Derek Boswell: In a snapshot

By Nicole Laidler, Spilled Ink Writing & Wordsmithing

As a young boy, Derek Boswell spent his time exploring his suburban neighbourhood, discovering his uncle’s photography darkroom, and discussing psychology with his grandfather.

Today, those interests remain a driving force as the 21-year-old King’s student pursues his undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Visual Arts, and a burgeoning career as a serious photographer.

“Photography and psychology feed off each other quite well,” Derek notes. “They are different ways of understanding the world around me.”

Earlier this year, Derek participated in a group exhibition at London’s Westland Gallery. The show, entitled My Backyard, was an artistic interpretation of London as seen through the eyes of different local photographers. It featured Derek’s work alongside that of photographers Jeff Heane, Paul Lambert, and Rob Nelson.

This summer, Derek is taking part in a CBC documentary about emerging Ontario artists, set to be released by the end of 2018. “They seem to think I have my own vision,” he says.

Derek’s work explores themes of location, the built environment, and man’s impact on the natural world. He often shoots at night, turning his lens on the inanimate objects most of us take for granted – billboards, construction machinery, parking lots, and empty sports fields.

Unlike most contemporary photographers, Derek prefers to shoot film over digital, using his vintage Rolleiflex and Linhof Technicka cameras, and developing his prints in a laundry sink at home. “I don’t photoshop any of my images,” he explains. “I like the challenge of capturing it in-camera and just manipulating the environment around it with lights.”

For Derek, film photography is equal parts craft, art, and science. “It’s fun to experiment and to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, both from a technical aspect and from the creative aspect,” he says.

Although Derek was first introduced to the darkroom as a child, he didn’t pursue it in a serious way until his second year at Bealart, London’s most rigorous secondary school fine art program.

A talk by Canadian photo journalist and war photographer, John Densky, inspired Derek to use his lens for social documentary.

A few years later, John invited Derek to exhibit with him at London’s Good Sport gallery. “It was really interesting to work with someone who does what I do, but in a totally different realm,” says Derek. “He focusses on black and white, I shoot colour. He shoots people, I shoot things. There was a lot of juxtaposition, but it worked.”

Derek’s first solo exhibit was last October at the Cohen Commons area of Western University’s John Labatt Visual Arts Centre. He has also been featured in several international photography blogs and online magazines.

Despite the interest his work is already generating, Derek says he has no plans to turn it into a full-time career. “As much as I love photography, it’s almost meditative for me. To commercialize it would take the joy out of it. It would change what it means to me,” he explains.

Currently in his third year at King’s, Derek hopes to become a clinical psychologist or apply his learning to a career at a design firm.

“Even if my photography doesn’t help my psychology, my psychology always helps my photography,” he comments. “That was an unexpected thing I am getting out of my program here at King’s. I love the dynamic of being here, of being in the visual arts program, and having my own photography practice. They all feed off one another.”

This article appeared in the spring 2018 issue of the King's Herald