Interview: Ryan Yoon, Editor-in-Chief of the GROUND talks with Bloginity.
by Daniel Haim
The GROUND, a bi-annual publication that focuses on contemporary ideas in art, music and fashion through creative collaborations with its profiled subjects and readers.
The magazine strives towards facilitating new experiences with printed matter through its multiple platforms; web based social exchange, print and its manifestation as exhibitions in built spaces. Readers are able to participate in the creation of the magazine by posting to the Internet blogs and reviews hosted by The GROUND’s website. By facilitating interactions and experiences with The GROUND in multiple platforms, the magazine creates diverse ways of engaging with and creating its content. The GROUND embodies a genuine desire to share and expose a plethora of creative voices.
Ryan Yoon is the founder and president of Artistic Cube Inc., a creative agency providing high-end clients with special needs in creative direction and photography services. Born in South Korea, Ryan moved to America to capture the trendy styles of the fashion and art world. Currently settled in New York, before making his portfolio an international jewel, he acquired all the techniques of photography at the State University of New York, College of Oneonta.
After earning his qualification, he also received another degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Having obtained his masters, Ryan had his first exhibition in 2004 and a year later, his work was featured at the Pixel exhibition in New York. Known for his edgy yet elegant images, Ryan’s creative work is created to capture the moment. He prefers to concentrate on fashion and artistic documentary photography, where he can expand his creative visions. His published work includes Numéro Homme, Elle, Ponytail UK, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Playing Fashion magazine and various advertising clients.
Daniel: Ryan, what an honor. Our friendship spans over quite some time – I’ve had the pleasure of working with you and The GROUND Magazine a bit through the colder months of 2012. I truly admire what you guys are doing.
Ryan: Thank you Daniel. It is an honor for me as well.
Daniel: Where shall we begin? Maybe we can start with you telling us about “The Ground?”
Ryan: Simply speaking, The GROUND is a platform where contributors and editors collaborate in the creation of art, music, fashion and charitable subjects, concepts and ideas. The GROUND Magazine is a print version of the platform.
Daniel: Tell us a bit about yourself, who you are, where you’re from.
Ryan: I spent most of my life looking for what I am good at and what I like. I realized that it is really hard to find the matching of what a person likes and what he or she is good at.
People who find their passion at an early age are very lucky. I studied computer science back in Korea. I was in the e-commerce business for a while, and then I was in the army for five years. I actually came to America to study sports marketing in order to be a sports agent. It was really hard for me to imagine myself where I am now.
Currently, I am Ryan Yoon, editor in chief/creative director of The GROUND magazine and a photographer.
Daniel: How did you get started in this industry?
Ryan: I was supposed to go to the University of South Carolina to study sports marketing in 2003. I had this big dream of being a sports agent. A couple of months before the first semester started, I opened my eyes to the fashion industry and decided to be a model agent instead. Later, I studied business, fashion merchandising, and photography.
I did my first internship at New York Models during the last semester of college. That is how I entered into this industry.
Daniel: You were studying photography out on the west coast. What brought you over to New York?
Ryan: Before going to school in South Carolina, I went to school in California, taking a couple of business classes. After I changed my goal, I moved to upstate New York and studied photography there. Once I decided to get into the fashion industry, I transferred to the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. That is how I came to New York.
Daniel: Do you think there was a chance you would have stayed out there?
Ryan: I really liked living in upstate New York. However, I am sure I would have come to New York anyway to look for my passion. Maybe, I will consider living upstate again when I retire.
Daniel: The original magazine was named VIRGINE. You pretty much had to re-start your entire brand from scratch. What did you learn from that experience?
Ryan: I learned that the biggest challenge for a start-up company are legal issues and you have to be prepared for it. I named the magazine, VIRGINE, by combining the words, Virtual, Virgin and Magazine, which has nothing to do with the Virgin Enterprise. However, using the name VIRGINE was a big concern for the Virgin Enterprise.
I really did not know what to do because I was not ready for a big lawsuit and could not afford it. It was a devastating moment. After months of negotiations, I settled with the Virgin Enterprise, but I had to change the name. I learned how to stay positive in a critical situation and became a more mature human being through this incident. I do not think I had to start over since The GROUND became a more mature version of the VIRGINE brand.
Daniel: Was that experience an opportunity to improve the magazine?
Ryan: We came up with a new name, The GROUND, which I like very much and the name reflects my vision very well. I also set a right and strong direction for the publication.
If you compare the first issue with the second and the third issue, you will see significant changes in many ways besides just the name change. Now, The GROUND is more focused on consistency in direction and content creation.
Daniel: What sets The GROUND apart from the rest?
Ryan: The GROUND is a direction, not a destination. The GROUND is about how, not what. I believe The GROUND is an effort to create a better platform to help artists. Because of this reason, The GROUND does not limit its presenting format or topic subjects.
The GROUND’s first exhibition, “The GROUND Collective,” is a good example. By collaborating with an electronic company, Samsung, and a cultural hub, Milk Gallery, The GROUND created a new event concept where people can experience and interact with magazine content in a physical space.
The GROUND will host a charity project in 2013. We are expecting to release an expansion of The GROUND Social website. In turn, The GROUND will evolve by creating new formats and concepts.
Daniel: Take me through the creative process of this incredible magazine: from whom you work with to how their talent adds to the production.
Ryan: The most important process of content creation in The GROUND is brainstorming and editing. The GROUND editors spend enormous amounts of energy to keep a certain consistency by repeatedly brainstorming and editing. Once we’ve decided on a theme for the next issue, we look for possible contributors who might fit under the theme, and we look for relations among contributors. For example, for the third issue of the magazine, under the theme of “balance,” a The GROUND editor interviewed the musical duo, The Black Soft. Their debut single is called, “Eating Kandinsky.” Coincidently, we have a feature article about Wassily Kandinsky.
Additionally, Lady Gaga’s famous stylist Nicola Formichetti often collaborates with the musical duo, The Black Soft. Lastly, we have a fashion editorial called, Der Blaue Reiter (The blue rider), which was the name of the artist group that included Wassily Kandinsky. This is how we find the relationship among contributors under one given theme. If you look at the corner of certain pages of The GROUND, you will find small color tabs that show how all contributors of a certain color are related to each other.
So far, we interviewed one of the greatest fashion designers, Azzedine Alaia, world-renowned photographers Robert Polidori and Gregory Crewdson, architects Tadao Ando and Santiago Calatrava, many fashion designers, musicians and famous models.
One of the features I am very proud of is of up-and-coming artists with industry leading artists at the same time. In a way, they became mentors and mentees for The GROUND. The most memorable interview was the interview of fashion designer, Azzedine Alaia. The GROUND exclusively interviewed Azzedine Alaia who had not accepted an interview for decades. We also succeeded in bringing out his greatest thoughts and brutal criticisms toward the fashion industry.
Daniel: Back in 2012 you mentioned making a “hard” copy of The GROUND, a more “limited edition.” Are you still considering it?
Ryan: We produced hard cover cases with leather finish for the second issue. It is a limited-edition version of the magazine where possible sponsors have the opportunity to collaborate with The GROUND by producing a specialized case. The GROUND is currently looking for the right sponsors for this opportunity.
Daniel: There are two versions of your magazine. White and Black. What is the difference between the two?
Ryan: Black edition is sold at bookstores. White edition is a limited version that is not for sale. The contents are the same, but the white version has a more artistic feel and value. We only print 200 copies of the white edition. When we have the right partner or sponsor, all white editions will have a hard cover case with a leather finish.
Daniel: Is there a meaning behind the name, “The GROUND?”
Ryan: I broke new ground in order to provide more opportunities and connections to those who are struggling with their careers and for The GROUND to work on contributing more toward a better society.
Daniel: Let’s talk a bit about the site. How is that coming along?
Ryan: It has been doing great. We are still experimenting on how we can bring the physical magazine and the exhibition to the website.
Daniel: What has been the most exciting story to work on in The GROUND’s third issue?
Ryan: I have to say, all interviews and feature stories were exciting and special. The most meaningful aspect of the third issue was a chance to work with UNICEF. We are now trying to work with United Nations and UNICEF to create a really meaningful charity event along with creating content for the next issue.
Daniel: What’s the industry like in Korea? How often do you travel back home?
Ryan: I went back to Korea only twice in the past 11 years so it is really hard to tell you what it is like. I know that the Korean market is one of the fastest growing markets at the moment. I am so thrilled about it.
Daniel: Is there a Korean version of The GROUND?
Ryan: Not yet, but definitely in the future. I think it is too early to adopt another language version of The GROUND, but maybe within the next three to five years. It is one of the most meaningful plans that I have in my mind. I hope I can create a Korean version soon so that I can see my parents more often.
Daniel: What are the future plans for The GROUND, and where do you see the magazine in two, five and ten years from now?
Ryan: I am sure that I will experiment with more things and I will try to create new concepts for The GROUND in the next few years. Perhaps, in five years, The GROUND will become a new standard for publication or media. In ten years, The GROUND will become a common term that will stand for a platform that helps and connects artists.
Daniel: Moving on from The GROUND, you’re a photographer yourself. How often do you shoot for the magazine?
Ryan: I don’t shoot as often as I used to. I am too busy to solely be a photographer at the moment. However, I never thought about solely being a creative or art director either.
Photography is a true calling for me. I have been shooting more portraitures and creating more experimental images for The GROUND. I am going to start shooting more fashion stories, art projects and documentary projects this year.
Daniel: From photographer to creative director – quite the transformation! Perhaps even every photographers dream. What has been your most creative shoot thus far?
Ryan: It depends on the project, but I believe all photographers have an art or creative director somewhere inside of them. In my case, I just focused more on being a creative director than being a photographer.
The most exciting shoot for me was when I shot an entire print advertisement using RED cameras with the film crew in 2010. We shot entire scenes much like filming a TV commercial and pulled out still images from movie clips. At the beginning of 2010, it was not common to shoot print editorials or advertisements with a movie camera. I created a new work method in order to work with the client who was not very familiar with the RED camera. We created hundreds of short video clips and shipped them on iPads to the client.
During the image selection process, they sent me video clip numbers along with the respective time frame numbers. It was a lot of work to produce traditional picture images by using this method. However, it was a lot of fun and allowed me to produce more dynamic images.
Daniel: You’ve got a photo studio in Manhattan, Artistic Cube. Big names have dropped by your studio, from magazines to models. How’s the space coming along?
Ryan: We host small events and parties here. Many publications had shoots here including V, Numero Homme, Elle, Blackbook and many others. Designers are renting the space during New York Fashion Week for preparation and casting. Casting directors are renting the space as well, so I have been meeting amazing people in the studio. Also, Artistic Cube studio is used for The GROUND’s content production. We invite many industry-leading people to the studio.
Daniel: What do you hope to achieve in 2013?
Ryan: Shoot more fashion stories. Work on art projects. Most of all, I hope that more people will understand what The GROUND is and support The GROUND. Also, we are hosting a charity exhibition called, “ The GROUND Collaborative,” this year.
Daniel: Favorite quote?
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs
This quote explains what we do at The GROUND.
Daniel: Here’s a fun question I love asking: if you could be anywhere, at any time (past or present), where would it be?
Ryan: I want to be in New York City during the 1920s or 1960s. I love the ‘20s and ‘60s eras. Those are such unique time eras for fashion and art. At this moment, I want to go to San Francisco or Venice, Italy since these two cities are my favorite cities of all time. In the future, I want to live in London for a while and I will start a sister publication of The GROUND there.
Daniel: Anything else we’re missing?
Ryan: I love Bloginity!