Photography professor Marcus Doyle discusses his life, career and passions
From sculptures to tapestries, paintings and photographs, those who walk through the Duke Art Hallway on West Campus are bound to see spectacular art.
Among the most noticeable pieces is a series of photographs which are positioned in a perfect line. The colors stand out against the gray background. They are bright and saturated with hues so deep and rich that many assume at once they must be edited— though they’re not. This is the work of photography professor Marcus Doyle, whose passion for pictures extends beyond the classroom.
Born in Northern England, Doyle discovered his passion for photography at a young age, when his grandfather bought him his first camera.
Doyle was inspired by the art his grandfather made, landscapes similar to Doyle’s artistic style. Although the two used different media — his grandfather used paint rather than film— Doyle said he wouldn’t be the artist he is today without him.
“There was obviously an influence there, or a seed planted,” Doyle said. “Possibly, I was unaware of it until I was given a camera. And then I thought, ‘Well, I can’t paint, I can’t draw, but I can take a picture.’”
To pay homage to his grandfather, Doyle photographed Scotland in 2008, going to the same places he did.
After graduating from university, Doyle began working at a photography studio with a team, including a woman named Sarah who would later become his wife. According to Doyle, the studio was an influential part in both of their careers.
But while Sarah began making most of her portfolio within the studio, Doyle decided his best option was to leave.
“I went to work for a master black-and-white printer who was in London,” Doyle said. “He was the very, very best at hand printing work for commercial photography, portraits, landscapes, all sorts of black and white photography.”
Even after opening his first dark room in 1998, Doyle wasn’t satisfied with the monochromatic pictures he was taking, despite the style being popular at the time.
A Colorful Change
Then Doyle went to Iceland.
“I had made a trip to Iceland, and I only had black and white film,” Doyle said. “I took very little pictures there because the place was so colorful — there were colors I had never seen before. And the air was really clear and pure, and everything was really clean and it was just the most wonderful landscape like I’d never seen before.”
Inspired by the trip, Doyle went back to the U.K., collected color film and returned to Iceland three weeks later.
“I began shooting solely in color, and I’ve never shot in black and white seriously since … I was hooked — absolutely hooked,” Doyle said.
Doyle began several projects over the next few years, shooting most of his pictures in the U.S., which Doyle said has beautiful landscapes. Some of his most popular collections include “Thursdays by the Sea,” “Six Seventeen” and “Vehicular Landscape.” Doyle is currently working on a new project which strays away from some of the rich blues from his other pictures and leans into bright, warm colors.
According to Doyle, many of his previous photos were taken with an older, large camera, before digital photography became popular. Sometimes, he said, he still uses this camera.
“People always ask me about the colors,” Doyle said. “There’s no manipulation in terms of digital, but the slight manipulation comes through the type of film and how that works and reacts to light. You get these rich, beautiful colors which the film created.”
The film takes longer to process than digital photographs, allowing the exposure and light to affect the film in a unique way that brings out the vibrant colors that is noticeable in so much of his work.
While Doyle is not opposed to digital photography, and has used it in the past, he believes the process of photographing a landscape without editing it is a craft that produces worthwhile results. Whenever Doyle takes digital photos, he never looks at the pictures until he gets home.
Advice for Future Photographers
According to Doyle, there are several things that students should keep in mind when photographing. The first is to not go to a place with an intended meaning for your collection, since oftentimes, the meaning can only be found after all the pictures have been taken and are sitting side-by-side.
Doyle’s second advice is to never edit the landscape, which is interesting in itself, and sometimes noticeable when it has been altered. Most of all, Doyle believes students should explore and do what they are passionate about, focusing on their art rather than on what others in the field are doing.
“The worst thing is being somewhere without a camera for a period of time,” Doyle said. “I’ve found I can go pretty much anywhere and spend long periods of time there as long as I have my camera. I don’t have to be out all the time taking pictures, but to know that I can go out and take pictures is kind of what keeps [me] there.”
Doyle currently teaches at APU as an adjunct professor while continuing his photographic journey.