Hi Kyle, first of all welcome to Pellicola!
Landscape photographer your work is growing through travels and kilometers driven, where your life and photographic activity is based at this moment?
I’m based out of Ontario, Canada, but soon to be living in England. Most of the work I’m currently creating is from the American Southwest – specifically California, Arizona, and Nevada. Some of the images are for my series ‘An American Mile’, while others may be used for a smaller future portfolio.
A big amount of your collection represent the 256 days travel you started in 2017 driving across the United States. Where the need to move for so long came from? What did you expect at the beginning of it? Did you at once plan to stay away for all these months or you extended the travel in progress?
My wife and I had always wanted to travel and do an extended trip, so in 2017 we decided to sell our house and leave our jobs and business, and we set out with a truck and trailer to road trip across Canada and the United States. In a way, we had grown bored with our routines and day to day life, and we wanted to shake things up.
I personally had no expectations at the beginning of the trip. I was at a point in my creative career where I was growing tired of the work I was doing, and losing interest in the subjects that I had covered for a number of years. The trip gave me an opportunity to step back from it all, and just experiment and explore again, and in doing so, my current photography work was born. I really think that having expectations can often negatively impact creativity and curiosity.
The length of the trip was decided right from the start, but other than that, the schedule was open and the amount of time we spent in specific places was based on how much they interested us.
The series produced by these pictures is called ‘An American Mile’ and shows small American towns and less travelled roads. There is a silent and nostalgic atmosphere all over the places, as if they are stuck into a timeless and lost geography. How did you feel wandering around them, were you seeking for something in particular or you limited to describe the areas?
The images that make up the series were all created out of a deep fascination – both aesthetically, and at times historically – with what I call the ‘places in-between’. I experienced multiple emotions while exploring them, excitement, curiosity, sadness, and many more.
As much as I’ve enjoyed creating this series, I’ve found that stepping back from it is sometimes a necessity, as even though the images are visually appealing to me, the subjects and locations are often a stark reminder of how quickly time can pass and current situations can change.
It is the message that I want to convey with the collection, but I’ve found I need to experience these places and create this work with breaks in between to allow myself to re-charge. It can be lonely at times.
Desolate back roads, degraded buildings like cafes, motels, gas stations… they remind the temporary and transiency of things, they become in between the space and time. Do you think that associating these places to the travel – itself a transient in between the steady daily life – made your project even more consistent?
I wouldn’t say that it made it more consistent, but oftentimes the trip itself did share similarities to the locations that I was photographing. Many of the towns that are now either deserted or struggling were once fuelled by tourists travelling through the area and supporting the local economy.
Changes in infrastructure, most notably the interstate system, played a large roll in cutting off a number of these places from the main flow of traffic, and as a result, shops closed and people moved away. It was interesting to go against the flow, hop off the main path, and seek out these places.
Still looking at the series ‘An American Mile’ I find very interesting the combination of inside and outside – sometimes from a certain distance or on the threshold of a barrier – visions. Do you remember when for the first time you managed to enter into a space?
The initial images that come to mind are from a motel interior in the middle of Nevada. It was one of the first locations I visited that wasn’t completely trashed. Even though the motel had been closed for a considerable amount of time, the rooms were only lightly damaged, and it provided a unique environment to photograph. It almost looked as though someone had been there the night before, and decided to toss some things around the room before they left.
The few photographs that I created there were the first ones that really sparked a fascination with pairing interior and exterior images throughout the series. It’s something that I’d like to do more of as I work on completing the project.
Going from a background of natural and non contaminated landscape to areas eroded and consumed by the human passage, what do you think will be your next step? Are you also interested in photographing people or you always try to avoid them?
I’m definitely interested in photographing people, and it’s something I’d like to do more of. At this point, I don’t think I’ll include any in this series, but the next project I pursue will most likely involve both landscape and portraiture subjects. I’d also like to narrow my focus moving forward and create a body of work that features a single location, like a town or county.
At the same time, what this current work has taught me is the importance of following your curiosity and creating authentic work, first and foremost, for yourself. I think our audiences can tell when we’re creating from the heart, versus trying to make something purely for a reaction or exposure.
You are a film photographer and to me the analogue method better relates with the scenes you recreate in your projects. Why do you prefer analog cameras over digital for your photography? Which camera is your favourite?
For me, working with film is an extension of the creative process, and I feel like it suits the subject matter that I’m covering. There’s something about using a forty-year-old camera, and going through the steps of loading film, exposing, developing, and scanning, that just feels right. It’s almost a more tangible effort.
I also really enjoy the way film renders tones and colours throughout a scene, especially for this project where I’m capturing a lot of browns, oranges, and blues.
With that being said, I don’t think film is better than digital, it’s just better for me. It’s what I enjoy, and that’s all that matters. I think people should use the tools that excite them and focus less on worrying if they’re right or not. What works for me may not work for someone else, and that’s why I’d never tell someone that what they’re doing is wrong.
As for a favourite camera, I can’t say that I have just one. Most of this series was shot either on a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 with Zeiss lenses or a Mamiya RB67. Kodak Portra 400 was my film stock of choice.
‘Analogue’ is also the name of your You Tube channel where you share contents, tips, reviews of cameras? When did the idea to create this platform come up to you?
When I first got back into working with film, I had a lot of questions about film stocks, exposure, camera choices, scanning, and so on. It took me a lot of experimenting and testing to figure things out, and I thought it would be great if I could make some videos and try to help other people who were curious about the same things. I’ve always enjoyed helping other creatives and it’s been a really rewarding experience.
Even with more and more possibilities to learn today, thanks to the web informations, about photographing and processing, how hard do you think is living as an artist? Which tips do you give to yourself to move on?
It all really depends on what you want out of it. Are you doing it as a hobby? Or are you trying to run a business? I think there are more opportunities than ever for artists to promote themselves and make a living. The internet has opened up so many possibilities that never existed before, it’s just all about taking action. Also, I think it’s important to always make sure that you’re having fun and that you don’t put a label on yourself.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that your interests, focus, and direction are bound to change over the course of your career. Looking back on things, the creative burnout I experienced was largely due to the fact that I was trying to hang on to a previous label I’d given myself. Instead of moving on to explore new subjects, I tried to cling to what I’d always captured and figured I’d ‘push through’ the rough patch.
I eventually accepted that it was time to move on, but it took me over two years to get to that point. So yeah, I think it’s really important to stay curious and just have fun. Focus on what interests you the most, and don’t be afraid to take risks and switch things up.
It’s been a pleasure to talk with you, Kyle! And thank you for having find some time to share with the readers of Pellicola!
Interview by Claudia Bigongiari
Images © Kyle McDougall