Interview: Photographer Kyle Engman
Driven to quench the hunger of wanderlust and break his static and predictable workaday lifestyle and pursue something more has ended up leaving a wake of inspiration and motivating examples of risk-taking and “just do it”-ing! Utmost gratitude to Kyle for letting us share his words and story!
How’d you get into photography in the first place? What made you realize your passion?
It started out as an idea of wanting to travel. I was in college at the time; my second year into working on obtaining a bachelors degree in communications. In my spare time, I was also working constantly on sports journalism and blogging with various websites. It was a fun job but I always felt like something was missing from it. And then I began thinking about traveling.
It started out slow. I started watching a few travel documentaries because I was curious about other cultures. Then I got into travel channels on Youtube. Eventually I started planning out my own trips, some of which were months long and spanned over a dozen countries. It quickly became evident that writing was not the kind of documentation for me.
I’ve always had a passion for photography but I never thought it was something I was ever going to succeed at in my life. I took a photography class in high school when I was a sophomore and loved it. The teacher gave me a C minus in it. I never fully understood why but I took it as a sign that maybe I wasn’t cut out for photography.
I originally planned to vlog as a way to document my travels. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I didn’t have a camera that took video. I had a camera that my dad loaned me from work to shoot photos of the Green Bay Packers training camp the previous summer. It was a Nikon D50 and it took decent enough photos. I started shooting around my house. Then I started shooting around the county I lived in. Then I was doing three or four hour drives up to the northern shore of Minnesota to do hikes and camp.
I left school, quit two potential careers (my sports writing and my day job at a grocery store) and decided to move to the pacific northwest to continue traveling and give myself the chance to grow as a photographer with a new environment.
How would you describe your vision and style?
My vision is to inspire people to take a leap of faith. Put your foot out without knowing that there’s something to step on. Those are the best kind of adventures. I’m always trying to make trips like that whenever I can and do my best to show that in my work.
What do you look for when you’re shooting?
It’s hard to explain because it’s such an organic function for me at this point. If something strikes a certain emotion or story while I’m on a trip, I generally try to shoot a photo of it or capture it in a way that the photo reminds me of what I was feeling at the time.
What has being a photographer done for you?
Photography has opened up so many doors that I never thought I would ever see opened in my life. I’ve gotten to travel to some incredible places and I’ve met some of the most inspiring people. The best thing though is that my life is less consistent. Every day is different than the one before.
How would you say you and your work has evolved over time?
When I first started out I just shot whatever I thought was interesting and I still sometimes do that. But I feel like I’m more refined as a photographer now. Instead of shooting 300–400 photos a day while I’m on a trip, I shoot not even 100 as a way to slow down the clutter of extra photos while also allowing myself to enjoy more of a trip without looking at it through a viewfinder.
I feel like I put more story and context into my photos now. I shoot more “things” than “places.” I still like shooting landscapes but my focus has definitely moved to subjects.
How do you decide where to shoot?
If I can camp there then I generally want to shoot there. If it’s a place I can hike with friends then I also want to shoot there too. I’m usually down to shoot wherever though. I don’t have any limitations to what I shoot, it’s just that I’m usually out in the woods more than I am compared to big city or anything else.
What is something about you, photography, or life that you wish people to understand?
I guess if I have anything to say about myself it would be an answer for my friends who maybe don’t understand my mindset and my parents who might be worried about my lifestyle (and have supported me greatly since I’ve started photography). My choice to leave school and pursue this crazy dream of photography wasn’t easy even for me to accept so I understand the people who look at what I do and go “what the hell are you doing?” But when I set out on this course in my life I accepted the fact that this wasn’t going to be easy and that I was going to have to take a lot of risks in doing this. That’s what has made this whole process fun for me.
Taking the risks and conquering new challenges have changed my perspective on a lot of things. Before all of this, I feel like I was living a pretty stagnant life and I didn’t take too many risks. For everyone reading this I want you to understand that if there’s something you truly want in your life, whatever it is, don’t hesitate to reach for it. Take the risk. Because at the end of the day are you going to be happy that you at least tried and failed? Or that you didn’t try at all? Even then there’s the idea that you succeed at what you want, that you achieve what you set out to do.
Life is short. Do what makes you happy. When I’m on the road, camping with friends and shooting photography I am truly happy. I’m willing to take the risks to be able to do what I love to do. I hope someday I can inspire other people to take leaps like the one I did.