Brian Boyle

Brian Boyle

Senior Photographer

Area: Registration & Photography


In the spring of 1974, I began working full time as a photographer at the ROM in the Photography Dept. At that point in time, I looked upon my time at the ROM as a learning stage as well as a stepping stone for future work in photography. As time passed, I realized that working at the ROM was the perfect situation; it was exciting, very rewarding and allowed me to work in so many different fields of photography. Where else would I be able to shoot architecture, table top, underwater, scientific, micro and macrophotography, medical, fashion, annual report, portraits, and public relations images? I have always enjoyed looking at the details in things and this carried over into my photography. My work at the ROM has allowed me to get close to things and really see how they are made or grown and this has given me an appreciation for what man and nature are capable of.

Technology has changed a great deal since I was first hired.  For many of my years with the ROM, everything was shot on black and white film, on 4x5" cameras. Nikons were used for slides. Paintings and other flat copy work was shot on an 8x10" Deardorff flat bed camera. At that time, we did all of our own black and white processing and printing and we currently have about a half million 4x5 and 8x10" negatives and transparencies in our files.  

In the early 1990's, we started scanning some of our images to give to publishers (previously, we provided 4x5 or 8x10 transparencies), and by the mid 90's, I was borrowing digital cameras from camera companies to try them out. I had the feeling that if we didn't learn everything that we could about the new digital medium that we would get left behind. (I once complained to my supervisor that I was no longer able to read the books I wanted to read because I was spending all of my spare time reading journals, documents and white papers on digital photography!) By 2000, our first DSLR was purchased, and in 2002, we purchased a digital back for our Hasselblad. Toy Soldiers in the Royal Ontario Museum (2002) was the first ROM publication shot completely digitally.  August, 2002 was the last time I shot film, other than the odd roll of infra red. Do I miss the time I spent in the darkrooms? Sure I do - I spent a lot of time there over the years learning that side of my craft. Do I miss the smells, and the dry, rough hands (and then all of the hazmat gear I wore for the last few years) - not really.

We are frequently asked what we shoot and why we shoot it. The "what" we shoot is anything in the ROM's extensive collection, the galleries and exhibitions, special events, the buildings themselves and people who visit and work here.  As the ROM is both an art museum and a science museum our collections are quite diverse.  I could start listing the specimens and artifacts which have come to the Ivey Imaging Centre (the official name for the ROM photo studio), but I'll suggest that you take a look at ROM Images , the online repository of photographs of ROM artifacts and specimens. The "why" is based on either the needs of the ROM's staff for research, display, publication and record keeping, or external users. The external requests come from researchers, authors and publishers from around the world. We urge students to use ROM Images freely in their school projects and the general public to use them as screen savers. For any commercial usage please contact .

Generally, we are in the studio or galleries working. We do however get to travel from time to time to work away from the ROM. My travels include a three week trip to the SW Alberta, in a canyon north of Waterton Lake shooting for future dioramas; one week at the American Museum of Natural History in New York; three weeks in the Ukraine photographing artifacts for the Trypillia Exhibition and three weeks total (in two separate trips) to China, photographing for the Terra Cotta Warriors Exhibition.

On a more personal side, I enjoy camping, playing the banjo and fiddle, scenic photography, spending time with my family and friends and travelling Canada. My favourite drives in Canada are the North shore of Lake Superior ON, the Cape Breton Trail NS, and the Dempster Highway from Dawson YT to Inuvik NWT and the ice road from Inuvik to Tukyoyaktuk, NWT. My camera and tripod are my constant companions when I travel.

I am a Past President of the Professional Photographers of Ontario (PPOC-ON) and former Vice Chair of the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC). Awards and Honours include Master of Photographic Arts and Service of Photographic from the PPOC; Fellowship from the PPOC-ON; Honourary Life time Memberships from the PPOC and the Korean Professional Photographers Association.

Do I have a favourite thing to photograph? No. My favourite thing isn’t a thing but a moment; the moment when I first turn the studio lights on and a piece is illuminated.  Seeing the piece lit leads me to marvel at the work which has gone into making it amazing; consider the significance of who owned or used the piece; be curious of what the earth might have looked like millions of years ago when this fossil was a living thing; and wonder how long it took to get here from a distant planet. I do indeed love what I do.


Authored by: Brian Boyle