Kevin Boyle at Winchester Galleries, June 22, 2019. Interview by Anahita Ranjbar
- Would you please tell us about your background and how you got interested in photography?
I was born and raised in Winnipeg and moved out to the West Coast when I was 24 to join the Vancouver Police Department. While always creative, I never really thought of myself as an artist. I have worked in a plainclothes/undercover role since 2002 and that was where I started to familiarize myself with a camera. Back then digital cameras were expensive, so we had an old Canon 35mm camera that I learned on. I taught myself at first through trial and error and later, through the wonders of YouTube and the internet. In 2011 my Dad, whom I was very close with, passed away and I realized that I had a lot more to say about the world than what my current job allowed. I took an old camera and spent a few days driving from Vancouver to Winnipeg, photographing as I went. The drive was cathartic, and I felt like I could take the cap off my creative side and experiment with light and time and create images that expressed how I felt. I hung my first art show a year to the day after my Dad’s passing and I donated all the profit to a local family with two children with cancer. I have been photographing what I want ever since.
- Tell us about the concepts of your work and how you capture the environment?
My work, from the Range series to Elemental, is about choice and what influences our decision-making process. In Range and DaySleeper, I wanted to show the viewer how beautiful a simpler way of life was by taking architectural portraits of once important parts of our communities; general stores, grain elevators, and homesteads. In Herd, I used lighting, exposure, and montages to trick the viewer into thinking what they are seeing is the reality. Whether it was over-exposing a summer scene to look like winter or photographing the same 20 cows and combining the images to make them look like 100, I wanted the viewer to start questioning everything they saw. Elemental focuses more on the consequences of our choices. I have always felt that lecturing people on what they should do doesn’t work. People do need to make their own decisions. I switched to using an aerial platform to photograph our rapidly disappearing glaciers from the top of the mountains to the inlets where the melt runs into. My goal is to have people ask questions about what they’re looking at and make up their own mind as to how important the environment is and what their impact on it is. It’s a lofty goal but... go big or go home.
- Who are your biggest influences? And where do you find your inspiration?
The first time I saw ‘fine art photography’ was when I was having dinner with David Burdeny in 2007… long before I ever even thought about picking up a camera. He had just finished up the north-south series and I was very taken in. I would say he is as close to a role model in this field as I have, and I enjoy his work to this day. I love the look of Nadav Kander’s work and the scale of Vik Muniz’s, and obviously, I’m a huge fan of Edward Burtynsky. I don’t have an answer for where I find inspiration… it comes from too many places to list.
- How have you developed your career?
I have been very fortunate to have shown my work in commercial galleries for several years now. I have had exposure to a lot of gallerists and artists, and I am not shy to ask questions about their experiences or opinions. I would love to do more to develop my art career, but I still serve with the VPD, so I essentially have two full-time jobs that I love. But only by having a very supportive wife and a fantastic team of printers and gallery reps could I have gotten to this point. When I retire from policing, I will focus more on my art.
- How does your work relate to the current social, political, or environmental issues?
I have a lot of concerns with the role the media plays in our society, whether its print, video or social. It would be easy to say that I am a landscape photographer and I would fine with that… but at its core, my work is still about choice and the factors that influence it. Herd was my take on bashing news media. Put something on a TV and people will assume it is true... and if it’s not accurate no one cares for long enough to hear, see or read the retraction. If my work can influence one person to make a choice that works better for them and their circle of influence, then I am happy.
- Where do you see your artwork in the Canadian/global framework?
I’m not sure. Fortunately, that’s not a decision I get to make… clients, galleries and museums will inevitably decide where I fit in.
- How do you price your work?
I look at the limited number of editions that I’ll sell before I discontinue the image, the cost of production (I sell my work as a ready to hang plexiglass and aluminum panel or framed behind glass and mounted on aluminum), and the time it takes to create each image. I then run this information through a formula that tells me dollars per united inch.
- Where do you see the future of your art? What are your goals?
When I started, I had plans to have several series that I could build on for years. My immediate plans are to shoot more Ice, Herd and Range photographs, and soon I will be moving into the second and third phases of the Elemental series… Fire and Earth.
As for my goals... I want to make photographs that move me and hopefully the viewers. I make art because I need to… I don’t see that changing.