Irish fashion focus: ‘The minute I took the first picture I was hooked’
Kyle Sven was a teenage school dropout, but pursued his passion for art before taking up photography during treatment for cancer. He reveals how self-belief propelled him to win gold at Cannes Young Lions and shoot beauty campaigns for Brown Thomas
‘I was a school dropout at fifteen. I was a very naughty teenager.” laughs Kyle Sven.
“I went to a traditional school and struggled. I was trying to figure out who I was and push boundaries. I like to shock people. My school didn’t like that...”
Kyle’s ‘naughty’ side was much like any teen who dyed their hair, didn’t tuck in their shirt or smoked during lunch.
“I remember my principal having a talk with me.” Sven recalls. “He said, ‘We’ve tried everything. Nothing is working. Maybe don’t come back next year.’ I thought to myself, ‘Did you really try everything?’ I wasn’t a crazy kid!”
His lack of formal education hasn’t held him back. In 2016 he moved to Dublin on a work visa to work in branding
While working with the RichardsDee agency, he got the opportunity to compete at the 2017 Cannes Young Lions as part of a team alongside fellow designer, Emma Wilson. They worked on a global initiative for data representation on behalf of UN women. They are the only Irish team to win gold in this category.
The event was sponsored by Getty so part of a prize was a digital camera.
After the high of winning the Young Lions, Sven was diagnosed with cancer.
“During my six months of chemo I started getting back into art,” he says. He initially used other photographers’ nude portraits as references for his oil paintings. In 2018 he finished chemo on his birthday and decided from them on to take his own photographs.
“The minute I took the first picture I was hooked.
“I would take one object and photograph it 50 different ways by changing the light. That’s how you learn, in action. It’s so important to have a recognisable style. It allows you to be set apart from other creators. It’s not something I even decided on, it’s just developed.”
His striking photography landed Sven a campaign for Planet Beauty with Brown Thomas as well as creating his own project, ‘Altered States’. “I’m really interested in distortion and obscuring images.”
Like all creatives, he allows his mind to race. “What I struggle with a lot is self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
“I have this voice in my head that’s telling me no, or this is too much, too risky or we’re going to fail. It’s relentless but you must ignore that voice and jump into it. If it makes you happy, do it more. To be able to die and know at the very least you had the privilege of being able to create and do what you love, that’s enough. That’s all you can ask for.”
See kylesven.com; Instagram: @_kylesven