By Patti Swayne
Ricky Day does it all. As a creative and a teacher, he uses creativity to show people the world and hopefully inspire others. Whether it’s photography, directing short films and videos, or guiding other people’s careers, it’s all a part of his artistry and mission to help other’s fully recognize their potential.
Where are you from?
Born in St. Louis, Missouri grew up in LA, but I’ve been in New York City for 17 years, now. I’m much more of a New Yorker now, although I’ve always felt like an alien—I don’t fit in anywhere.
What’s the greatest opportunity you’ve been afforded in your career?
Doesn’t directly relate to my photography, but when I was 17 years old, I was Michael Jackson’s stand in for the Thriller video. For nine days I talked to him daily. He talked about focus and vision and goals and dreams, and when I feel a little lost I go back to those conversations. He was very focused on what he wanted and who he could become.
How do you measure success?
I’ve come to this new understanding of success. Success is when you hear the voice inside you that leads and inspires you to do a particular thing—that is your calling. And when you’re walking in your calling whether you’re a pastor, artist, mother, etc—that calling is going to bring you joy. And if you’re walking in your calling and you’re joyful, that is success.
How has culture influenced your work, drive, or perspective?
My spirituality really guides how I move through the world; I learned to really be present in the moment. LA, believe it or not, is a very, spiritual place. There’s a communion with nature in California, and it’s deepened my appreciation for God’s creativity. NY is a man-made environment that propels me too—the tension and creativity of man and how those things collide. Black culture, however, is at the core of everything that I do. I’ve tried not to use it but I can’t help it. I’m more focused now than ever about being connected to my people and my culture. As we are now finding out, if you forget about history or take things for granted, everything you accomplished can be snatched away from you.
Whose work do you most admire?
Photographers: Gordon Parks is at the top of my list. After, Mark Baptiste, Hank Willis Thomas, Bruce Webber, and William Eggleston.
You’ve been in New York for over 20 years—what’s the greatest lesson this city has taught you?
Never get comfortable.
If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
Pick one thing and DO IT.