We're proud to partner with Exposure Toronto on this new series of artist features. Exposure Toronto was founded in 2020 as a not-for-profit organization focusing on the amplification of Black creatives within the photography industry. Their community and studio are built to provide a safe and accessible space as well as financial, physical resources and opportunities.
We want to get to know these talented artists involved and support Exposure Toronto in highlighting the artists' work and thoughts. We've sent Exposure Toronto some Lomography film and Art Lenses for their photographers to play with. Today, we're excited to share the results from Tylor Key-Carr, a fashion, travel, and portrait photographer who believes in the power of documentation and storytelling. We equipped Tylor with our Petzval 85 Art Lens. Here's his story.
Hello Tylor! It’s great to have you here at Lomography! First off can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hey! Thank you so much for having me. My name is Tylor Key-Carr and I am a professional photographer based out of Toronto. In a normal year, I could be often found roaming through art galleries or looking for the best restaurants in the city. I really enjoy traveling and exploring new places, which has been one of the major reasons I am into photography today.
When did you get into photography?
I would love to tell you that my original love for photography stems from countless hours playing Pokemon Snap as a child but that isn’t entirely true. I got exposed to photography at a pretty young age. My parents would buy disposable cameras for me to capture some memories while I was on vacation, or when I was with some family or friends. I was truly obsessed with documenting my surroundings, and I think that had a lot to do with my grandfather as well. He often had this bulky 90s video camera with him to record our family in simple day to day life. It was not just reserved for special occasions. I saved up a bunch of money from doing chores, my birthday, and Christmas, and I ended up buying my first camera: an HP Photosmart 315 which had a booming 2.1 mp and an 8mb memory card. I was glued to that thing for a while. Eventually I started to spend more time focusing on sports and music, that photography was pushed to the side and only really used for school projects. It wasn’t until I was going on a 30-day trip through Europe that I realized I needed something to document this because it was unlikely it was going to happen again. Luckily my best friend’s parents gave me the money to buy a used Nikon D80 to take with me and ever since then my camera has not left my side.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from everything around me. The easy answer would be that a lot of it comes from movies or TV shows but I feel like more often than not, it comes from the people around me. I am very lucky to live in such a diverse city like Toronto. I get a lot of ideas started based on interactions with people and through observing people’s fashion sense. I personally have zero fashion sense which is pretty funny since that is what I find myself shooting most of the time. Music also has a huge impact on my photography. It really does a great job of tying everything together when I am focused on the emotions I am trying to portray throughout the process.
How does a day of shooting work for you?
It really depends on what I am shooting. If I am alone shooting street or travel photography I am truly at peace. I have no problem walking around aimlessly trying to capture a moment in time. Even if that doesn’t happen, I never get too beat up about it because at least I got the opportunity to walk around the city and explore and interact with people. If I am shooting portraits on the other hand, that is a different story. Nine times out of ten, the day will start off with five to ten minutes of panic, wondering if the day is going to go well and whether I will be able to perform. You know, the usual self doubt that a lot of us face in this creative field. I just don’t want to go out there and waste someone else’s time. However, once those five minutes run out and I snap back to reality, I get really excited to go execute the vision I have in my head. I become that same level of free that I feel when I am traveling. Excited to capture a moment that truly shows how much I admire the person in front of my camera. The conversation is flowing, the music is playing and the main thing is that we have fun and grow together.
If there was one thing you could change about today’s photography industry, what would that be?
That is a tough question. I mean, the easy thing would be to make things more accessible. I can only speak to my experience here in Toronto, but everything seemed so guarded here. From equipment to education, there were a lot of barriers to try and hurdle. It wasn't until the past few years I started to see a change in that. I have been lucky enough to come across some pretty magnificent people that have helped get me to a point where I feel like I can have confidence in myself, despite not having the traditional photography education that many people do have. As someone who was “self taught”, studio access to practice lighting techniques was always a pretty big challenge due to the fact that it is very expensive to rent lighting equipment and find a cost effective studio. Exposure Studio was very important to my growth inside the studio by offering access to both lighting and a safe space for me to practice and grow as a photographer.
Your portraits are beautiful; how do you get your models so comfortable in front of your lens?
Thank you! I really focus more on the personal relationship between myself and the model. I really love getting to know people and the story they have to tell. Oftentimes I find myself more focused on the conversation between us that I actually forget that we came here with the intention of creating together. I think that is where my experience in retail comes in and takes over. Always focused on building relationships that last. When that chemistry is there, I think it really helps bring the most out of both of us. In this specific session, Nicole made it very easy for both of us to feel comfortable. Prior to this morning, we had never met in real life. We have just followed each other on Instagram for a while and I feel like we both had a great appreciation for each other’s work. As soon as we got in studio, it was as if we had been friends for years! Also, whenever I have the ability to shoot in studio, music is also super important. A great playlist can do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to putting our stress at ease.
How did the Petzval lens fit your style?
I really enjoy using this lens, especially in the outdoor setting. I love how the swirly bokeh puts a focus on the subject and softens the focus on the background. You don’t get to see it as much in a studio setting, but I still love the way the images come out!
In what way do you see yourself incorporating it in your work?
The thing I love most about the lens is that it forces me to slow down. Since I was shooting mainly digital over the past few years, when I was first starting out I would take as many photos as possible and hope for the best. When I introduced analog photography into my workflow, it really gave me the perspective that I was taking all of those shots for no reason. So having the manual aspect of this lens really brings back the fun of analog into the digital world. It gives me the ability to really slow things down and prioritize my communication between myself and the model.
From the pictures you sent us, do you have a favorite one? Can you tell us the story behind it?
I really love this image. I mean, when working with Nicole it is hard to choose a favorite because they all turn out great! But I think I love this because it was one of the last captures of the day. We came outside in the back alley after working in the studio for a bit. I had some technical difficulties with one of my strobes that forced me to use the modeling light as my main source of light and we were able to pull it off. However, it was nice to get outside after being in studio where we had to be a lot more calculated with posing and light position. This was a lot more freeing in a sense and it allowed us to just have fun and not think much about whether the light was going to be strong enough to get the shot.
Are you working on any long term project we should be on the lookout for?
It has been pretty difficult to put together a long term project during COVID here in Toronto. We have been in and out of lockdown over the course of the last 12 months, unfortunately. One thing I am most excited for post pandemic is trying out concert photography! So if you are ever at a concert in Toronto, look out for me!