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Meet your Neighbors: Ryan J. Bolger


Meet Ryan! Ryan is a nationally renowned artist who cares deeply about the power of a moment. A professional photographer who has created a storied career for himself for the sake of helping people to see what is truly around them. He specializes in all things life. He and his work have been featured in magazines & newspapers on tv shows and in movies. Most notably he was “The Mayor’s Photographer” alongside Kelsey Grammer in “Boss” on Starz. He’s photographed celebrities, politicians and athletes (Mike Ditka for + many more), & has traveled tens of thousands of miles all across America in the pursuit of the almighty landscape & the American Experience. At the end of the day Ryan is just a very hard working & passionate artist who is driven by his own dreams and pursuits to help move and inspire through the magical medium of Photography that captivated him when he was 3 years old. It was then when he first fell in love with visual storytelling  after watching a movie with his dad that he knew what he wanted to do with his life.

What brought you to the dunes? What brought my family & I to the dunes was total serendipity. My grandfather was dying of cancer in Chicago. My family was split up at the time for a little bit due to his illness. My father and brother were in Chicago taking care of my gramps, my mother and two younger sisters were in California doing their thing & I was also in California living with my grandmother (she just passed away a few days ago) because I really wanted to stay at the grade school I was at and then on November 1 1994 my grandfather passed away. His death made the whole family reunite in Chicago. One day shortly after my grandfather’s passing my parents got in their car and took a drive to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city to relax a little bit not knowing where they would end up that day. They ended up at the dunes. They stumbled upon Notre Dame Grade School & my dad said to himself “This is where my kids will meet their best friends.” A week or two later my sisters and I toured and enrolled at Notre Dame Grade School & we moved to Stop 41. I went from riding a skateboard or rollerblades to school in California to wearing a tie in the middle of 4th grade in Indiana. It was quite a big adjustment for all of us but my dad was right. Notre Dame Grade School is where all of us met our best friends & still to this day they still are and we are all closer then ever no matter where we are in the world and in life.

How long have you lived here? I’ve been captivated by and living in this area off and on since 1994. I commuted 3 hours a day to Chicago from up here to go to High School (Mount Carmel High School). After that I went to film school in Chicago & in Santa Barbara, Ca. These days my work brings me all over the country and it seems like I’m constantly traveling out there capturing the scenes but one certainty that I know is true for my life is that the Dunes and Chicago will always be true home to me. They both are home to me & they always will be no matter what. There’s nothing better then walking down to the beach & just chillin by the water. No doubt is it incredibly special.

What is your favorite thing to do in the area? My favorite thing to do around here is pretty simple – absolutely nothing. Obviously I’m an artist, in particular a photographer, so it’s just a given that I love photographing this whole area. I have been doing my best to help protect the natural beauty of the local land for over 10 years. I love enjoying my spots for food & a drink or two. I love all the trails, backroads, you know the cool little local spots that I think are all so killer but getting back to doing absolutely nothing. I love it all the most when I can just be, just chill, just sit, walk, drive & just dream and listen to nothing but the silence of nature.

Tell us a secret about the dunes. Hmmm tell you a secret? Well if I told you a secret about the area then it wouldn’t still be a secret 😉 there are so many but I feel it’s important and up to you to go out there and discover a few of your own 🙂

Give us your top three “hidden treasures” (restaurant, shop, trail, beach, event…really anything!) My top 3 hidden treasures would be

a) Cowles Bog Trail – (featured on dig the dunes by old and young alike)

b) Lunch at Bartlett’s paired with a Journeyman Old Fashioned followed by an ice cream cone from the gas station down the street & then you gotta enjoy that cone on the bench by the marshland in Beverly Shores on a Sunday, but I’m pretty sure it works just as nice on any day of the week 🙂

c) I love so many places around here.I’ve been to all of them front and back even places nobody has ever gone. I’ve photographed truly amazing places all over the country and I still haven’t seen a beach such as nice as the Indiana Dunes. I’ve even photographed the dunes from the air in a little small plane and let me tell you it’s even more amazing from up in the sky. I love just driving & listening to music zipping by all of this amazing nature around here. Beverly Shores is great for that. 1000 North is also really great for that. You should do that and then enjoy a meal and drink at Heston’s Supper Club. It’s a great combination anytime of the year.

What would you like to teach people about the dunes? It’s pretty simple – this area is so beautiful. A lot of folks know it, but I also feel that a lot more don’t. I heard Anthony Bourdain say once “Get off the couch & move.” I also feel the same. Experience new things, meet new people & enjoy it.

Anything else? My love affair for this area will never die. As an artist I truly devote myself to trying to help people see the shining light of the true natural beauty around here. In every season, every time of day, every kind of weather and much more. Not just for around here but also all over the entire country. I just find it all to be majestic. Life should be beautiful because life is beautiful. For those that collect my work they understand. For those that follow my work online I’m sure they see. For those that would come into my old gallery on Franklin Street I know they saw it too. Life is about getting out there and taking it in. What excites me is knowing if I can help someone else to feel this same thing then it’s an honor to be able to do so. Photographs help me with this personal mission of mine. The world is a beautiful place so just be open to truly seeing it. Be active, live , love, break away from and push your comfort zone but sometimes just Be. Its ok to just sit back and do nothing. It’s all about joy and these things discussed certainly can add to joy for yourself, ourselves and others.


Ryan photographs weddings all over the country. His work is admired and desired by many. He’s worked for big brands like NBC, Levi Strauss & Co & he also was a key player in establishing The Uptown Arts District through his Photography Gallery. He’s been called “Inspiring” by Irish American News Magazine & is known as “The Most Sought After Wedding Photographer In The Area.” By – Shore Magazine calls him a “Renaissance Man”. The News Dispatch calls him “A World Class Photographer”. To see Ryan’s photos, head over to his website, right here. You can also follow Ryan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!


You can read more about all of our neighbors right here!

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