In conversation with photographer Eoghan Kavanagh
May 2nd, 2012 at 11:50 am
In the second part of my ‘In Conversation With’ series where I speak with people who have aligned their ‘passion’ with their profession, I sat down with Eoghan Kavanagh, a well-known landscape photographer who owns the Skyline Gallery in Kenmare Co.Kerry.
Eoghan thank you for agreeing to meet with me. You are a well-known photographer, specialising in landscapes, were you always interested in photography, how did it all start?
I always knew I wanted to work outdoors. I would say I was about 18 before I thought of taking up photography.
You are living many photographers’ dream because you have this wonderful gallery here in picturesque Kenmare. Tell me a little about your journey, your career as a photographer?
Once I decided photography was the career for me, things happened very fast. I applied for a place in college and started a course in Kevin St. DIT. It was a part-time programme which meant I was also able to look for work as a photographic assistant. I worked with many photographers in different disciplines. I was fortunate to work with a core group of photographers who were doing great advertising work. This is really where I learned my craft.
It was at this time I started shooting landscapes. At the age of 21 I started my own photography business. I went after the best work, thinking I should get it, and sometimes I did. The innocence of being 21! Sometimes it’s good not to know the obstacles that might be in your way. Having said that, I think it is important to set your sights high, knowing where you want to get to is half the battle. I continued working in advertising and design, but as the years went by I had a growing sense of frustration. A lot of the work just wasn’t interesting enough for me. I would go out and shoot landscapes simply to stay excited about photography.
Was there one moment when you decided ‘right I’m giving this a go, I’m going to be a full time landscape photographer?’
I remember the exact moment I decided to move away from the commercial work and become a full time landscape photographer. I was standing in the middle of a rocky river shooting a cover for a large bank’s annual report. Each moss covered rock was supposed to represent one of the banks’ network of branches, or some sort of rubbish like that. I remember I was freezing and wet, but the surroundings were beautiful and I was having a great time. But I couldn’t get the thought ‘why am I doing this for them?’ out of my head. Right then, in the middle of the river, I said that’s it, I am going to set up my own gallery. A couple of years later we opened Skyline here in Kenmare.
Why did you decide to specialise in landscape photography, or was it just something that evolved?
I’ve always had a love of the outdoors. I also found I was good at landscape photography. There weren’t many people doing what I thought was good work and ultimately I wanted to show others how I saw the Irish landscape, not all blue sky and green fields, but the storms, the flashes of light on a cloudy day.
What was the biggest challenge you have overcome in your photographic career?
For me, finally deciding that I couldn’t just wait for people to commission me, accepting that what I really wanted was to do the work for myself, to shoot what I was interested in. I also think we have to keep challenging ourselves, to do the work that keeps us interested.
Are there themes that you explore in your work, or is there a particular message you aim to communicate through your work?
I am interested in showing places that you may know in ways that you may not have thought of. I’m also very interested in how time affects a landscape. I visit the same locations over and over to see how they have changed.
Who are your influences? What photographers or indeed artists from other mediums inspire you?
I deliberately don’t look at much photography. I admire anyone who has a vision and the discipline that it takes to bring a project to completion.
How do you balance the creative side of your work with the reality of running a business?
I’m not sure about balance, I’m always working! The reality is if you don’t sell, you cannot continue. I spent many years trying to second guess what other people wanted to see me do. Now I do my own thing, but I’m always appreciative of the people who buy my work, because without them, I wouldn’t be able to continue to do what I love.
Here’s the technical question, what camera and equipment do you currently use?
I use an Ebony large format field camera. It uses 5×4 sheet film that must be individually loaded in the darkroom. It forces you to take your time and to compose each image carefully. I prefer to shoot film, but film or digital, who cares? Like vinyl or CD, it’s all music and it’s a personal choice.
How much emphasis do you put on post-production, everything that happens after you take the photograph?
It is very important to bring out in print what you see as you view it on location. Post production is a supportive tool, but it will never replace skill and vision. Photoshop is the best and worst thing that has happened in modern photography.
I see there are several wonderfully shot videos on your website, are these a collaboration or is video another medium you are interested in?
It’s collaboration, but I am very interested in moving stills. This is something that I plan to develop further in the future. I’m also embarking on a project in collaboration with Evan Payne, an Irish Amercian filmmaker – The Skelligs Project which I’m really excited about.
I know many people out there would love to be earning their living by doing the work they love to do or by following their creative passion. From your experience what advice would you pass on to them?
Almost every day I get at least one photographer in the gallery asking about how they could do this. They invariably ask can you make a living from it. I always say it’s a way of life not a way to live.
If you could photograph anywhere in the world where would it be?
I don’t see the point in traveling all over the world in pursuit of wonderful landscapes; we have a vast amount of great images here in Ireland. Usually I don’t take my camera when I travel. What I do requires a lot of planning and I don’t think you can just land in a foreign country and expect to get great images. I spent 2 weeks traveling in the Rockies and was totally blown away by the landscape, so much so, that all I could do was look and look again. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend taking any images.
What’s next for Eoghan Kavanagh? What are your dreams or aspirations as a photographer and artist?
The next big project will be a book. I have the title and some images now all I need is a deadline.
Eoghan, here are some questions I think you will find interesting. My aim is to ask everyone I interview the same questions.
What’s your most cherished possession?
A really nicely designed magnifying glass, I got from my dad.
What are you currently reading (or learning)?
I’m reading the biography of Steve Jobs
What’s your idea of happiness?
Space and the time to enjoy it.
Who or what inspires you?
I have never looked for inspiration, just ideas.
What character trait do you most admire?
If you had a motto what would it be?
Fear causes hesitation and hesitation causes your worst fears to become reality. (from Point Break!)
Eoghan, it has been a pleasure speaking with you.
Eoghan Kavanagh’s work can be viewed in the Skyline Gallery, 27 Henry Street, Kenmare, Co. Kerry or online at www.skyline.ie. Eoghan can be contacted at 064 6648621 or 087 2522807.
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