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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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Ayrshire Post – Pictures in Parliament

SNP MSP Aileen Campbell took time to take in an exhibition of Scottish landscapes at the Scottish Parliament as Irvine photographer Alex Boyd’s work was included and she was impressed. Miss Campbell said; ” I am really pleased to see Alex Boyd had his exhibition displayed in the Scottish Parliament this week. It is really great to see Scottish artists get the opportunity to exhibit their work here in the parliament and I was pleased to add my name to the parliamentary motion recognising his work.  The photographs are fantastic. They really capture the beautiful and dramatic landscapes of Scotland and I look forward to seeing more of Alex Boyd’s work in the future.”

Irvine Times – Alex Performs for Parliament

This article was published on my 25th birthday, and hopefully by the end of the year I will have got back into regularly taking shots again!

Alex Performs for Parliament

written by John Martin Fulton

A gifted Irvine photographer  is developing plans to take his wonderful photos to the Scottish Parliament for a solo show for MSPs, and Alex Boyd, 25, said he had Cunningham South MSP Irene Oldfather to thank for putting him in the frame for the prestigious political picture show.

The former Irvine Royal Academy pupil told the Times the show, which will take pride of place in the MSP area at Holyrood, was set to come into focus next year.

He said “I’ve always wanted to aim for the highest when it comes to exhibiting work, and the Scottish Parliament is one of the most prestigious buildings in the country. The opportunity to show at the parliament is the chance to take my work to the next level and exhibit – hopefully it will help my photography to recognised more internationally.”

And the talented photographer – who has achieved international success – said he got the idea for the show when he was having his pictures projected onto public buildings in Romania last year.

He said: “I thought it would maybe be interesting to see if I could perhaps do something closer to home, besides the series I’ve spent the last two years working on is called “Sonnets from Scotland” is named after an Edwin Morgan book, the man who helped to open the parliament ten years ago”

Meanwhile it was local politician Irene Oldfather who helped snap-up successful Alex, who could next year be studying for a PhD. Thanking the politician Alex said “I would say that the chance to show there is a definite career high.”

Next up, Alex has a show planned with the head of photography at the Glasgow School of Art, Thomas Joshua Cooper.

Image taken by Neale Smith

Irvine Times – Homecoming Show

Homecoming show for Irvine lad Alex by John Martin Fulton

An Irvine  photographer whose pictures have been projected onto buildings aroundthe world is finally bringing the show home. And, as Alex Boyd’s amazing photos go on show at the HAC, they will also be made available to characters in a parallel dimension – in cyberspace.

Twenty four year old student Alex has enjoyed a whirlwind success that has seen his pictures displayed 84metres high on the largest building on Europe and had him working with David Bowie’s pianist and No1 US rockers The Smashing Pumpkins. But now the former Irvine Royal Academy pupil is showing his stunning ‘Sonnets from Scotland’ series at the
harbourside and said he was delighted to get his family and friends from the area in the frame.

He added: “I’ve never shown anything here before and I’m quite excited.
It’s the biggest exhibition I’ve ever put together and alot of the
prints are new and very large.”

Meanwhile, Alex’s pictures have earned him plaudits and praise from around the world ever since the art history student decided to enter a nationwide BBC picture competition ‘on a whim’. He has worked with top music acts like David Bowie’s pianist Mike Garson and chart toppers The Editors, while having massive scale versions of his images projected on the
Romanian parliament building and other major landmarks in Melbourne for
different light festivals.

Now the busy newlywed, said he is happy to have an exhibition in Irvine – at the same time as showing his stunning landscapes in the Virtual Museum of Art, an exciting online gallery that can only be visited through the virtual social network Second Life.

“Sonnets from Scotland” can be seen at the HAC in Irvine until Sunday April 19th.

Evening Times – Picture Perfect

Article by author Russell Leadbetter

The passers-by in the European capital stopped and stared, and then they stopped and stared some more. What they were gazing at was not something you see every day: giant, 84-metre high photographs by a young Glasgow University student, projected during the hours of darkness onto the facade of the national parliament – the largest building in Europe.

Thousands of people enjoyed the public art show in Bucharest, Romania, and somewhere in the crowd was the photographer himself – 24-year-old Alex Boyd, who could be excused for pinching himself at finding himself here, given that he only bought his first serious camera three short years ago.

Even at this early stage of his career, Alex has staged exhibitions of his photographs in Europe, the US and the UK – and no less a figure than Harry Benson, the legendary Glasgow-born photographer of presidents and film stars, has described his work as “stunning, and very compelling”. Alex is also making his name as a music photographer, having worked with acts including The Editors and shooting album covers for Mike Garson, David Bowie’s sometime pianist. Alex, though, is still on a high from the Romanian experience, part of the ‘White Night in Bucharest’ festival. “I never thought,” he says, “that when I first started as a photographer, that I’d ever get a chance to be involved in such an ambitious international exhibition. “I’m honoured to have my work shown on such a huge scale, and in such an important location.”

Not only the Parliament building, but also the four sides of the city’s University square, were draped with Alex’s distinctive work. German-born Alex lives in Irvine, where he works in a picture library that provides military-history photographs to clients including the BBC. He was just another amateur photographer when in 2005, “on a whim”, he entered a nationwide BBC digital picture competition, and was shortlisted in the urban category.
“That gave me a bit more confidence so I went out and bought a proper camera,” he says. “I taught myself how to use it through trial and error, and started shooting music bands in and around Glasgow, and doing landscapes.”

He got an early break when he was asked to go photography for Mike Garson, and this in turn opened doors to other acts, such as Smashing Pumpkins. Alex combined this with studying for an MA in art history at Glasgow, but he was already breaking in new directions.

Last year he made a short film, about the Allied bombing of a concentration camp-prisoner transport train in the German town of Celle in April 1945. Up to 2000 Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Dutch, and French prisoners may have survived the bombing, but many were rounded up by local people and brutally killed. Alex, it turns out, was born in Celle, in 1984. He comes from a military family, and coincidentally both his father and grandfather, serving British soldiers, were stationed at Celle at one time or another. Alex’s mother still lives there.

The film, Die Hasenjagd, was screened in London, Berlin and in LA – and the fact that its
soundtrack featured contributions by Garson and Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan helped attract media attention. One Pumpkins track had never been heard in full in public before.

His photography, meantime was taking off – not least because more and more people were pleading for prints. “That took me by surprise because to be honest I am not a very out-going person and photography for me is a more private thing. “But when people started asking me for prints, it made me realise that maybe I was onto something.”

The final scene from Die Hasenjagd, a shot of a single figure standing in Loch Na h Achlaise, near Glencoe, stayed with Alex, and inspired him to embark his most recent project – a collection of striking landscapes photographs taken all over Scotland.

The series, called Sonnets of Scotland, mostly feature a single figure standing with his back to the camera. “That’s David Henning,” laughs Alex. “He’s been my best friend since I first moved to Scotland in the early 1990s and he was the best man at my wedding a few weeks ago.
“He drove me around all over the country and I made him stand in bodies of water while I took the photographs. I think he had to stand in something like 40 lochs and rivers.”

The series has just finished a run at the Arches venue and is now heading for a residency at the Glencoe visitor centre. As for the future, “I’m looking to exhibit my work alongside photographs by one of my heroes, Bill Brandt, next March in an special exhibition in Irvine. I’m also looking at putting together a book, and I also want to do an exhibition in Shanghai with Maleonn Ma, who is one of China’s most important photographers.

“There are also some 10 other planned shows in the works,” he adds. “This is all, of course, while I’m trying to do a post-grad in digital curation at Glasgow, so I’m probably mad trying to do so much.”
Despite all he has achieved in just three years, Alex still has trouble accepting the accolades that have come his way. “I am surprised by what has happened,” he says. “People tell me that I’m
a professional photographer but to be honest I still see myself as an amateur who has had a lot of luck. “Every opportunity that comes along, I have a go at. I think there are lots of equally good photographers out there. I just consider myself very lucky.”

Maybe so. But not every photographer in his mid-20s has attracted praise from Harry Benson, who knows a good photograph when he sees one.

Russell Leadbetter is the author of Thomas Muir – a Passion for Liberty, Times Past: The Story of Glasgow and You Don’t Have to Be in Harlem: Story of the Glasgow Apollo

Metro Review of Arches Show

Read the full article here

Article in Scottish Photographer’s Magazine

Scottish Photographer’s Magazine has created a 3 page article on their new edition on the Sonnets from Scotland series. In the article I also give some background as to what the series is about, as well as discuss what is next. You can read the article by clicking here.

An excerpt:

“I started work on the “Sonnets from Scotland” series while making a short film for an exhibition in London called “Die Hasenjagd”. The final scene of the film was a shot of a single figure standing in Loch Na h Achlaise and the image stayed with me. I decided to explore these empty spaces, and examine concepts of romanticism, history and nationalism in contemporary Scottish landscape photography.

To date I have travelled all over the country, shooting in some of my favourite locations, most notably on the Isle of Skye, and Glencoe. I hope to show the series in 2009 alongside some works by Bill Brandt, who is a direct influence on the series. “