The Monthly Interview: Kathy Ryan

After almost four decades at the New York Times Magazine, Kathy Ryan recently stepped down from her role as director of photography. But as CR discovers, she’s far from ready for retirement

The first couple of times Kathy Ryan tried to tell the New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein that she’d decided to leave, she blew past her self-enforced deadline. “I couldn’t say the word retirement, I literally couldn’t. I had emotional struggles with it,” she tells CR. “Then I began to realise I was ready and wanted to do this. You get to my age and time has a different meaning, it really does. I have the best job in the world but it’s demanding, it’s seven days a week, as it should be.”

Ryan, who marked her final day at the publication last month, has dedicated almost 40 years of her life to the art of magazine making. After starting her career at French photo agency Sygma’s New York outpost, in 1985 the then director of photography Peter Howe hired her as his deputy and, just two years later, she took over the role from him.

“When I came here, we were a small staff and the magazine did a lot of terrific photography, particularly documentary photojournalism, and then eventually more and more studio portraiture and other genres of photography,” she recalls.

Top: Epicenter by Philip Montgomery, 2020; Above: Basquiat by Lizzie Himmel, 1985