Kyle Mcdougall is a Canadian photographer who has both a YouTube channel and his own podcast, “Contact Sheet” where he has had some fantastic guests right from day 1. He has spent a lot of time in the US on a wide-ranging personal project, a few months in the UK during the lockdown and plans to move there soon.
Kyle was happy to take some time out of his very busy schedule to have a chat with me about what makes him tick, photographically speaking,
RD: If you were asked to introduce your YouTube channel to someone, what would you say?
KM: Hmmm…. I’ve actually never stopped to think about that in-depth, hah. The simplest way would be to say that I have a YouTube channel about film photography, but over time, especially this year, it’s grown to be much more than that. My overarching goal is to help educate and inspire other photographers, either by showcasing what I’ve learned or am learning, and also by talking about the creative journey and the ups and downs that come with it.
I’m basically just sharing my creative life as it unfolds, trying to be as authentic as possible, and making sure that each one of my videos has a purpose and provides value. I just want to help spread positivity and energy and encourage others to create unique work that they love.
RD: How did you get started with film photography?
KM: My first introduction to both still and motion, was in college where I studied film production. Most of the time we were working with 16mm motion picture film, but I did have one class that focused on traditional black and white photography, including darkroom work.
The funny thing is once I graduated, I spent the next ten years of my career working mainly with digital. It wasn’t until the road trip I mentioned earlier in 2017 that I decided to pick up a film camera again, and I was hooked. Ever since I’ve been working almost exclusively with film, and I can’t see that changing.
RD: Tell us about the “American Mile” project. I’m not a genius at geography, but aren’t you in Canada?
KM: You got it, I’m currently in Canada. This is where I’m originally from, but I’m in the process of moving over to the UK and should be there full-time in a few weeks from now. As for ‘An American Mile’, that project came to life during a ten-month road trip where my wife and I sold our house, bought a truck and trailer, and explored North America. It was a time in my life where I was ready to make a change in focus with my work, and I naturally fell in love with the American West while exploring states like Arizona, Nevada, and California.
That trip gave me an opportunity to create without any pressures, and I let my intuition guide me, photographing the subjects and areas that truly interested me. After a couple of months of making images, a style started to develop, as well as an awareness of direction with the work.
I became a bit obsessed with the landscape in the west and spent the new few years travelling back to those areas to work on the project. Earlier this year, I made one last trip out to New Mexico, which put a wrap on things, and I’m now in the process of exploring publishing options.
RD: How did you find the UK? Did you get a lot of opportunity to photograph it and how did you find it different from photographing Canada or the US?
KM: I really like the UK and I’m excited about the change in landscape and scenery. I was recently there for close to three months, but it was right when COVID hit and lockdown started, so my time was spent in our local neighbourhood, which as you can imagine, got a bit boring after about the fifteenth walk. That being said, I’m looking forward to getting back and exploring different parts of the country and seeing what I can discover. As I start to wrap up my previous project from the American West, the drastic change in the landscape in the UK, as well as the different palette will be refreshing.
RD: You also have a podcast, “Contact Sheet” and have had some fantastic guests right from day 1. How does this differ from the youtube channel? Do you have a completely different vision for each?
KM: On my YouTube channel, there are times where I focus on technical aspects, like camera reviews and scanning film, whereas the podcast is almost entirely about the creative process. But with that being said, I approach both platforms with the same mindset and goals that I talked about earlier—helping educate and inspire other photographers to create and take action. I’d like to think they share similarities when it comes to the overall message.
The further I progress in my career, I’ve realized that when you discover what drives you, it naturally becomes part of everything you do.
For me, it’s as simple as making sure that any content I put out into the world is helping others and adding value. That could be an authentic talk with another artist about the peaks and valleys of the creative journey, or it could be my experience with a new camera and the energy it’s given me to create.
I’m starting to focus less on the ‘what’, and more on the ‘why’. I think that’s just something that comes naturally with time.
RD: As others have mentioned, your production values on the channel are fantastic. Do you have a background in production or has it all be learned “on the job”?
KM: Thanks for that. I actually went to school for film production, and then worked in TV and ran a video production company for a combined twelve years.
Filmmaking is something that I love, and YouTube gives me a way to combine my two passions, although admittedly at times things can get a little sloppy trying to wear both hats. Almost always, I’m creating videos by myself, so that means filming everything, as well as being on camera and creating images. Naturally, I’m focused on making the videos the best they can be, and that can be tough while also trying to create images and share information. Although, like with anything, the longer I do it the more I learn and it is getting a bit easier.
RD: What are your plans with both the podcast and the youtube channel?
It’s only been as of recently that I’ve decided I’d like to do both full-time. So at the moment, I’m working towards finding a way to make that sustainable. That means transitioning out of the commercial video production world, which has been how I’ve made my living for a long time now.
It’s been a learning curve, and I’m not there yet, but the content I’m making on both platforms is extremely fulfilling to me because of the fact that it’s helping other artists, and that’s really what it’s all about… that’s what drives me.
As far as direction, I want to just keep creating the type of content that I’ve been putting out recently. I’ve learned over the years that doing the work is what’s most important, and if you stay true to yourself and put in the time, things will unfold and grow naturally.
RD: You clearly love the Pentax 67ii. What is it about this camera that makes it perfect for you?
KM: How much time do you have? Haha. Yeah, it’s no secret that I love this camera. There are a few things that make it the right fit for me. First off, I’m a big fan of 6×7, both for the size of the negative as well as the aspect ratio. Obviously, there are a handful of great 6×7 cameras out there to choose from, but I love the SLR ergonomics of the Pentax, especially the 67ii with its right-hand grip.
I also love the ease of use with it and the fact that it has a built-in meter that is super accurate. It gives me the ability to walk around with the camera and have the freedom to shoot handheld like I would with a 35mm SLR. I also love the lens lineup, especially the famous 105mm f2.4. It’s such a unique lens and I really enjoy the way that it renders scenes.
RD: Who are your biggest influences in photography?
KM: When it comes to image-making, there are certainly some standouts that have influenced me from the start—the work of Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, and Bryan Schutmaat. But also, this is something that is ever-changing for me. I feel like I’m constantly discovering new artists and new work that inspires me, and when I do, it challenges my previous direction and vision, which is something that I think is really important.
In the past, I spent too much time stuck as a photographer because of previous labels that I had applied to myself. Now I just want to be as open as possible and follow whichever path my interests and energy takes me down.
I’m also just inspired by creators in general—people who are pushing themselves, taking risks, making mistakes, growing, all while having a positive mindset. Those people always motivate me to put in the work and continue down my path.
RD: What’s the future of film photography?
KM: If had to guess, based on the trends I’ve seen in the past few years, I think that film photography is only going to become more popular and keep growing, which I think is awesome.
I love this community and the people that are part of it. There’s an abundance of connection, support, energy, and creativity, and it constantly puts a smile on my face. It’s something that goes far beyond just the tools and the medium itself.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been in the photography world for over ten years, and for me, I’ve never been part of a community as fulfilling as this one. And that’s why I want to try and do my part to make it that much better—helping it grow as a place where people are inspired and energetic to create, and also not afraid to be unapologetically authentic.
RD: Authenticity, integrety, connection. These are words that we all consider from time to time. Kyle has obviously been figuring out and discovering what they mean to him and I must admit I am on an earlier step of the same path myself. Drop a comment below and let us hear what your opinion of htose words is and how you apply them to your own work.
Thank you so much to Kyle, and an ongoing thank you to everyone that I have featured so far in this series, and who I am currently talking to. Keep those ideas coming people!
The community needs you. If you’d like to take part in this series of film photographer interviews, please drop us a line or get in touch in the comments. We’re featuring to photographers young and old; famous and obscure, so get in touch and let’s talk.