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Heros and villains

Photographer Kyle Callahan reaches into his childhood (and his toy box) to create his art

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I'd be Yellow Bellied Too by Kyle Callahan

Editor’s note: Since our winter issue went to print, Invasion moved to its own storefront at 114 Duckworth St., St. John’s. 

Kyle Callahan can see most of downtown St. John’s, N.L. from his perch on the top floor of Posie Row, a space dedicated to pop-up shops for artists and creators. So if Godzilla ever invades through the Narrows, the entrance to the harbour below, he’ll be one of the first to know. If it did happen, Callahan would probably be thrilled. He’s been a huge fan of the giant beast since he was a child.

That obsession led to Callahan’s career as a photographer. His pictures are as strange and endearing as the mythical monster. Callahan, 33, has always been artistically inclined. He drew and painted constantly as a child. He loved superheroes and Godzilla and wanted to be a palaeontologist. But when it came time to choose a career he decided to study graphic design at college.

“I was always into the arts and wanted to put that to practical use,” he says. “An arts degree just makes life difficult. I have lots of friends who went to art school and are now doing something else.”

His discovered photography after learning that sitting at a computer all day was draining. For his final school project he wanted to do something with Photoshop, the image editing software. Drawing on one of his childhood influences he created a picture of Godzilla rising out of the waters off St. John’s. Now the picture, and others along a similar theme, are so well known Callahan has been branded “The Godzilla Guy.”

Building on that momentum, he continued to tinker with Photoshop and forced perspective. He places toys in familiar sites around St. John’s and shoots them to appear full sized. Darth Vader in front of a popular pub? Check. Batman patrolling the dark streets of the city? Check. And, of course, Godzilla rampaging at will.

While building that side of his career, though, Callahan recognized he needed to make a living. He started shooting commercial photography, the usual weddings, portraits, and business shots. That work sits side-by-side with the more playful entries in his online portfolio.

When asked if he sees a difference between capital A art and commercial art Callahan seems almost perplexed. “In galleries they’re always talking about how great the big artists are,” he says. “People shouldn’t be told what to like. Art is all different. No other person will create what I create.”

Callahan and a buddy, who creates works with a different but complementary pop culture spin, opened their shop, Invasion, just before Christmas 2017. It’s done well so far, but he has no idea what the future will bring. His father died two years ago at 59. Two of his father’s brothers died young, one in his 40s and one in his 20s. It’s shaped Callahan’s world view.

“I dropped the pencil pushing job,” he says with satisfaction. “You’ve got to be happy and do what you can. Live in the moment. Don’t dread what could happen.”

Especially if what could happen is Godzilla rising out of St. John’s Harbour.

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