Independent Photographer and Filmmaker

David Ryder posed in three-quarter profile in front of a white background.

UW Major: Comparative History of Ideas

Tell us a bit about your job (e.g. what kinds of things you’re working on, what types of problems you solve day to day, etc.)?

I do editorial and commercial photography, along with filmmaking, so I cover the news and also help organizations tell stories. I covered the pandemic from day one here in the Seattle area, along with racial justice protests, and historic wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. I also find ways to tell unique feature stories in the region, often touching on themes that resonate with larger national and international issues. I solve visual problems on a day-to-day basis, when I'm working to create compelling visuals in complicated circumstances; I also solve problems related to ethical and equitable storytelling, and hustle constantly to create work for myself because I am an independent contractor.

How do you think your humanities education has influenced/advanced your career path?

My undergraduate work in the Comparative History of Ideas program helped shape the way I approach problems with an interdisciplinary mindset. I try to think of solutions from many angles. It also grounded me in a social justice framework that brought a new passion to the way I was doing and thinking about photography. After working in the field post-graduation, I returned to the UW's Bothell campus for the MA in Cultural Studies program. That allowed me to dive further into theory. I was able to focus on critical race theory and other interdisciplinary approaches to practicing ethical and equitable photojournalism. This background was invaluable during the George Floyd uprisings in particular, helping me to navigate the important work of documenting that racial justice movement, but I use my humanities training on a daily basis. I am so lucky to have the preparation that the UW provided.

Want to read more? Check out the profiles on the Alumni Spotlights page for more information on what our humanities majors are up to.

To see some of David's photography, including his extensive coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, check out his website here