Published on 5. 10. 2011 at 9:38 am
Describing his style as “light fantasy environmental fashion and portrait” might sound like a bit of a mouthful but, when you see Matt’s creations, it’s difficult to imagine a more concise way of putting it:
‘Mad Max’, featuring performance artist Rita Rango.
“This was one of my first model shoots on film (Fujifilm NPS160), and I was blown away by the difference between this and the shots from my Nikon D70s. The apocalypse-inspired scene was taken outside a stone quarry. I wanted to go inside but the police kept driving past, so we thought it best to stop at the gate.”
Indeed, the importance of setting and narrative is paramount to Matt, who explains that he creates a shoot backwards – starting with the location, then the model, before adding props to form a concept:
‘Dark Angel’, featuring Lost Darkangel – a student designer and model from Belgium
“We did this shoot in an old factory to illustrate Lost Darkangel’s newly-made ‘Hoop Skirt’. I used a 210mm f4 lens on my Mamiya 645 Pro to achieve the shallow depth of field and compressed perspective.”
The care Matt takes over his shoot preparation extends to his preference for film – which he started using five years ago as an alternative to digital, for financial and technical reasons: “I take time to compose a shot, and prefer to shoot in fully manual mode anyway, so I didn’t miss the advanced features of my DSLR. Having a much larger (6×4.5cm) focusing screen made a huge difference to me, far more valuable than a tiny LCD screen, which often left me with the impression a shot was good, which, when enlarged later, turned out not to be the case.”
Although he was initially seduced to film by the easy availability of high-quality, professional equipment at a fraction of the price of the digital equivalent, Matt soon saw another economic implication that benefitted his work: “I found was that shooting with a limited number of shots on a roll, and each and every frame having a cash value, I made the effort to make every frame good. This back-to-basics approach made a huge improvement in my photography. I would much rather take 15 good shots than 100 mediocre snaps.”
And, talking of good shots, this rather surreal and striking image certainly fulfils Matt’s “light fantasy” criteria, drawing on the golden-age of science-fiction in TV and film. It was taken using a test roll of the now-extinct Kodak EIR colour infrared film, remarkable for rendering foliage red while keeping the sky blue and flesh tones realistic:
But where the romance of Hollywood might colour his images, Matt is under no illusions about the realities of becoming a full-time photographer: “Turning the hobby into a profession, without a series of very lucky breaks, was and is disappointing. The competition is fierce, and I have done countless freebies that never led anywhere, and in retrospect, undermined the profession. In honesty most of my income from photography today comes from boring jobs with questionable contracts and no film.”
It’s a stark truth that contracts are hard to win in the low-budget fashion market Matt targets. For that reason, you have to be prepared to compromise:
“Pitching film to a client can go either way, some see it as the artistic alternative while others presume that to be professional you have to shoot digital, so it is best to be able to offer both.”
And this versatility is paying off – having been shortlisted for the 2010 Vogue fashion photographer blog competition, Matt’s company One20 Photography has now been recognised and listed on the Leaf Photography website for digital work as well. But it seems there is something about film and Florence that just clicks, and even the imperfections work out well:
“While shooting in Fiesole (Italy), on a scorching summer’s day, we came across this water fountain where the model stopped to drink. It immediately brought to mind images from the Diet Coke Ads from the ’90s, and I shot half a roll of Fujifilm Neopan 400 to catch the moment. However, unknown to me, the developer I used had expired, so the vintage look of the image was a happy accident!”
And a word for those of who don’t have the rolling hills of Tuscany on our doorsteps?
“Living in Italy there is no shortage of inspiration every time I step out of the house. But the same could be said of anywhere in the world, if you look for it.”
Matt primarily uses a Mamiya 645 with two AFD’s (one with leaf digital back; one with film back), an 80mm f1.9 lens and a Pentacon Six mount 180mm f2.8 via adapter. He uses Fuji Neopan 400 film for all-purpose shooting and Kodak Ektar 100 for colour.