an excerpt from:
Missoula photographer's images of Bakken earn international recognition
by Martin Kidston, The Missoulian, Oct 8, 2013
The Bakken is a world away from London, where McQuillan was born in 1948. At the age of 14, he developed his own darkroom and, with his sturdy German-made Zeiss camera in hand, he wandered the streets after school looking for something telling.
The people of London emerged as one of his favorite subjects. The counterculture was in full swing; Londoners going about their day, unaware McQuillan was photographing them. He became quick, shooting a subject in seconds before the moment was gone. The rangefinder camera was suited to the cause and the results of his work display like pages of Life magazine.
“It’s very much of the moment and in some ways intuitive,” said McQuillan. “You don’t think about what you’re doing. You see what you’ve done after you’ve done it. The ones that involve people are my favorite, because they’re candid and they’re not posing for the camera. It’s a catalyst for your imagination.”
McQuillan moved to Montana at the age of 22 to escape the life he had created for himself overseas. It was 1971 when he arrived after graduating in economics in London and working for British Petroleum.
“I wanted out of London, out of working for a big corporation, and out of economics,” he said. “I came here to travel around for the summer. I was actually going to Alaska, but I never made it that far.” Instead, McQuillan caught wind of the School of Forestry at the University of Montana. He set out to earn his master’s degree in forestry, and he received a teaching internship along the way. He might have considered his parents’ homeland in rural Scotland over Montana were it not for that country’s economic woes. But this is about McQuillan the photographer, not the UM professor.
“Back in London in the ’60s, you had all the ‘mods and rockers’ – they were the two cultural groups opposed to each other,” McQuillan recalled. “You had all the businessmen wearing bowler hats in those days. I took photos when 600,000 students marched on the U.S. Embassy in London in 1970 after the Kent State shooting.”
Living in the rural West, McQuillan still finds time to travel abroad – he still owns a flat in London [sold since this article]. Gritty industrial scenes are a favorite subject, as are the people on the streets of San Francisco, Prague, Cypress and Paris.
McQuillan is not opposed to shooting a Western rodeo or a scenic setting in Montana, Arizona or New Mexico. But he admits his landscapes remain a work in progress – something he’s working to improve upon at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Missoula.
Photography is in his blood, he said, and it has placed him at interesting locations in time; the protests of the 1960s and the largest energy boom the U.S. has seen in ages. “You walk down the street and you see all these things,” McQuillan said. “You have to shoot really fast. You develop a style so people don’t see that you’re taking pictures.”