Navy Yard Resident Finds Fun Second Career in Photography

Somewhere in Europe on a backpacking trip, Charlestown’s Ryan Pettaway discovered his love for photography using a very simple camera and capturing amazing moments.

As a Systems Application Engineering Technician by day, he has transitioned to a very successful side career as a professional photographer on the side as well.

“I am from Annapolis and have been in Boston coming up on seven years,” he said. “I have loved my time here and love living in Charlestown the last four years. I am a Systems Application Engineering Technician, but I’ve become a photographer too the last four or five years. That all started with a European backpacking trip…The photography business just exploded for the last four or five years. It’s been a great hobby turned profession.”

While Pettaway practices some serious computer engineering during the daytime hours at his regular job, he said he meets with photo clients one or two times a week – his business being named RyArt.

Pettaway said he had some experience in high school with photography, working in the darkroom with film, but now uses digital Sony PSLR and several other lenses and pieces of equipment.

After catching the photo “bug” after his backpacking trip, Pettaway said he moved into street photography and slice of life type of work. That morphed into food shots, business corporate photography and portraits. At the moment, he has parked his side career on portrait work, which he has come to love.

“Right now, I’ve started doing studio photography,” he said. “It’s been very fun and my pleasure to work with so many people in the city. It’s turned into portrait work now and photographing people doing the things they love…I do a lot of fitness photos. People in Boston are very intensely into fitness and health. I just really love connecting with people in that process and capturing what they hold dear and enjoy.”

Having begun serious photography on the street level, he said he got used to people yelling at him or anticipating the moment. Now, however, he finds a great deal of satisfaction in the controlled environment of a studio – where he can connect more easily with his subjects.

“Portraiture is all about providing direction and giving the model feedback,” he said. “I find that to be a little more challenging.”

In his spare time, he also assists other professional photographers on their shoots and participates in Boston Photo Workshops also.

Recently, Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard President Michael Parker reached out to Pettaway to oversee a COVID-19 photo contest. The theme is, “Showcase What You Hold Dear in Your Community.”

“I thought it was a fantastic idea to get people together and excited during these times,” Pettaway said. “I’m excited to see what the photos will look like.”

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