Meet Owen Kydd, Contestant for the Annual Aimia/AGO Photography Prize

Calgary-born photographer and videographer Owen Kydd is one of four contestants competing for this year’s illustrious Aimia/AGO Photography Prize, an annual award that recognizes contemporary talent. We got to know the artist who brilliantly blends photography with videography in order to create slow-cinema, or, as he refers to his works, “durational photographs.”

S/: Tell me about yourself. What made you decide to work in film and photography?

Owen Kydd: I studied filmmaking in Vancouver, and made documentaries and short films, but every film I made seemed to consist of static camera angles where events would unfold slowly. I’ve always been attracted to slow-cinema and its relation to other forms like painting and photography.

How would you describe your style? What makes you unique as an artist?

I have tried to avoid having a personal style of picture-making in favour of imitating other styles and genres, such as those from early 20th century photography. Because I am trying to make one medium (photography) in the guise of another, it seemed better for the experiment to eliminate my own style, at least until the durational photograph (or perhaps the GIF) has established itself.

You described your work as “durational photography.” Can you expand on this?

I’m trying to capture the set of conditions that occurs when you come across something in the world, often a quiet moment or scene, and you think “that looks like a photograph.” It’s almost always a near-still moment, when the mind wants to hold the flow of time the way a camera does. When people first started making films in the 19th century, they were made like this—the narrative impulse wasn’t the first instinct in capturing motion.

Your work examines the significance of definitions and classifications in art. Have you come to any conclusions? Why is this an important topic for you?

For me, classifications are likely those of medium. I’m trying to find the boundaries of one medium within another, and then I strive to occupy a middle ground. I think this is a useful technique to think about the tools we use, like the camera or computer, by imagining using those tools for different purposes. Changing machines should be one goal of art.


Make sure to visit the exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto to see Kydd’s work, alongside the work of the exhibit’s three other contestants: Dave Jordano, German Annette Kelm and Hito Steyerl. Contribute by selecting your favourite, and voting online before November 29, 2015.