5 Minutes with a ViewPoint Member An Interview with Eric Boutilier-Brown
by Angela Creaser, August 2015
Angela: As the recipient of the 2015 Spirit of ViewPoint Award, what does this mean to you?
Eric: Essentially it’s recognition of the commitment that a particular member has to the gallery, and acknowledgment of their contribution over the years, and it was really great to receive because it felt like it was applause for the commitment I’ve had for the Gallery for 12 of its 15 years. I’ve been a very passionate member of the gallery and it’s nice to have that recognized.
Angela: You speak about the length of time you’ve been a member of Viewpoint; you were actually one of the founding members. Why was the Gallery created?
Eric: The primary motivation for the creation of the gallery was to have a place to share fine art photography. There was a critical mass of very passionate photographers, Gary Castle, Eric Hayes, John Calder, Curtis Steele, myself and others, who all really felt a need to have a venue to share their work with the public and being in the city the size of Halifax without a dedicated photographic gallery seemed an issue that could be solved in a very obvious way.
Angela: Was photography your first choice of a career?
Eric: In a career? I don’t know that I have a career yet… I haven’t picked what I’m going to do when I grow up. When I went to art college (NSCAD) my intent was to study sculpture and I got sidetracked for about 6 ½ years (by photography) and ended up doing a sculpture class in my last year. But since I was 16, photography has been a passion, and at the age of 21 I got my first job working as a photo technician. Since then it’s been the only way I make money.
Angela: Going back to when you were 16, can you describe a moment or experience/emotion when you knew that photography was something that you just had to do?
Eric: My Mother (Kathy Brown) is an art educator and artist herself, so art had always been part of my life. But, I got a camera for Christmas (an Olympus OM10) and a couple rolls of film, and I went out that night and took pictures of the reflections of the lights in the ice on the Northwest Arm and was thrilled when I got the pictures back. But I really think there was nothing like the first time I was in a darkroom (in the Halifax West art class there was a darkroom in the back of the class) - there was nothing quite like the experience of seeing the first image which comes up in the developer and suddenly, like magic, you see the photographic image on your own piece of paper. That had me hooked.
Angela: Based on your photography now and the direction that you are going in, what was the first image you made that felt really successful and set the tone for your future work?
Eric: In 2001 I made a photograph, “Concrete Angel”, of a model sitting on the side of the Lighthouse with her head in her hands because of how bright the sunshine was. That was the first image that really felt like my own voice. Up until then I had been very passionately photographing the nude whenever I could, but to some degree I was parroting other photographers or just sort of fumbling around without some sort of voice. But with “Concrete Angel”, there was something about it that even today, 23 years later, I still look at it and it is everything I look for in a successful photograph. So I really view that image as one of the most important photographs of my career, and even to this day I remember the moment of capturing it, so it had clarity even when I was working and making it.
Angela: What was one of the most memorable responses you have had to your work?
Eric: Memorable? Hmm… A very recent positive response was from a model to whom I had just sent recent work we had made together to review. She emailed back tonight in call caps “OMG! I LOVE THEM ALL” and she said she couldn’t remember ever having a photo shoot where every single picture she loved and approved of and where nothing was a problem for her. So that was quite the compliment
Angela: If you were only allowed 3 pieces of photography equipment to take when photographing in an unknown location, what would you take (A SLR with a lens counts as two)?
Eric: So I don’t know what I’m photographing?
Angela: No, you’re not sure. But you know it’s going to be something you want to photograph.
Eric: [long pause] The problem is I would say an infrared camera but that’s totally inappropriate for certain subjects where a colour camera could pretty much be used anywhere. So I would say my current colour camera (a Canon 5DsR), and a 17mm tilt shift lens and an 85mm f/1.2 lens.
Angela: No tripod?
Eric: [extra long pause] No. [uncomfortable laughter] You said I could only bring three things. If you said four, I would have brought a tripod.
Angela: Looking back at all your work to date, do you have a current favorite?
Eric: I think it would be a picture of Bodiam Castle which was featured my exhibition on infrared photography, The Light Beyond and is also on my wall as a four foot wide canvas print. There is something about it, which is very similar to what I talked about “Concrete Angel”. I remember every moment of making it, but when I look at the image, it still has something that I just am absolutely drawn to visually and I find it sort of… it’s almost like you turn around and you get surprised by it, because even though you know you made it, it still appeals to you so strongly visually.
Angela: Well, we’re running out of time… so here are the last five. What is your...
favourite colour? Black [Eric admitted after that black really isn’t a colour, none the less, it’s still black]
Favourite animal? Dog
Favourite season? Fall
Favourite movie? English Patient
Favourite book? Terry Pratchett’s, The Wee Free Men
For more information about Eric Boutilier-Brown, please visit his website at Evolving Beauty.