Interview with Kyler Zeleny: Aesthetica Art Prize Longlisted Artist

Kyler Zeleny’s work focuses on the family album and found Polaroids. His current interests relate to rural mythology, in which he using photography to explore cultures. Zeleny was longlisted in the 2014 Aesthetica Art Prize with his piece Broken Road from his current Out West project.

The project was conducted to explore a perceived lack of imagery on the current state of the rural in the Canadian West, as well as a need to document the continued transition from rural-dominant (western) to urban-dominant provinces – rural drain, urban claim. The book of Out West is now available to buy from the publishing house The Velvet Cell.

A: How has being longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize affected your practice?
KZ: Being longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize was quite an honour; especially given I was competing against a lot of high quality art producers working across different media. The exposure I gained has also helped me establish myself as a serious image-maker.

A: Can you explain the idea behind Out West?
KZ: Out West is a project exploring small rural communities and rural culture in the Canadian West. Over two summers I visited and documented 160 communities with a population of 1,000 or less. I was interested in looking at the current state of these communities and wanted to document what I thought was their slow death into neglect and ambiguity.

A: Which photographers have inspired you?
KZ: A lot of photographers inspire me, but the primary photographers who I feel influenced this body of work are Stephen Shore (American Surfaces) for his subject matter and his great use of frame and William Eggleston (2 ¼) for his eye for colour, his use of the square format and his ability to photograph people. Even though Out West features very few people, it is in fact all about people.

A: The book opens with a TS Elliot quote: “…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” How do you aim to do this in your work?
KZ: For me the quote highlights the trajectory of my own page and it was the resulting consequence of the project on a personal level. I was raised on a farm in a rural community and like many I moved away. I wanted to revisit these areas as much for others as for myself. In the end I found something new and refreshing in these communities, a beauty I would wager I could not have found any other way but by leaving.

A: What do you have planned for the future?
KZ: I will be moving to Toronto at the end of the summer to continue my studies as a doctoral student at a joint York/Ryerson programme in Communication and Culture. While there I hope to explore some questions that arose out of the Out West project.

For more information on Kyler Zeleny’s Out West and to purchase a copy of the book visit

The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries. For more information and to submit visit

1. Kyler Zeleny, Out West.

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