Would you mind introducing yourself? My name is Kyle McDougall, and I’m a photographer from the Muskoka area in Ontario, Canada. For the last ten months I’ve been living in a trailer, travelling full-time across America. At the time of writing this, I’m staying outside of Savannah, Georgia, with roughly a month of travelling left before I head home.
Kyle's Instagram - @kyle__mcdougall
Scrolling through your feed, I can't help but feel those classic American road trip vibes. Is there a specific way you would describe your style of photography? That’s something that I think about quite often, and at this point I can’t say there is a specific way that I would describe my style of photography. It’s something that I’m still trying to understand completely. For years, my photography was focused mainly on natural landscapes, but over the last year or two, both my style and interests have changed quite drastically. I’m both intrigued and fascinated by the character of small town America, and have a constant desire to explore the roads less travelled, where life displays a certain nostalgia that at times can seem like or is slowly being phased out. I would say that’s what draws me to the subjects that I currently photograph, and it’s something that in the future I intend to explore further, moving beyond the United States.
When did you first fall in love with taking photos? I first discovered photography in my late teens, and fell in love with it right away. It’s been a huge part of my life ever since. I’m about close to the thirteen year mark now, and I don’t see my interest ever slowing down.
Do you have a favourite photography related memory, whether it be in front or behind the camera? I wouldn’t say that there is one exact memory, but if I had to pick an experience, the last ten months have without a doubt been the most special and important of my career. Before this trip, I was at a point with my work where I was feeling quite uninspired, unfulfilled, and was starting to lack direction. The chance to step back, re-evaluate my interests, and re-focus has had a huge impact on my love for the craft. I’ve realized now that it can be easy to put a label on yourself and confine your creativity to a specific genre and approach, which will most certainly lead to creative burn out. Flipping the script and following my true interests with my current work has been a breath of fresh air.
Who/What inspires you to take these wonderful photographs? I would say that the environments themselves are what have the biggest impact on me when it comes to inspiration. I’ve found that the work I’ve created that I would consider my favourite, has always been of the places that immediately draw me in. On the other hand, when I try and force things, I typically end up creating work that I really don’t like. If it doesn’t truly interest me in person, then there’s a good chance that it’s not going to interest me as an image, no matter how much I try to force things. There are also a number of photographers out there with incredible work that inspire me. At the moment, Instagram is my platform of choice to both network and discover new work. I’m constantly amazed by the images and projects that other artists are creating.
What kind of camera do you use? I have a number of different film cameras that I use for my work. As of lately, I’m trying to pick a format and stick with it for individual projects. For my trip across America, most of my work was shot on 35mm film, using a Contax RTS with Zeiss lenses. The work that I’m currently creating is being shot on medium format film, on a Pentax 67ii. Large format film is a medium that I’m planning to use in the near future.
What's your editing process like? My editing process varies for every image, but for the most part, after I get my scans back from the lab, they’re all brought in to Adobe Lightroom, and I usually apply some light contrast and colour balance adjustments. If I’m scanning my own negatives, then the workflow is a little more involved, but overall I try and keep my approach pretty light. I think that one of the reasons why I love and choose to shoot with film, is that every film stock already possesses a certain look, or character, and because of that, processing really only needs to accomplish a few certain things. Whereas with digital, you’re starting with a blank canvas, and you have to build your own look into each image. Whether that’s a negative or a positive it's up to every individual’s own tastes, but for me I love the character that comes with shooting film.
Are there any tips you would like to give to anyone out there who would love to create similar style photos to yours? If you’re shooting on film and getting a lab to scan your work, I think it’s really important to develop a solid relationship with them so that they understand your preferences when it comes to scanning. I would recommend getting a roll of film scanned on different scanners, as well as with different preferences (medium contrast vs. low contrast, high saturation vs. low saturation, etc.) so that you really understand what can and can’t be controlled during the process, and so that you can establish a look that you like best. The second thing would be to test out different film stocks, so that you can find out which one you like best, as well as understand their characteristics and how they deal with different exposure and lighting scenarios. It will take some extra time and money, but experimenting is key and it’s worth it in the long run.
What are some of your passions/hobbies other than photography? That’s a tough one! Photography really is a huge passion of mine, and consumes a lot of my free time. Travelling is also a big one, as well as camping and hiking. Overall, I just love experiencing and exploring new places, and meeting new people.
Do you have any photography related plans for this summer that you would like to share? I’ll be arriving back home just before summer begins and have plans to start assembling my work from this trip into the physical form—details still to come, but I expect that it will consume a large chunk of my time. I also have plans to start working on a new portfolio project that focuses on my home province. I’m pretty excited as it will be a very personal project. I’ve also recently launched a series on YouTube called “Analogue" which focuses on the craft of film photography. I’ve been having a lot of fun creating content, and have some big plans for it moving forward, so no doubt I’ll be dedicating a lot of time this summer to that project.
Who are some of your favourite photographers? That’s a list that is ever expanding and changing, as I’m exposed to new work and dive deeper into this current genre. I’ve mentioned the same name in some other interviews, but I’m a huge fan of Stephen Shore’s work. His book “Uncommon Places” is one that I constantly find myself returning to, and really has had a big influence on me over the past year.
Are there any photographers here on Instagram that you love and wish more people knew about? That’s also a list that is always growing as I discover new work. It would be tough to pick just a few and I’d hate to leave anyone out. For anyone interested in film photography, I would definitely suggest checking out some of the community pages, such as @photo.filmy, @filmphotographic, or @back2thebase to name a few of them.
What would be your number one dream destination for a photography adventure? I could definitely see myself doing a similar road trip in Europe. I think that would be an amazing experience full of discovery. Funny enough though, I’d be more than happy exploring the backroads of the American West over and over again. Even though I spent a lot of time this year photographing the West, I feel like there are still so many places out there to see. During this trip, I never had much more than a day in any of the small towns, and I feel like in some of them I could have spent weeks. There are also some places on the West Coast of Canada, mainly in British Columbia that are on my list for the near future. So, I guess I don’t really have one specific dream destination, rather a list that seems to be continually growing!
Which time of year is your favourite for taking photographs? That probably all depends on the area that I’m photographing, but for the most part I would say that I’m impartial to the seasons. I find every season brings with it unique characteristics that can both challenge and motivate a photographer.
Do you have any upcoming photography trips/sessions planned that you would like to share? When it comes to the near future, my focus is on finishing up this trip, and trying to photograph and experience as many areas as I can during the short time that I have left. Then the plan is to head back home to re-adjust and compile all of my work from the last year. I’m looking forward to stepping back from it for a short period of time, and then seeing how it all comes together.
Anything extra you would like to share? I’d just like to say thanks for taking the time to interview me, and for sharing my work!