A local photographer has secured the trip of a lifetime following a grant awarded to him to travel around the United States for a month to learn about the country’s photography industry.
Alex Boyd, from Irvine, applied to the Winston Churchill Memorial Fund, which provides funding for people to travel overseas in order to bring back knowledge for the benefit of others in their UK professions and communities.
The pioneering photographer – best known for his Sonnets series – was selected from thousands of applicants after taking part in an intense final interview in London and being grilled by a panel that included Winston Churchill’s grandson, Jeremy Soames, and Nick Danziger, one of the world’s most renowned photojournalists.
Speaking on the interview process, Alex said: “The pressure was immense. As I was walking towards the interview room, I was handed a sheet of paper with the list of names of the people on the panel. I couldn’t believe that I was about to go in and give my ideas on how best to progress photography in Scotland to a giant of photography such as Nick Danziger.”
He goes on: “As I took my place in the room, I was faced with a wall of people who would hang on my every word, and the panel didn’t waste a second in scrutinising my proposals and how I would be using the money. It was surreal to be sitting face-to-face with Jeremy Soames – a man who looks and sounds exactly like his grandfather!”
On the train journey back to Scotland, modest Alex was convinced that he had been unsuccessful. Having faced an eminent panel of no-nonsense, hard-hitting inquirers, he had resigned himself to the idea that his experience of such a tough interview would at least serve him well in future.
However, a few days after returning from London, he received a call to say that his interview had been successful, and he could now begin planning his month-long trip to the States, which starts on Friday, January 18.
The Irvine Herald caught up with Alex for a chat in Irvine’s Harbour Arts Centre, where some of his work is on display in the cafe. As he sat finalising flight bookings for his journey, he explained what the trip means to himself and to Scottish photography.
Alex, 28, said: “During my time in America, I’ll be touring the country on a fact-finding mission to see how the country’s photography industry and galleries work, and find out why America is light-years ahead of us in this field.
“Scotland was at one time one of the most important places in the world in the development of photography, but now, it is viewed as simply a trade rather than an art form.
“For example, people in America and other parts of the world can make a good living as a photographer, whereas photographers in Scotland often need a second job to keep them going.
“Even in London, this isn’t necessary – photographers can make their living, and I want to see how we can change things in Scotland and bring back what I’ve learned on the trip to help further develop photography in Scotland.”
Alex’s journey will begin in Denver, Colorado, where he will spend five days and meet with a former assistant of legendary artist, Andy Warhol. From there, Alex will go on to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and his journey will finish in New York, where the photographer will spend time in the city of Rochester, a place known as ‘The World’s Image Centre’, where American photography boomed for 100 years.
Said Alex: “It’s such a packed itinerary and there is lots of work to get through in four weeks, with so much to learn. I had to set up these meetings on my own and am grateful to the incredible artists and leading figures who have agreed to give me their time to explain how they go about their work and give their views on American photography.”
He added: “My job will be go to there, listen to what these people have to offer and relate the information back to colleagues, organisations and galleries on my return to the UK.”
On his return, Alex will be required to submit a report on his findings to the Churchill Trust and put forward his ideas on how to transform Scotland’s photography industry and help work towards bringing it on a par with America and other leading countries.
Alex explains: “It will be a tough trip, but I want to try to do as much as I can to help photography in Scotland and to show people that it is an art form that is accessible to everyone.
“We have some of the finest work in the world here, and that should be highlighted and celebrated as part of our creative culture.”