In a few short years, Toronto-based Carlyle Routh has risen to become the go-to photographer for Canada’s top fashion magazines such as S/ and Sharp. Travelling the globe on location shoots, Routh brings her strong creative eye and bold vision to the worlds of fashion and lifestyle photography. Here, she talks about her inspirations, her determination to succeed, and how she consistently pushes the boundaries in her work.
What inspires you to act differently than what the establishment dictates?
I don’t think anything in particular inspires me to act differently from what the establishment may dictate or expect of me. I’ve always been true to whom I am and have tried not to let others expectations have a direct impact on who I am and how I do things.
What drives you to push boundaries, shoot after shoot?
I’ve always been a very driven person, even from a young age. I was the only girl on an all-boys soccer team. I’ve never shied away from a challenge—if anything, I have sought them out. So I think that mindset and determination have always driven me to push things a little harder and further each time.
When was the last time you tried something new?
I try new things all the time. On my last photo shoot, I played around with new lighting. I’m continually switching things up and trying new angles and avenues to stimulate my creativity.
Who do you consider a “disruptor” in the photography realm? Do you model yourself after them?
There is no ‘one person’ who comes to mind when I think of a disruptor in the realm of photography. I am very drawn to the work that is coming out of Europe. The images are raw, a little more undone. A more “gritty” aesthetic is something I personally love.
In the digital world we live in, with apps like Instagram, everyone has suddenly turned into a photographer. Does this affect the way you work?
The digital world has drastically changed the face ofphotography. Photography has been made way more accessible and affordable to the general public and that in turn has made things like Instagram, and the fame people have gotten from it, such a strange phenomena. I was a latecomer to the Instagram game. I had resisted it for quite some time before finally succumbing to the pressures of it.
But now I actually like it. It’s a fun way to curate your own images and also see other people’s feeds. It certainly doesn’t affect how I approach or execute a shoot but it has affected me by basically adding yet another thing to do and think about in the day. I always have to keep posting!
How do you define success?
For me, this is quite a tricky question to answer, and it is probably going to sound like the cheesiest response ever. Ultimately, for me, success should be defined as whether you are happy, inspired, and excited in life. You could be making tons of money, or hold a very respected and sought after position (which in the eyes of many would make you successful), but if you are waking up everyday dreading getting out of bed in the morning, what’s the point of it all?
Do you consider yourself successful?
I do consider myself successful. I am doing what I love and couldn’t picture myself anywhere else right now. I am fortunate enough to be a busy photographer, have my own studio, travel the world and create images with some wonderful teams. I certainly haven’t achieved all the things I would like to. I am continually setting the bar higher and higher, so I will keep growing and evolving and, I hope, to achieve those things.
Where does your determination to succeed come from?
This stems back to my being a driven personin all aspects of my life. I’m not sure I would say it’s a determination to succeed necessarily, but rather more a determination to explore and experience new things. That is what keeps me motivated and always pushing forward.
You’re in the business of storytelling. What makes a “good” photo stand out from a “great” one?
Photography, like any art form, is incredibly subjective. What one person may love, another could hate. But obviously, a few key things come into play when deciphering a good photo from a great one, like lighting and composition. However, what I think is really important, at least when photographing people, is the feeling in the subject the moment you capture that image—“the decisive moment” as photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson put it. The emotion in that moment makes all the difference.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
In truth, I find many aspects of my work rewarding. The ability to travel the world while doing what I love has got to be one ofthe best parts though.
What can you do today what you weren’t capable of a year ago?
I have more confidence and am evenclearer about who I am and the kind of images I want to create. This clarity and assurance has ultimately led me to places that I wouldn’t necessarily have reached otherwise.
How has your work evolved?
My images are more a reflection of who I am today and less reflective of the marketplace.