Interview with Accademia Apulia

Alex Boyd is one of the three finalists selected by Accademia Apulia Art Award 2010. His work will be shown in London at the Royal Horseguards on 11/02/2010 when the winner of the competition will be announced.

You can read the following interview in Italian here, or the original here.


How did you first get into photography?

Growing up on the West Coast of Scotland, I was always surrounded by beautiful scenery. I think that the first images I made where an attempt to capture something of these landscapes and to understand my own place within them.

What kind of equipment do you use?

I use a variety of film and digital. For digital I use a Canon 5D MK II, as well as various Nikon models with a selection of filters. For film I use a Hasselblad 500 series medium format camera, as well as a Mamiya 645.  I’m currently looking to move into large format photography, and perhaps trying to acquire a Victorian era camera. I’m also having a camera custom built for me at the moment.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your profession?

I think one of the hardest things about photography at present is standing out from the crowd. I think it’s fantastic that so many people have embraced the medium, however at the same time I think photographers need to have much stronger vision and images to be noticed now.  I also feel that photography in the UK is still not as appreciated as an art form as it is in Germany or North America. Events such as the Accademia Apulia Award help to redress this balance.

Your recent series, The Sonnets, was inspired by the work of Edwin Morgan, the first National Poet of Scotland. In what way did the poet contribute to the project?
Aside from the name of the series, which comes from his 1984 publication ‘Sonnets from Scotland’, Edwin Morgan helped me to appreciate the depth and vitality of Scottish history and culture, and inspired me to visit the places he so often wrote about – for example the ‘Sonnets from Scotland’ poems open with a description of the dramatic cliffs of the Island of Hoy in the far North of Scotland, which pushed me to make the long journey there to see them through my own eyes.I also worked with him for an art installation in London where he chose the poems he thought most important for the audience to hear, such as ‘The Coin’ which envisages a future independent Scottish Republic.

Eddie was always encouraging artists, poets and photographers, including myself, right up until the end of his life

The Sonnets are represented by stunning views of the Scottish Highlands and a male figure, “Henning” with his back to the camera. Who is ‘Henning”?

Henning is a close friend, however in the Sonnets images he fulfills many roles. He not only provides scale to these vast landscapes, he also acts as a surrogate which forces the viewer to engage with the scene. He adds a silent narrative to the images, as well as a sense of mystery and ambiguity.

What do you look for in a location?

For the Sonnets series I look for locations that are well known in Scottish popular culture. Places such as Glencoe and the Isle of Skye have been done to death by photographers in recent years; they tend to create the same postcard-like images, and rarely bring something new to them. One of the main reasons that I make Sonnets images is the drive to re-interpret these locations and make them my own, to make them more personal.

Is there a photographer past/present that you particularly admire?

I admire the work of Edward Steichen, Francesca Woodman, Wynn Bullock and the honesty and simplicity of the portraits of August Sander. Contemporary photographers such as Kerik Kouklis, Bill Schwab, Sally Mann and Chris Friel also create images that are constantly challenging and are a continual source of inspiration.

What has been the most gratifying moment of your career?

I’ve had a relatively short photographic career, however the exhibition at the Scottish Parliament was a source of personal pride, as was the morning I sat with Edwin Morgan and showed him my work for the first time.  Standing in the vastness of University Square in Bucharest surrounded on all four sides by projections of my images, as well as having them projected 84 metres high on the Palace of the Parliament was both surreal and gratifying, but also the culmination of much hard work.

What is your next dream?

I want to exhibit more widely in America, and there are currently also discussions about showing in Japan. Primarily, I want to be able to develop out more of my photographic ideas, especially in regard to the rückenfigur, and traveling to Iceland, Northern Norway and the Arctic Circle are all personal ambitions.

What advice do you have for amateurs wanting to become professional photographers?

I think that photographers need to be honest with themselves and identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie so they can improve their practice. No photographer knows it all, and no-one is too old to learn something new. The day that I’m completely satisfied with my own images and not open to feedback is the day I think I will have to stop. I also think photographers need to follow their own path, and this isn’t always best achieved through institutions such as art schools.

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About Alex Boyd

A photographer, curator, and mountain obsessive.

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