☉ Capricorn ↑ Capricorn ☾ Libra
On an uneventful St. Patrick’s Day in March, we sat down with Ryan Lopes, known as @rylopes on Instagram. We were drawn to speak with him because of how he sees the world. Ryan’s photos capture stillness in practice, but an invisible presence can be felt, like seeing a ripple on a still lake or a fingerprint’s swooped impression in a jar of our salve. His feed is a place to exhale — muted tones, minimalist interiors devoid of clutter and anything unnecessary puts the viewer at ease.
Knowing his sartorial styling, we “dressed up” for the occasion, but Ryan arrived (via Zoom, of course) in his white waffled bathrobe, just having showered after a long day spent in New York the day prior. No frills, just him, and it was such a gift to spend a tender hour together.
What in your life has shaped your ability to see the world the way that you do?
I practice observing how things are at any given moment. When you asked that, the first thing I thought of was form and composition. I pay attention to that, and also just allow things to be the way that they are. I think, “How are things communicating with me?” right now, what are they saying that I can capture?
Even in the photo of your CBD salve, I put it on top of one of my workbooks that has a muted blue tone. Every time I use it, fingerprints remain. I think a lot about how my photos will feel.
Because you’re so present, you notice these moments that are small but beautiful — ones that might pass us all by, but instead, you bring them to life.
That’s exactly it, and it’s recharging to hear it :)
Your instagram is so calming. You know how social media can be. How do you handle it?
I’m just trying to stay true to myself. I feel like people identify me as an influencer and that’s okay. It works for me. But I don’t wanna be the average influencer where every day is a buying guide. I really want to maintain relationships and find something that works for me.
It can be a lot. The more I am committed, the more I realize how much of a job it is. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything — I’m very grateful that I’ve gotten where I am. It’s still very new and there’s so much potential. I’m also a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. There’s a looming sense of reciprocity in what I’m doing now.
In terms of what you like to post, we get a certain sense or slice of who you are based on your Instagram. If we were to ask who are you outside of Instagram, what would that look like?
I am a brother, a son, I live with my family. I’m very active at home especially in the pandemic, lots of cooking and cleaning and tidying up. For a while I was forcing myself to think about the future. Whether it was living on my own, traveling, things like that. But during this time, I’m just trying to be myself and be in the moment and really focus on my well-being aside from my art and my creativity. That feels like the only priority right now. I’m just this normal person living in a small town. I’m trying to be true to it, be humbled by it, and outline my future in a sense where it feels approachable, sustainable, soothing. All those things really matter to me and I think they can be very overlooked. When I’m getting offline, I’m supplementing those parts of my life to be true and tender to me.
Is there any overlap between your creative and well-being practices? How does that manifest for you, if at all?
When I’m still, when everything is calm and chill — that’s when I have my best ideas. Consistency can be really rewarding and beneficial. When I have the moment to take myself away from the material aspect of things, that’s when I can make a decision, edit something, execute on an idea.
You have tremendous self-awareness.
I try. We’re our own worst critics. Self-awareness has been a huge part of my process in the last three years especially. I’ve been someone who has a lot of anxiety and stress, things that make me feel like I need to be doing more.
Very relatable. I feel like I need a lesson in tidying up the Ryan way.
Every day… I love to tidy up every day. That also helps me move forward. I cannot take any photos, answer emails, I can’t do anything until the space is cleaned up and I can sit on the floor and connect in that sense.
Do you relate to your space in a way that is akin to the KonMari method, where objects are acknowledged for their service? I’m just looking over at a house plant I have that’s really struggling — it’s how I know my life is out of balance.
The plant situation is relatable. It’s a deprivation of balance, and I can relate to that highly. When I water my plants it feels like such precious one-on-one time!
I think that’s what motivates me to continue with tidying. I can tidy up but I also need to dig a little deeper to get rid of things. Because of Instagram, I have so many opportunities to try new products but realistically my house is so small, I can’t keep everything. I love to give stuff away.
I used to have such a deep attachment to all of my things. I would forget about them, I would neglect them, I used to have this massive imbalance but I’m workin on it! Even now, I’m looking around and I’m like, some of these things could move out. It’s always a work in progress, the only way I can feel my very best about it is when I have that moment to myself to re-evaluate, re-assess everything, and see where I’m at. That sense of peace channels into my work, my space, my well-being, my relationships.
A lot of stories behind Cerena have a sense of magical realism that comes from my Latin American upbringing — this sense of awe, folklore, passed down superstitions, moments where there is magic in the air. What does magic mean to you?
My family is very spiritual, and magic is everything that you believe in. My grandmother is so sacred to me, specifically. She’s amazing and has this outlook on spirituality that’s been beneficial to me. When I feel troubled or stressed, she has the remedy. It could be “light a candle, grab some cinnamon, take this bath” wash it down. When you say magic, that’s what I think of. Magic is a part of believing.
Alice Coltrane and the Coltranes in general are such a huge inspiration to me because 1. she is African American and 2. believes in a universal code of spirituality, faith, religion, whatever you call it. The words that she uses to describe God makes me think of myself, and it makes me want to be more present in prayer and in ritual. It’s something that I never could relate to easily or felt welcomed into. It’s helped me translate faith even the way that I communicate in my space, how everything floor to ceiling is intentional.
As I’m speaking, I realize that it’s all tying into my identity. I think it is magic — the magic I made for myself and the magic that works for me. It’s definitely within all of us and I hope that we can channel magic, whether it’s manifestation or meditation or socializing or enjoying a glass of wine. We deserve it!
I started tearing up when you talked about your grandmother.
Thankfully she’s alive and young still, but yes, it feels so special because she really cares about her family. Family is so important to me, and I’m in no rush to do anything because I have enormous safety and protection in my foundation. I really hope that everyone has access to that, or can channel that with a chosen family, especially in a time like now where there is so much rage.
Family magic is something I’m sitting with now. Ancestral magic. It’s beautiful.
I’m also understanding that, through my own interests and research and knowledge, I’ve been reading about the divine mother through different texts — Hinduism, Kundalini. Their stories are beautiful and even though they were written so long ago, it feels modern. It feels like my mother, my grandmother. It feels like my female friends. All of these mother figures everywhere.
We often say Cerena is like the Grandmother Willow tree is Pocahontas, she’s wise and sassy and protective of the people she loves.
Sounds like my grandma! My mom too, but she’s just translating what lies within all of us. Anyone who ever meets my grandmother asks after her, genuinely tries to be in touch with her. She makes time for everyone too and sends little encouraging messages on Facebook. She’ll say things like “Good morning son, have a beautiful blessed day and remember it’s all in your heart.”
How sweet is that! Switching gears… if you could have a genie grant you a wish tomorrow, what would it be?
My only wish would be to ask for the gift of healing, to clarify and emphasize what it means.
We’ve shared our manifesto, and how we place importance on moments of transition, the liminal places between one state to the next. Can you recall a transitional moment that felt pivotal to you?
I feel those moments of transition when I spend time meditating. I feel a deep transition and transformation. I feel like my energy is in tune and I can almost travel my energy, if that makes sense. I close my eyes, and I can focus on my primary state: being happy, healthy, loving, and in-love in that moment. When I can just focus on that, I can feel some kind of elevation. It doesn’t happen often but when I have that feeling I try to hold onto it, remember that it’s enough, and know that it can take me to where I want to go. It’s quite amazing honestly, because I don’t meditate enough but when I do and when I can focus, it’s elating. It’s the best. It’s the only way I can identify true transition.
Materially, transition is willing to be able to make a decision. Once you do that, whether it’s changing your space, your mind, saying yes or saying no, those moments are transitional and they shouldn’t be overlooked because each small decision can make a big impact on our lives.
With all this external transition and the virus, we have to continue to pay attention to our internal transition. I’m always looking inward, because the inner affects the outer.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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