Those who truly understand the art of photography know that it requires a lot of the practice in watching and observing. A photographer who can truly capture candid moments that depict dark and light times in life has a subtle gift that others constantly strive to obtain. Denver resident Billy Henry Riesing is well-known as the local portrait photographer, Ghost Lenz. CULTURE connected with Riesing, who explained how writing and photography have given him a unique way to document the unfolding story of the world around him, which allows him to describe his take on the lives of humans.
“When I began working professionally in the magazine business a few years after college, my relationship with visual storytelling began its maturation into the rabid obsession it is today,” Riesing explained. “I started lusting for the art of storytelling as a kid. Stream of consciousness narrative has always been flowing through my mind, and photography and writing and I instinctively started partying, and it’s the dreamy fit.” At 13 years old, Riesing decided to create his own magazine. The accomplishment and pride he felt after he finished the magazine got him hooked on storytelling in various creative forms.
“I have a tremendous level of respect and appreciation for those working to educate people on the benefits of cannabis and lobbying for its legalization.”
This inspiration started Riesing on a quest to try and photograph the human condition, which included depicting humanity’s darkest and lightest moments. He is inspired by the simple and candid moments in life, as well as mindfulness in day-to-day expression.
“There is so much beauty and horror and humor and chaos in being human,” he explained. “It’s quite a song. I feel like the further upstream I go with my own self-exploration, the more layered, impactful and purposeful my relationships, and my work, get. Mindfulness is also an influence. Being fully engaged in the moment, with my senses free to help me navigate and sponge an experience instinctively. That flows naturally into the movement of visual storytelling.”
Riesing also believes that Denver’s local art community is doing well and supporting him and other artists like himself. “Denver’s art scene is thriving,” he stated. “There are many killers in many mediums. It’s a fun place to live. I don’t maintain expectations about receiving support, though. My focus is on being aware of my creative hunger and feeding the hunger, making photographs that I believe in and enjoy, and then sharing them with people.
When it comes to cannabis, Riesing draws inspiration from the plant and considers cannabis to be a creative muse and recreational ally, as well as for medicinal purposes. “Cannabis is vitamins for me,” he explained to CULTURE. “It’s been in my life for 20 years. My relationship with it is natural. I do have my med card because cannabis helps with pain from years of competitive downhill bike racing and BMX. Mentally and spiritually the effects are even more powerful.” However, despite his love for cannabis, he doesn’t consider it a complete necessity for his creative flow.
Additionally, Riesing is an advocate and believes that cannabis should be available for medical and recreational use. “I think cannabis ought to be legal medically and recreationally nationwide and probably everywhere,” he told CULTURE. “To live in Denver, a city that is at the forefront of cannabis legalization and is creating a blue print for other cities, is a unique experience. I have a tremendous level of respect and appreciation for those working to educate people on the benefits of cannabis and lobbying for its legalization.”
Riesing is a part of various art projects all over the city, and he loves seeing his work in print. Look out for upcoming print installations and art shows in the Mile High City to see more from Ghost Lenz.