We would like to introduce you to our new TVC Journal series “Getting to know you…”, interviews with The Velvet Cell authors. We are starting with an interview with Kyler Zeleny, Canadian photographer and author of Out West, a project documenting the decline of small rural communities in the Canadian West. There are only 5 copies of the book left here.
Why Photography? A small introduction to your journey.
Photography is a sharing tool as much as it is a tool for exploration. I want to share my take on certain topics with others and photography offers an easily digestible form for that. I never had a moment where I wanted to become a photographer, I’ve always been interested in making images but only more recently did I take that pursuit seriously. I like the story-telling ability photography has. I like the idea of taking my social science-based work and creating visuals around the ideas and concepts I'm working through so that it can be shared with a wider audience.
How do you choose your project themes?
The choosing process is interesting. I'm not sure if I choose projects or if they choose me. It might almost be reciprocal. Currently I’m working on a project about rural western Canada and my interest in that topic is largely a result of having grown up on a farm and still feeling very connected (that typical love/hate fashion) to rural communities. I also work around archives and I am set to begin some editorial projects based on certain topics, which is quite separate from the western Canadian work. I think what I start with is a question: "why is this interesting to me?" or "why is this happening?" and then I use photography to answer that question for myself and for others.
Tell us an interesting story that happened in the process of making Out West.
I did enjoy the hospitality that I received as I drove around Western Canada photographing. Some people offered me a room, others apple pie with vanilla ice cream or a diet coke. Very friendly folk.
What is your biggest challenge as a photographer?
I have many challenges. Probably issue #1 right now is finding time to create work. My latest project (in some ways a continuation of where Out West left off) is based around photographing in Western Canada but I am a doctoral student working in Toronto so its difficult to find the time to get back and photograph.
What is the best advice you've received as a photographer.
Information for me works in a gestalt fashion. A whole bunch of input influences the process. Aperture's The Photographers Handbook is a helpful document to review. What I've recently implemented in my process is more portraiture. This came from what Alec Soth told me at a workshop that he started to take pictures of people not because he wanted to but because he knew it would make him a better photographer. I've been following his advice ever since.