Sights & Sounds is an audio-visual series where photographers tell the tales behind some of their favorite shots.
In this latest episode, Toronto-based filmmaker and photographer Wyatt Clough shares a few shots from his collection that span his time touring with hard rock bands, climbing Mount Fuji and exploring the streets of Tokyo and Hong Kong.
A passionate storyteller, Wyatt drops a couple F-bombs throughout the clips, so listener discretion or putting on headphones is advised.
At MAEKAN, the story defines the medium. Some stories function best as written text, others hope to capture the emotion through an intimate audio experience. In cases such as this audio story, the transcripts we provide are done to the best of our ability through AI transcription services and human transcribers. We try our best, but this may contain small errors or non-traditional sentence structure. The imperfection of humans is what makes us perfect. Note that all of the audio from this story was recorded in late 2019.
My name is Wyatt Clough. I’m a film director and a photographer from Toronto. I’ve been doing it full-time freelance for the last four years, since 2015. I started, I bought my first digital camera when I was 22. This was 2013 and just loved how quick and easy it was. I shot film photos from when I was 10. My dad gave me an Asahi Spotmatic and showed me how to develop my own negatives and I had a little dark room in the basement and stuff, but I never really took it seriously. And then I had just gave it up when I went to university.
It wasn’t until midway through where I finally saved up and bought a DSLR that I was like, whoa, it was a Rebel T2i or something.
You could take videos. It was 1080, it was HD, so I started just looking for a little odd jobs, started a film department at my student newspaper, my university and once I graduated, I didn’t think it was possible to actually become a filmmaker or whatever. I just didn’t take it seriously so I did a bunch of other shit.
And then at the end of 2014, beginning of 2015, my friend Paul Marc, who’s a guitar player of Silverstein just asked me if I wanted to go on tour. And I was like, “hell yes!” I quit my job immediately and then two weeks later, I was on a tour bus driving to Chicago, drinking Zombie Dust IPA that you can only get in fucking Illinois.
It was just so much fun and it completely changed my life and my trajectory. And from there, I just worked for other bands and got commercial jobs and have been all over the world since.
I find photography super interesting because not everyone who does it is the same kind of person. So many people are into it. So when you have something Instagram, when you’re going, to the other side of the world and you go into Hong Kong and you don’t know a single person, but you want to go check it out, you can DM a local photographer and you have this immediate ice breaker, talk about photography, how much you love it and go and shoot.
And their background can be so different from yours, but you still explore the city together, look for photos and meet people that you never would get the opportunity to unless you ran into on the street when you both have to be taking photos. So I just I love photography and the modern world is super interesting to me.
It has really opened up so many opportunities to meet such a diverse range of people, which I love. I never really knew how I would describe my kind of photography or if I had a style or a perspective that I was putting into my images until other people told me.
I just shoot whatever feels good in the moment and it wasn’t until people started saying that my photos were “moody” or they had this kind of “sad” tone to them that I was like, “I guess I do.” I just get drawn to dreary looking things like foggy and misty days. So my favorite day is to go out and shoot no matter where in the world I am, if it’s fucking misty, you will find me running around outside.
So that’s the only thing I can really describe as my style of film. If people feel something when they look at them, then I feel good about the photo.
More recently, though, I’ve been trying to come up with photo exhibition themes and photo essays that have to do with themes that I care about. So I did a photo exhibition in Japan called (T)here that was just exploring the shared perspective people have between urban and rural places where it seems so different and foreign to each other, but if you break down what you see every day into kind of shapes and outlines, you’re actually looking at very similar structures.
It was just just a way to explore, the way we perceive the world and try and close the divide between some of these places. It was in 2016 and the world was getting this toxic democracy exported from America where everyone was finding a way to separate themselves from everyone else and make “us versus them” so I just wanted to find a theme that I could try and add my voice to it to say “hey, not everybody should hate everybody. Actually, if you break down the worlds you live in, they’re actually very similar. You can talk about a lot of things the same way.” Like, a skyline can be talked about in the same way that a mountain range can be talked about and just bridge the gap with language and art.
And my new series is going into the way we perceive the world around us. That was inspired by a lot of the North American photographers who go around the suburbs at night and take photos of the lonely house on the hill and it’s all misty. And it’s ” oh, the suburbs here are so sad. I hate it. Blah, blah, blah.”
So in Tokyo, I went around at night almost almost every night I was there and took some film photos, just finding stuff in the suburb of Setagaya to try and also match, that to be like, “hey, it’s your perspective that’s making you think everywhere you can see in a different light. If you choose to think about it negatively, you might think it looks sad or lonely, but this kind of feeling can happen anywhere in the world.”
It’s not just because of where you live or whatever. It can play a part in it, but I don’t know. I just wanted to explore the idea of “if you go somewhere, do you think it’s gonna make you happy?” It might. But if you’re not happy, it has to do with you, not where you are.
So I just want it to go into that. I’m still developing the themes around it. I have the photos now, but this whole “describing art and giving it meaning through a statement” is a bit new to me. So I’m trying to figure out this whole world, but I’ve included a photo from that series in this bit too.
And then six months ago, I lost my mind after being on tour for six months straight. I’ve always wanted a Leica so badly since I was a kid looking at photos of Robert Capa or Henry Cartier-Bresson on. And they’re always using their little range finders and they look fucking badass as shit.
It’s just they were always too expensive for me. I’m not a rich person. I don’t come from a rich family or anything so it’s just totally out of my reach. I used to have a piggy bank in my bedroom as a kid that said “Leica Fund” on it. I think it had $80 in it in pennies and nickels. But I just went out and fucking used the check I made from tour and just bought one without thinking about it and got super back into film, just dove into it and I’ve probably put 60 rolls through that thing in the last six months.
I’ve completely changed how I take photos and what’s important to me about a photo and shit so I don’t even know if any of this is relevant anymore, but yeah, that’s where I’m at headspace-wise in terms of the artistic passion that I have. I’m obsessed with film right now and exploring as many different kinds of film that I can find to just put through my little M6.
So this first photo is bill Hamilton of the band Silverstein. I took this photo on my first job. When I quit my desk job as an account manager at an advertising company. Totally the wrong fit. I am not someone who can sit at a desk and have a boss who’s just breathing down my neck, telling me to do stuff. That’s just not me at all. I quit that job and I grew up with — not all of these — the guitar player, Paul Marc and I have been friends since we were like 15 or 16, chain smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee after school in high school and stuff.
And he asked me if I wanted to go on tour and I was like, “you know what? Yes, I fucking do because I hate my job so much.” So I just quit the next day and went on this tour two weeks later and it was a life-changing event for me. ‘Cause I was just taking photos and making videos all day, every single day for this two-month period where we were on the road, traveling around the states, going to every major city in North America for the first time experiencing so much that I never would have got the opportunity to do otherwise.
I was shooting on a Sony A7S, the first model, with just a 24-70 MK1 lens. And it was all manual focus because the auto focus on the first models were so terrible, so it was just any fast motion was like, you cannot use auto focus. There’s just no way. So I had to really get used to it. For video it was fine because you want to use manual focus, but for photography, these guys are jumping around, like rocking out and you can’t shoot at like F5, F6. It’s so dark. So you have to be down like F2, 2.8. So the plane of focus is just so shallow. And for this photo. I remember I was standing on the side of the stage. It was in Saskatoon or something, middle of nowhere, Canada, like deep prairies.
And I was just standing on the side of the stage, looking for photos and Bill turned to me and I knew that he was gonna do something, but like my camera, I half put it up to my eye and make sure it’s in focus or anything. So he kicked and I just snapped the shutter, like (imitates burst shutter) without knowing if it was in focus or framed or anything from the hip. I got back to the green room after the show and put it on my computer. And this photo is just so sick. It was like perfectly timed, everything’s in focus, his hair is so crisp and I was just so pumped that I was able to capture that moment. You’re doing the same photo shoot every single night because the band plays, they have the same setup, they put the same set. So to find these, you’re essentially just hunting for these unique moments every single night to find something that separates it from the previous night and the night before that.
And so this photo, I felt the coolest photo I took and then like fans were drawing it and sending us their hand-drawn versions of the photo and stuff. And that was so wild to me that a photo that I took could impact people that they were inspired to draw it or, do something with it. That’s why I really love this photo. .
This photo’s from Jasper, Alberta in 2017. Me and a couple of my buddies had this idea where we were going to drive a 120 CC motorcycle from Toronto to Vancouver Island. And it was going to be like this crazy thing. Like we can go on the highway, cause it can’t go past 90 kilometers an hour. And we were just gonna make a documentary about struggling to get this tiny bike through the mountains and shit.
And it was going to be this nutty thing. We got sponsors, we got like, cold brew coffee companies, we got beer sponsors, camping sponsors, this whole thing. Like, three days into the trip, the motorcycle gets to Northern Ontario where there are mountains. I had no idea that was a thing. I don’t think anyone in Toronto knows that Canada is so massive and Ontario is so wide.
So it took us three days just to get from Toronto to the Western border, like past Thunder Bay. And by the time we got up. We were just like, “we’re in it. Like, we got to keep going.” I’m like, “I don’t know if this bike is going to make it and we’re going downhill.” And the driver, Roger couldn’t get the bike into fifth gear. It just wasn’t working. So he was just like revving the engine. I’m like full RPM.
Then the engine just fucking exploded all over the middle of the road in between his legs, destroyed the bike, but we’re already three or four days into this trip so we’re like, we just got to keep driving. This documentary is over. There’s no story here anymore.
So we just booted it to Alberta to get to the mountains and that’s where I took this photo because we had no other obligations at this point and our sponsors were not pleased and it was just a failure. But I woke up at dawn and I was like, “hey guys, I’m going to go take photos of Lake Moraine and stuff.” ‘Cause those places are so legendary, but during the day they’re just so packed. As we were driving around, we didn’t even realize how much wildlife was just chilling around the campsites and stuff.
So that’s where I took this photo of this deer. ‘Cause the light just perfectly rose between the trees and it almost looked like something out of a natural history museum exhibit with a light, which is perfectly cresting on this animal’s face. as it was just having a snack with all its homies. And I took this photo out of the side of the car with a — I think it was A7S still. I used that camera for three years, four years, like I had it till very recently.
And I just love this photo. It looks so beautiful. The colors came out so nice and the light is perfect. And so this photo is actually a part of the series with the next photo for the first photo exhibition that I ever did. And it’s the only time I’ve ever organized any of my photos into a theme and every photo works towards this whole theme. It’s like a big thing. I normally just take photos for the sake of taking photos ’cause I like it.
This photo is from the exhibition there, here, and it goes with the deer photo. So I was matching the scenes compositionally to kind of show there’s the man who’s lit there in a very similar light, the way the deer was lit. And then the awning is similar to the blue sky and it just has this similar match on action between the two, but then you also have the other reading of like, you’re seeing an animal, but it’s also just like a deconstructed version of the deer. So it’s kind of showing the brutality of man in a way where it’s such a beautiful image of a deer in the woods. And then the urban environment, it’s like absolutely deconstructed and gutted, but that’s kind of how we interact with our world. So it kind of didn’t work for the “(T)here” exhibition, but I love this photo series anyway.
There’s a bar in Tokyo where these are actually hanging, in A1 — or A2 prints called the Long Vá Quán in Shimokitazawa. So if you’re in that neighborhood, you can check it out. I shot this on an A7S with a 50 mm Contax lens that I bought in Tokyo. Those lenses absolutely rip. So I have a whole set of them that I use for my video work.
I’ve shot a ton of music, videos on them. They’re like the exact same glass as Zeiss Super Speeds , which are my favorite cinema lenses, but these ones cost 400 bucks versus fucking $5,00-8,000 per lens. So they’re a real steal.
This photo is a film photo I shot on a Leica M6 TTL with a 35mm v3 Summicron — I think it’s a Summicron. And I shot on Ektachrome 100. This is a slide film, and I’d never started slide film before I did — no, actually that’s not true. I shot one roll of slide film before this in Europe just doing little snapshots on tour. And the latitude on slide film is fucking crazy. So like, if you get the exposure proper, you have a really great photo, but if you overexpose it or underexpose it, you’re essentially like SOL.
You are completely out of luck because it is just the most contrasty thing. And it does not save highlights in the same way that, you know, like a Portra does. Like, Portra you can overexpose like, three stops. This slide film, it’s like, if you even do one, parts of it are going to be absolutely destroyed anyway. So this was from that series I was mentioning, I was exploring the suburbs of Tokyo in Setagaya, which is where Shimokitazawa is and like, Kichijōji and a bunch of neighborhoods like that are kind of becoming more famous.
I love it out there ’cause it’s so easy to get to Shibuya or Shinjuku, but it’s super chill and mellow at nighttime. I always find the suburbs there to feel a little bit creepy ’cause it gets so quiet and there’ll be like one house and like a block of houses with its light on. And it’s no other sign of people except for a glowing vending machine.
And so I wanted to make a creepy night series around that, and I really was inspired by a photographer Elsa Bleda in South Africa, who does these really amazing night photos. And she had recently done one of a car trail and I was like, “I want to do one with a car trail!” I get inspired by a lot of other photographers and it definitely impacts my work and I want to try stuff like that.
But also Akira was my favorite movie as a teenager. And I loved the way the light came off of the headlights when motorcycles drove away. I was like, “that is the coolest shit I’ve ever seen in my entire life.” And so for this photo series, I want it to kind of combine those two things to be creepy suburbs, but also crazy light trails.
So I was walking around all night shooting this roll of slide film ’cause I wanted to try it out. Because I thought the colors would be so much more vivid because they are on slide film. But I knew that if I overexposed something, it would just be totally gone. And with something like night photography, that’s such a big risk because the street lights are so bright and obviously the concrete’s so dark.
So I went around, I shot this. I think I shot three frames of this intersection just waiting, waiting, and waiting for the perfect car. And this one, the car just went at the perfect speed from beginning of the shutter release to the end and on the M6 there’s no timer or anything. So you have to use as a classic shutter release and the slowest shutter speed’s one second, so if you do anything more than that, you’re on bulb and you have to time and on your phone. So for this one, I did a 15-second shutter that I just held my iPhone and the shutter release. So I turned the timer on and the shutter and then at 15 seconds, just let go. And it came out so sick.
It looks exactly like the way the motorcycle does at the beginning of Akira, when they’re in the battle with the clowns. I was so excited and I’m really excited to release this photo series.
I had another exhibition in Tokyo in Shimokitazawa again, and I did an exhibition called “Dogs and Cars”, and it was just a series of photos of dogs sitting in cars from all over the world, like Mexico, around Europe and Asia and North America, like in Canada and the US and stuff. And the whole joke was that like, no matter where you go in the world, if you’re at a protest or something, or like, some dramatic event, there’s always just going to be a dog chilling in a car nearby.
It’s such a funny concept ’cause no other animal on the planet except for humans is chill with the idea of these things. They’re big metal buckets that just like whip around the world going so fast. Dogs could never go a hundred kilometers an hour without us, yet they’re just chilling on the side seat head out the window, just like having the best time.
So I thought it was a really hilarious series of images to go together. This one in particular was the first one I had shot and I posted on Instagram “next photo series: dogs in cars.”, and people were like, “do it. You have to do it.” This one is in Copenhagen and they just grabbed a coffee with the dudes in Beartooth. So I was on tour with them. We were direct support to Architects who are a humongous metal band in Europe and the tour started in Sweden, so this is the second show we had a day off in Copenhagen and it was raining, pouring rain. And I had my M6 with me. I only had one lens at this point, so it was a 35 and I shot this on Portra 400 just walking around drinking coffee in Copenhagen.
And it became the photo series that I literally exhibited in Tokyo. So this photo means a lot to me, and that inspired me to come up with that idea. And I just love the vintage car with this huge dog sitting in the driver’s seat, just waiting for his owner. He was like, way too big for the car. You can’t really see it because of the reflection, but it’s just a hilarious image to me.
I love when photography isn’t so serious and brings these moments of comedy that you can see on the street every day.
This photo is from when I was working for Beartooth, they’re a band from Ohio. And I worked for them for about a year. And this was a photo from the first tour that I ever did with them in Germany. We went to Europe basically to do a “festival run” they call them, where you’re a heavy punk band and Europe the wildest day. This photo, I really liked it ’cause it was like, we were playing the middle of the day on this stage. It was so far from the tour bus and we didn’t get our green room ’cause like they cycle through artists that can use them. So if the band’s playing in the morning, they get to use it from ten am ’till two and then we get to use ours from two pm until seven and then someone else comes in seven to midnight, whatever. So this day was just kind of annoying. Cause you’re waiting for a band to get out of it, the weather was horrible and it kept raining. Everything was wet, but you’re stuck outside because the buses in Europe don’t have generators.
So sometimes they just are turned off. Whereas in America, they just run the generator all the time. And your house, like a house on wheels is always the same, but in Europe, sometimes you’ll go and they’ll just be no aircon, no electricity, so you have to go chill in the green room.
This is one of those days. So it was just like, so shit. But we got out to the stage, everyone’s freaking out trying to get shit covered. ‘Cause it’s pouring rain, there’s lights and everything, everywhere, guitars and cables and stuff. Everyone’s stressed now, like yelling at each other to get out of the way.
And I was like, “oh, today’s going to suck.” I started shooting the stuff from stage and like trying to cover my camera, like, I’d shoot a couple of frames and then I’d have to wipe it down. And then I was like, “you know what, if it’s gonna rain, I’m gonna just fucking go crazy and take advantage of it.” So I found a plastic bag under an amp and just ripped a hole in it, shoved my lens out the hole and put the bag over top and then ran outside in the absolutely pouring rain with my Canon 6D and 24-70 MKII and just started shooting and I love the way the photos came out with the rain dropping down. It’s catching the lights and making all the other lights look so much more spectacular. And Caleb is a legendary guy. He is a rock. When he goes up on stage, he’s like a force that can’t be reckoned with.
He’ll get people moving if they don’t even have legs, they’ll be like, “jump!!” and people’ll find a way to jump. He’s such a good front man for a band. And so everyone was just going nuts in the rain. I’m sure they all have their phones and stuff getting ruined, but people were just going berserk.
And the rain, crowd surfing, falling in the mud. I was just like, this turned out to be a fantastic day. And I loved the photos that I got, even though I risked my camera in like, downpour ring.
There’s one thing I absolutely love taking photos of its mountains and clouds that form around them. So I included this photo from the top of Mount Fuji during sunrise. ‘Cause it’s just so epic. I was shooting a video for Highsnobiety and the whole thing was we’re going to do a guide to climbing Mount Fuji.
But I’m not an athletic person. I go to the gym for you know, half an hour, but I’m not. So we pitched this idea and I didn’t even think about how difficult that was going to be, but the producer came from Hong Kong and we got ready to go. People were like,”oh, it’s easy. I’ve gone out partying, blah, blah, blah. And then climbed it without sleeping.” And I was like, that’s like a crazy, terrible idea, but whatever. So let’s try this,
Grabbed all my gear and we started hiking. It just got worse and worse and worse because not only was I doing this thing that I was not trained to do, but also carrying a ton of camera gear to make this video and take photos. So I have my A7RII with me with a 24-70 MKII, pretty light kit. Every hundred meters you go up, that gets heavier and heavier .
And the atmosphere gets thinner and thinner and thinner. So we booked a cabin so that we could do that thing where you wake up at like 3:00 AM and hike to the top for right when the sun rises. And surprisingly enough, the producer Ambrose — he’s a hilarious guy. I love him to death — he got so tired with our other buddy Nicky. And they were the ones who were lagging behind. And I was like, “guys, like, I gotta go ahead. I gotta get to the sunrise. ‘Cause the whole video is about getting to the sunrise. Like somebody has to. I have the video camera.” So I just started booting it up the hill and , surprisingly, my body is good at doing that.
Like, people were freaking out. Some people are crying, all this shit. And I didn’t feel that at all. I just kept hiking and I’m like, breathing really deeply ’cause I knew there was a lack of oxygen. And so you just take these crazy deep breaths. You could feel your whole body just get so pumped up.
So I finally made it to the top by myself and I realized I probably should have gotten back to them because I was supposed to film them celebrating sunrise, but it was too late.
I got to the top and the sun rose over the mountains. It was just cresting over all these villages and Tokyo itself and it was just so beautiful. And I took this photo. It’s my favorite photo I took because the hues of pinkare just unbelievable and actually I think I shot this –I might’ve brought my telephoto 70-200 to get this photo from the top.
This is standing on top of Mount Fuji, looking east towards Tokyo during sunrise. So it’s a pretty special photo for me, ’cause I didn’t know that I could climb mountains and like, not feel like I was going to die. I was on top having a coffee, totally chilling out, whereas people around me were hyperventilating and shaking and stuff.
It was a really wild experience and I I’ll never forget it. The video came out pretty good too. It all worked out despite our lack of training and preparedness.