FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE: KYLE THOMPSONOctober 23, 2015
Welcome to Friday. You made it through another crazy week, so treat yourself to a little slice of calm with Friday I’m In Love, our weekly feature dedicated to digging up the artists and photographers we’re going heart-eye emoji for.
If you’ve a penchant for the eerie and the abandoned, look no further. Photographer, Kyle Thompson specialises in the surreal, from abandoned houses to silent forests. We spoke with Kyle about piecing together the fragments of forgotten narratives, living out of his car and finding stillness in nature.
UO: Tell us a little about your route into photography.
I started shooting right after I graduated high school. I was exploring abandoned houses in rural towns near me, and I wanted a way to document it. At first, it was more of a way to show the places I went to, but then I began to plan out my images and my style really developed.
UO: How would you describe your photographic style in three words?
Lonely voyeuristic dreamscapes
UO: Can you tell us about the process of creating an image, from initial idea to final piece?
I have a sketchbook where I draw out all my ideas. I used to be really into drawing and painting, so I like to be able to visualize the photographs before I shoot. After that it really depends on the photo. I figure out where I’ll shoot, and what I’ll bring, and plan everything out as much as possible ahead of time. For self portraits, I’ll usually go to location and shoot alone. I use a tripod and a remote timer, and I try to shoot a couple variations of each photo. Doing it alone makes me feel less stressed, and I’ll relax and take my time while shooting.
UO: All of your images are set in stunning locations, from the woods to abandoned buildings. Can you tell us a little about how you scout these locations and what you are drawn to?
I’m really drawn to empty places and locations with personality. With abandoned houses, I love being able to piece together a story of the people who lived there before, and try to implement that into my work. I live in Oregon, and there is a very wide variety of nature all around me. A couple times a week I’ll just go and drive a couple of hours in any direction and pull over whenever I find something beautiful. I grew up in Illinois, and when I started shooting, I would often go to places I had discovered when I was a kid. Like tunnels, wrecked cars in the forest, and old broken bridges. It made it feel more personal, as if I was sharing these secret childhood discoveries along with the images themselves.
UO: Are there any themes you find yourself repeatedly drawn to?
My images are mostly a way to translate my emotions into something more tangible. I’ve created a lot of images based on a body’s destruction, often using things like flour, glass or water, to make it look like a body is shattering into pieces. I also have a lot of images relating people to nature, and exploring loneliness and isolation.
UO: A large amount of your work is self-portrait. What is it about self-portraiture that captures your imagination?
I started shooting self portraits as a way to deal with my anxiety. When I started shooting, the idea of asking anyone else to model for my images sounded horrifying, and I was also very critical and embarrassed about what I shot. I would go out alone and shoot by myself for a long time. It actually worked as a form of therapy for me. It really calms me down, and I am a much happier and less anxious person than I used to be because of it.
UO: Which image, or collection of images, have been the most rewarding to work on and why?
Two years ago, I decided to spend six months living out of my car, and I drove all over the country shooting images based on the emotions of living impermanently. I would go and sleep in abandoned houses, and with strangers, and I tried to place these feelings into the images. I met people on the trip who are now close friends, and the trip was the reason I decided to move across the country. I even ended up publishing my first photo book from the images shot on the trip! Overall it was a very rewarding experience.
UO: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in order to get that perfect shot?
I’m constantly trying to find easy ways to shoot complicated photos. Recently I shot a series called “Ghost Town”, which was a series of images from a fabricated flooded town. I had no experience building sets, and the idea of flooding a room sounded very expensive, so I had to improvise. I ended up buying a small above-ground pool, and I put a large wooden wall on one side. I went and bought tons of furniture and wallpaper at thrift stores, and built different sets in the pool and flooded them. It looked exactly how I hoped, and was a much simpler approach than I had expected!
UO: A lot of your work features man alone with nature, what is it about this concept that captures your imagination?
I want to be able to relate to my work, and to be able to create something that represents me. When I shoot an image of man alone in nature, that is the state that I am constantly in when I shoot. I spend so much of my time just wandering through empty forests, and the photos convey that very literally. Aesthetically, natural landscapes are very clean and quiet. In an image, they don’t become too distracting, and pull the focus into the subject.
UO: How do you feel when you look at self-portraits from the past. Do you still identify with the emotions you felt at the time?
I do look back at my old work sometimes, and I can definitely still identify how I felt at the time. I can instantly remember not just how I felt at the time, but also different moments in my life that surrounded the creation of the image. It’s an unusual feeling, it’s like reading entries from an old journal.