Vignette has been a big fan of Karl’s work ever since he entered our travel competition back in issue 5. We finally caught up with the Irish born, Toyko based photographer to talk about his work.
Vignette: You seem very well travelled what made you want to leave Ireland?
Karl Doyle: Back in the 80s, during my teenage years there was a recession in Ireland. So much unemployment, and with the current situation of 2012, not much has changed. I was lucky enough however to have the opportunity to go abroad once every summer with my parents and see new things, hear new languages and taste all kinds of different foods. This influence along with the native Irish gypsies that used to visit our village outside Dublin, set the seed early on to leave and just keep going. I am now at the furthest point from Dublin.
V: How was photography apart of that journey?
KD: I was given a present of a camera early on by my father and after studying photography in Ireland, I realized then I had the tool that would allow me to have access into other worlds. Either they be real worlds or worlds that were still waiting to be realized, the camera in hand would be the integral part in paving the road ahead.
V: Others have described your style as ‘classic’, what do you make of this description?
KD: I think it`s pretty accurate. I would add perhaps that the images tend to be more eccentric classic if this is possible. I have always been attracted to opposites, a love of black and white photography, the unusual dandy characters vs. the traditional. Yes, the lighting and pose are of a classic nature.
V: why do you choose not use colour in the majority of your work?
KD: Monochrome has a timeless classic quality and I have been using those elements from the medium to enhance the projects I have worked on till now. Presently, I have been slowly working my way into the color spectrum and exploring the power of color and how it effects the end result. Color is a different journey, it`s like your suddenly driving through the busy city streets where as monochrome is a nice quiet drive in the countryside. Each color has it`s own energy so a balance is needed in order to keep things under control.
V: Mongolia features in several of your projects. What lead you to focus so much on the country?
Quiet simply a program I saw on television one day. I had an instant attraction with the nature, horses, endless grasslands and of course the people. It always amazes me that in one day, around the world, people all dress differently, they travel differently, eat and sleep differently and yet we never get to meet. We are busy with our own lives helping to keep the world rotating, but I wanted to see these people for myself, eat their foods, sleep under the same roof, understand their way of life. It started with a thought, I was half way there.
V: Nomadic Worlds’ is a very consistent series of portraits, however there are two very different ‘types’ of people. The traditionally dressed people of Mongolia and the modern, yet gothic youth of Japan, why did you focus on these two groups? What is the relation between them?
KD: The relationship as mentioned earlier is “eccentric classic”. The nomads of Mongolia are from a traditional culture and reflect this in the way they dress and live. The Harajuku girls of Tokyo belong to a more modern culture, a contemporary tribe, fused by modern day music and eccentricity in their individual outward appearance. I thought to juxtapose these opposites would be very interesting, yet somehow connect. Contrast again, old and new, but keeping the background environment constant.
V: Was it hard to create a studio aesthetic for Mongolian portion of this project?
KD: Yes for two reasons. I wanted to focus on the subjects, their clothes, faces and character. Having the background with me would help create this but it took me awhile to find the right material. It needed to have the right texture and color, durability and yet light enough to carry. Finally when I did find the suitable material, of course, there was not enough available and the width was also too short. I got around this problem with the help of my friend and her sewing machine.
The second issue was with assembling, expecting the situations where I might be in the middle of nowhere with maybe not even a tree, the elements of rain and wind and also maybe no help at times, these all had to be considered. Finally I was ready and I did a trial run in Central Park, NY, when I was living there and it worked, so I felt secure. When I arrived in the countryside of Mongolia, the means of which I would travel would be on horseback. I remember the first time I loaded up the horse with all the 4×5 photo equipment, food, background etc, I watched the poor horse literally fall over sideways onto the ground. It was like a cartoon skit. I had hired a translator and a horse handler and we ended up bringing along a second pack horse to share the load. How so much thought, people and animals were put into a piece of cloth!
V: ‘Secret Desires’ is very different from your work based in Asia work and does not features on your website. Is there are reason for this? Are we likely to see this highly polished more fashioning leaning photography from you in the future?
KD: ‘Secret Desires’ can be viewed at Obsolete Gallery. I keep my work in different places, trying to keep a surprise element I guess. Yes, I have another similar project nearly finished that I guess you could call highly polished.
V: What if any commercial work are you shooting now?
KD: Presently, I shoot editorial relating to Japanese culture and traditions and also still life for some of my Japanese clients.
V: Finally do you have any on going projects?
KD: Yes, two projects are in full swing right now. One is a book project, of which I have been shooting for over two years a series of nightlife portraits. An eclectic collection of Tokyo`s subculture. Also, a very intimate portrait series on some of Tokyo`s most desired women.