Kathy Ryan, the director of photography at the New York Times Magazine, only started taking pictures in the paper’s Renzo Piano-designed headquarters a few years after the company moved into the midtown Manhattan architectural wonder in 2007. By now, however, those pictures have earned her close to 100,000 followers on Instagram, a book and, starting May 5, a show at the Howard Greenberg gallery in New York City.
“I absolutely didn’t expect something like this,” she tells TIME. “I just started making the pictures for no reason other than the pleasure of it. But somehow, something was happening with the light in this building and the shadows that the ceramic rods [on the facade] create.”
Ryan started sharing her images on Instagram and “it just built up from there,” she says. So it came as a shock when Howard Greenberg approached her about turning the pictures into a gallery show. The interest caused her to look at her own work in a whole new way. What would an exhibition mean and which 48 photographs — out of the hundreds she’s posted on social media — would make the cut? “You do have to step back,” she adds. “What makes sense of the wall, isolated from the others? What stands the test of time?”
The result, she says, is a collection of photographs where “something just happened with the bright light, where there’s a slightly surreal quality and a harmony [as if] a silence descended on the picture for that moment in time.”
That sense of harmony and quietness is exactly what Ryan looked for when she started photographing her office. “You know, I have a high-pressure, action-packed job with deadlines – constant, constant deadlines – and wonderful creative challenges one right after another,” she says. “The neat thing about making the pictures [is that it] actually gives me a sense of calm. If it’s an incredibly hectic day and if I can peel off at six o’clock and head upstairs to the 15th floor or the west side where the late afternoon light comes in and make pictures for an hour and a half, I feel so good.”
Kathy Ryan is the director of photography at the New York Times Magazine. Her exhibition, Office Romance, is on show at the Howard Greenberg Gallery until June 19.
Myles Little, who edited this photo essay, is a senior photo editor at TIME.
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