes according to what he learns about and from his subjects versus crossing things off a prescribed checklist, and this rewards the photographer as much as the viewer.” Originally hailing from Astoria, Ore., Stanley moved to St. Louis, Mo., in his elementary school years, as his father’s military career required the move. Ultimately, St. Louis became the place he decided to call home–and where he has built his career, family and life. Stanley currently resides in South St. Louis, with his wife, Leana, and their blended family.

While attending St. Louis Community College – Meramec, Stanley discovered a passion for photography. After landing an internship with Kicking Cow Productions, he was tasked with walking around town with a camera–and he was instantly hooked. 

Stanley spent several years capturing photography in the streets of St. Louis, and his work was featured several times on Channel 9’s Cherokee Project blog, a once-popular, but now-inactive, blog that highlighted life and activity on Cherokee Street.

Although Stanley has had some formal education in photography, he is mainly self-taught. However, this is clearly no weakness, as he actively breaks boundaries between photography genres and styles to capture the exact photos he desires–shots that evoke emotion, appreciation and understanding.

Kara Vaninger, a television producer/writer for Nine PBS who learned of Stanley’s photography during his work on the Cherokee Project, said, “Ryan Stanley’s images are somehow both keenly–and gently–observant without feeling intrusive. His skill in street photography ranges from striking, unposed portraits to naturally occurring tableaus of everyday objects and people. For me, some of Stanley’s most memorable images are those that use layers of reflection to build depth and encourage curiosity. His powerful images also serve as an invaluable record of the protests.”

Some of Stanley’s recent work includes “The Art of Protest” and “Small Town Rural.”


Stanley’s most recent exhibition, “Small Town Rural,” is a photo series based on life in small towns. The concept was developed during the 280-mile commute he took while dating his now-wife, Leana. The long drive time and interesting views sparked interest and introspection in Stanley, and he began documenting people and places along the way. ____Reasoning behind the idea?________ His work was displayed as an exhibition at the Lucas Schoolhouse, and one print and the book are available for purchase on his website (jryanstanley.com) and at Main Street Books (in St. Charles, Mo.).

The first host of the series, Andi Moravec, communication director at Lucas Schoolhouse, said, “Ryan Stanley’s photo series ‘Small Town Rural’ has been a joy to have on the walls of the Lucas Schoolhouse and has sparked conversation and shown a glimpse of rural life that is often forgotten in the city. We are looking forward to seeing what Ryan does next.”

Recently, he was inspired to create his newest work, “Home as a Concept,” which will feature black and white unposed, authentic photographs in a blend of art photography, street photography, and documentary photography–his signature style–of what the concept of “home” is to a variety of subjects. 

Stanley aspires to take his shows across the country, simultaneously using these opportunities as an avenue for spontaneity to create new ideas as possibilities arise.  


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