Hi Kyle and welcome to Pixsoul. Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Could you tell us where you’re from and what your occupation is?
“My name is Kyle McDougall. I’m from the Muskoka area in Ontario, Canada. At the moment, where I reside changes almost weekly. I’m currently living in a trailer, traveling across Canada and the United States on a year-long road trip with my wife and our dog.
Last year we decided to sell our house and leave our jobs/business with the intention of hitting the road and exploring North America.
At this point, we’re about halfway through our trip, currently in Southern Arizona and heading back east. Prior to the trip, I owned a video production business with a partner, and before that, I did freelance video and photography work for about ten years.”
How did you get into photography? Have you always been shooting with film?
“When I was in my early twenties, I moved out to Western Canada to a small mountain town for a year, and that’s where I bought my first camera. I’ve always been a very visual person and had an interest in the arts and creative expression. My intention at first was to document my trip and the surrounding landscape, and that’s what ended up sparking things.
My newfound passion for photography led me to film school (motion) for two years. Funny enough, once I finished, I worked mainly in digital. It wasn’t until recently that I made the switch back to shooting mostly film. I would say digital is about 10% of my work right now. Both formats have their advantages, but it’s the process of working with film, and the character of the images that I love.
I have a number of different cameras, but there are certain ones I use the most. For 35mm work, I have a Contax RTS with a wide range of Contax Zeiss primes. I fell in love with those lenses a few years back, and have been assembling a collection of them ever since. Being on the road, the portability of a 35mm system comes in handy, as sometimes I’m passing through an area and only have a limited amount of time to spend exploring. For my digital work, I shoot with a Sony A7RII with an adapter for the Contax lenses.
At the moment, my medium format work is shot on a Fuji GA645 and a Pentax 67ii.”
Do you develop your own film? Where do you get your film developed while you’re on the road?
“I don’t develop my own film, but it’s something that I plan on doing in the future once we’re settled back in a house. At the moment, I send all of my film to The Find Lab in Utah. The quality of their processing and scanning is top notch, and they’ve been amazing with their willingness to answer questions and help out however possible. I would recommend them to anyone who is currently looking for a lab to use.
Could you talk about the subjects that you normally like to shoot and why?
“Time is something that I constantly think about and is a theme that I try to explore with most of my work. Whenever I drive through a small town or down a back road and see remnants of the past, I immediately wonder about the backstory. Many places that were once booming and prosperous, now sit boarded up, struggling to survive.
I’m always interested in learning more about the towns that were once industry driven, and the people that still call them home. Every abandoned car, vacant house, or closed business, was at one point new and exciting for whoever owned it. For me, it’s a reminder that nothing lasts forever, many circumstances are out of our control, and time moves quicker than most of us realize.
I’m also fascinated by humanity, and the actions we take. A lot of old buildings end up looted and vandalized, which is a shame. Some people avoid capturing those places, but reality interests me. It seems as though for as capable as we are at creating things, we’re equally as skilled at destroying them. A lot is often gone to waste in this world.
My goal is to capture places before they’re gone and to assemble a larger body of work that explores the theme of time.”
Do you think you’ll make a book out of this or have your own exhibition when you’re ready?
“I’ve thought about a number of different outcomes, including both a book or an exhibition, but at this point, I’m trying not to be too decisive. I’ve learned from the past that projects evolve over time, and can change in size and scope. My main focus right now is just to create, analyze, improve, and explore. I know that eventually, a time will come where I feel like I have a clear understanding of what I want the exact outcome to be.”
Do you plan to go to some of these places or just when you are driving, or a bit of both?
“There are definitely some places that I research beforehand, and others that I stumble across as I’m driving. That’s what keeps it exciting. It can be easy to get caught up focusing on the well-known landmarks, but often, it’s the small towns in between that end up interesting me the most. I find just getting on the road and driving is the best way to discover and experience new places.”
What’s been your favorite place or state to shoot so far, and why?
“That’s a tough one. I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite. There has been a lot of different places that have really grabbed me. Nevada and Arizona are two states that I found incredibly interesting. More specifically, the drive from Reno down to Las Vegas was one that I enjoyed and plan to explore again in the future. The surrounding landscape was breathtaking, and there were a number of small towns that had stories to tell—each one unique in its own way based on location and industry or lack thereof.
Route 66 through Arizona was also a favorite of mine. It’s obviously a more well known and popular journey, but I found there was so much more to see other than just the icons. The history of Route 66 fascinates me. It was an experience to visit the towns scattered across this famous highway and see how they were/have been impacted by the Interstate.”
Is there any challenges you’ve faced while being on the road?
“There are times where accessibility can be an issue. We’re towing a 25-foot travel trailer behind our truck, and we always need to be thinking about parking and turning around. That can be a bit limiting. There are also times where we have a lot of ground to cover, so I may not be able to spend as much time as I’d like photographing an area.
For the most part, I try to get out to places by myself, after we’ve set up camp and settled down somewhere for a few days. Photography for me is a very independent endeavor, and I work best when I’m by myself and don’t have a schedule. That being said, I’m lucky that I have a very supportive and patient Wife, so on the days where we’retravelingg I’m still able to spend time capturing different places.”
Are there any photographers your work is inspired by? Or just photographers you’re inspired by in general?
“For a large part of my photography journey I focused solely on creating landscape work, so this current genre I’m exploring is still relatively new to me, and for that reason, I would say that my current work isn’t inspired by any one particular photographer. There are certainly a number of photographers who inspire me, and I’m discovering new ones every day.
I’m currently looking through Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places, which is incredible and has made me think quite a lot about my approach and different directions. Bryan Schutmaat is another photographer whose images really speak to me. His work from “Grays The Mountain Sends” has an authenticity to it that I absolutely love.
What interests me most about this genre of photography is the opportunity to share a unique vision and story with the world. It’s not about who can create the single flashiest image, but rather about photographers assembling a number of images to explore a theme or tell a story. The images work together, and that opens up a lot of different choices while creating. It’s a personal endeavor, and everyone seems to have their own approach or style. It’s all just very real, and I enjoy that.”
I want to talk about this one particular photo that you took. (photo above) This is an interesting and powerful photo that encapsulates your more recent works, which shows abandonment and remnants of the past. Could you talk about this photo? Where was it taken at?
“We were staying in Arizona, near the California border, and I decided to take a day trip to the section of Route 66 that passes through Amboy—that’s where this was created. Roy’s Cafe is a famous spot and has been photographed endlessly by other photographers.
I was exploring the inside of an old motel room, located right beside the diner when I saw this scene and was attracted to the light and shadow play and also the graphical elements. It seems as though a lot of my more recent work has been wider compositions of open and somewhat empty spaces. This image steps away from that. I still used the famous Roy’s sign as a focal point in the image, but chose to leave the surrounding landscape as more of a mystery for the viewer.”
Do you guys have any plans on what you’ll be doing after the trip is over?
“We have a few ideas of where we’ll go and what we’ll do once we’re done our trip, but at this point, they’re just that—ideas. For myself, photography will always be at the forefront, both as a passion and a business. Right now, we still have about half of our trip left, and figure we don’t want to rush any decisions. We’re just living in the moment and trying to experience as much as we can.
A big reason for embarking on this journey was to shift where and what we focus our time and energy on, with the expectation that those decisions will have an influence our life moving forward. I think regardless of where we end up, our lives will always be somewhat “nomadic”. A fixed routine is something that has never really interested us for the long term.
As for where we’ve traveled: We actually drove throughout both Canada and the U.S on this trip. We started by crossing Canada from East to West, and plan to cross the U.S from West to East. Both Countries have a lot of similarities yet at the same time a lot of differences.”
Kyle, thank you for the opportunity to interview you. Have a great rest of your journey in the U.S. and I’m excited to see more work from your journey.
“Thank you! I appreciate you showing interest in my work and letting me share it with your audience. All the best!”