Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Q & A With Matt Stuart

Matt Stuart is a photographer based in London.

How was LA for you, Matt?

LA was great. I had a fantastic time. I have travelled to LA before but never really to photograph. My primary reason to be there was to teach a workshop for Leica Los Angeles, but I really only needed to do that over the weekend, the rest of the time was spent with you scooting around in the car and shooting thousands of frames out of the car window in various places. 

What was your favorite part of the city to photograph?

I really enjoyed our day on Rodeo Drive and of course the afternoon at Fairfax with Jeff Garlin and George. As far as locations to photograph I thought the whole place was interesting and diverse. I mean it's a huge city. It's tough to get bored there. Downtown was probably as close to London as any of it got, although obviously Downtown won hands down over London with the winter weather.

Los Angeles

I'm sure your students learned a lot from you in the workshop. What did you learn from them? 

I learned different ways to present and different ways to teach. I think with workshops you take the positive and the negative experiences and grow from them. I’ve done a lot now. I really enjoy teaching and hopefully inspiring people. After the weekend I was really impressed by the standard of the images that were made. Do you remember the bubble gum one? That was excellent.

During your workshops you give a short history of how you got into photography. Can you give a brief recap here?

Ok, so I was born in Harrow which is a suburb of London. I went to school locally and was pretty average until the age of about 8 when I discovered the trumpet. I had an inspirational trumpet teacher called Mr. Cuell (almost cool but not quite).  He was mesmerizing and inspiring, like all great teachers are. I practiced everyday and every night for around 4 years to be the best trumpet player I could possibly be for him —and to a lesser degree for me. Then he died... I quit the trumpet, because all my inspiration had left the building. Just like Elvis.

Have you played trumpet since? Or was it final?

It was final. Put the bugle in the case and played 'the last post'. Trumpet and Mr. Cuell were dead. 
That was the first thing I was obsessed by.

Then what?

So Cuell died and I was upset. I wasn't inspired by any other teachers. This is 1986. I was 12 years old and then this film came out...Back to the Future. I thought Michael J Fox was cool. But even cooler than him was Per Welinder. Who's Per Welinder, I hear you ask?

Not a clue.

He did some of the stunt double skateboarding stuff in the film. I was blown away by the skateboarding. I watched and re-watched that film. Then I discovered the Bones Brigade Movies which were made by Stacey Peralta of Powell and Peralta and I was completely hooked. I started on a Veriflex Ramp Rat board and then didn't get off one of those planks for another 8 or 9 years. I would practice every day, all day, went through a board a week. Completely obsessed.

Matt Stuart by Tim Leighton-Boyce

Did you imagine a future in skating as a sponsored pro or something? To the extent a 12 year old can imagine a career.

Totally. I wanted to be pro. I ended up getting sponsored for boards, trucks, wheels and shoes. I went on tour, the whole thing. Was in magazines but never got the pro deck. 
Is there any comparison between riding and shooting photos? You've said it's not as spontaneous. But what about the feeling of flow and being in a zone? Do you recognize any similarity?

It's exactly the same. You completely loose yourself. You try and try and try to make a skateboard trick as you try to get a good photograph and every now and then you make it. The only difference between the two is when you make a trick on your skateboard it is gone forever. When you capture a trick —i.e. get a good frame with your camera— it is saved forever. The thought process is exactly the same though, and the loss of self you feel is the same too. Nothing else in the world matters when you are in that zone.
When you're peeling down the ramp ready for the next trick, do you pretty much know what it's going to be? You go more by plan than intuition? How much was planned and how much was spur of the moment for you?

Skateboarding is mainly about repetition. Trying and trying to get a trick or a line down. Every now and then you will pull a trick first go and it is spontaneous. But at the time there were a lot of newly invented tricks coming out of skateboarding, switch stance stuff, no complies, pressure flips, 360 flips, ollie impossibles. They weren't really tricks you could pull out of a hat. They were tricks that you might land once in 10 or 20 goes. They were tough and new. It was an exciting time in skateboarding.

I guess I was about 19 or 20 when I totally gave up skateboarding.  I met a girl...

Did she like to Ollie?

She gave it a go but never got all wheels off the ground.

You gave up skating for a girl? That would not make a good novel.

Yeah, totally lame. Should have kept skating. My friends ended up turning pro and living in San Francisco. I had nothing but a girl friend in Ealing.. Bit of an anti climax...Then she dumped me...I had nothing... No job, no grades from school, no boards, no girls... nadda...I had to get a job. The only job I could get was one answering customer complaints. It was at this point I discovered my third obsession... weed.

And you lost yourself in another way...

I smoked it for about two years. I travelled to Amsterdam, I bought High Times, I helped my friend grow it in his cupboard, I made bongs, pipes... I got involved. I totally lost myself... In fact I don't really recall much of that time apart from it got me through the shit job I was doing answering customer complaints. I was a pretty mellow Customer Services Agent!
So you answered customer calls while you were stoned? I would kill for a transcript of those conversations. Hello, customer service... Hello, who is this?...I don't know, you called me... Do you know where I stashed the Oreos?… Can I speak to your supervisor?.... I don't know, can you?.... How did you get this number?.... I don't know, what number did you call?...

No, I never answered calls when stoned. I had a “zero not ready” time which I was proud of. It meant I was always ready to be complained at…

Oxford Street

Do you still smoke pot?

My girlfriend is Dutch, so when in Rome I very occasionally do, but my tolerance is down to a couple of puffs and I'm out. How about you?
I went through a weed phase too. Not every day. But I smoked pretty hard in late adolescence. It was fun. It's not so enjoyable any more. I only smoke occasionally now and usually with beer. Why do you mention your weed phase? Was it instrumental in your development as a photographer? Or in your thought process?

I mention it because it was another obsession. I don't regret it, but I definitely wouldn't advocate it. I treaded water for two years and went nowhere in particular, but at the time I thought it was all very deep (the weed, not the water)…It wasn't.

It was at the Call Centre that I really discovered photography. I was about 22. My dad bought me two books. A Photo Poche on Robert Frank and an Aperture Monograph on Henri Cartier-Bresson. Both books woke me out of my haze... I wanted to do what they did. I could practically taste the photographs. I had to do it. I left my job. I stopped smoking weed.

I wonder if Robert Frank smoked weed. I suspect yes. HCB I'm pretty sure No.

HCB was probably on opium or something heavier. I don't know, but he seemed to hang out with a lot of arty types, smoked a lot and seemed to be friendly with lots of prostitutes. So I wouldn't put a bag of weed past him...
HCB WAS HIGH. T-Shirt! It explains a lot really. But with Frank I think it explains even more.
So I HAD to do this stuff. I had to become a photographer. 

Why did you have to be a photographer?

Because I was certain that the customer services thing wasn't for me and I was really interested in photography. Remember, I wasn't interested in anything else but Silver Haze and Super Skunk at the time…

I was introduced to a commercial photographer through my dad and I washed his car for a few weekends and generally made myself a nuisance. I eventually broke him and he offered me a job as his second assistant. Tea Maker, Phone Answerer, Toilet Cleaner, Delivery Boy. As his assistant I traveled the world, learned how to write and invoice and do a VAT return, loaded Mamiyas, carried cases, clocked up air miles, got paid fuck all, but learned a lot and hung out with photographers. Devoured it.

Your dad was in graphic design, right? How much did his artistic sense rub off on you as a kid? Or even now?

A Smile In The Mind,
Beril McAlhone and David Stuart
My dad was a huge influence and still is. He specialised in witty graphic design. In fact the company he set up called The Partners was renowned for it at the time. He published a book called A Smile in the Mind which has sold around a hundred thousand copies. Even if I wanted to, it was impossible to escape his talent and influence.
Why did your dad choose those two books to give you? Because they were well-known to general readers? Or did he have a particular interest in photography? Did he respect them as graphic designers with a camera?

I expect he did. He was a keen amateur photographer when growing up. He passed on his collection of Creative Camera magazines to me which he collected in his 20's. He was visually literate. Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Duane Michaels, Tony Ray-Jones, and Bill Brandt were all on his radar.

What about your mom?

My mum enabled my dad to be the man that he is. Without her, he was nothing. She is the backbone of our family. The heart and the soul. The most kind and generous woman I have ever met. She worked for the BBC sports for a number of years. She was famously knocked out by Arnold Palmer's golf ball live on TV.

Where and when? I'm going to dig that up. How would I find it? YouTube?

Not sure it went viral. Impossible to find. It happens all the time. I think it might have been the Masters. It was a big deal for her, but not for Arnold. Then she took up the greatest challenge of them all. Two sons...

What about your brother?
My brother has always been into sport. He almost turned pro at golf. He now works for a company that motivates other companies through ex-Olympic athletes. Training, mentoring, coaching.

Which did you like more initially, Frank or that pothead HCB?

HCB hands down. The Photo Poche didn't do Frank justice. It didn't have the same edit as The Americans. It was more of an overview. Whereas HCB in an overview is almost unbeatable…great frame after great frame, and covering a great deal of the last century. I was hooked by the photos but also a lot of the history and times that went with them.

You didn't like Frank at first?

I loved Frank but Cartier-Bresson was my favorite. How about you? Who did you discover first out of the two and who would you take on a desert island?

I liked HCB more initially. Now it's hard to say. It's hard to evaluate Frank because his street stuff is quite limited. But what's out there is very strong. Oh who am I kidding. The pothead. HCB. But I feel I've outgrown him some. Or maybe I've just seen too many of his photos and I feel oversaturated. It's like judging air or water or something. Love that air. Couldn't live without it. But don't stop to appreciate it much...

HCB is The Beatles.

If HCB is the Beatles, Frank is Bob Dylan. 
It's funny, I get re-invigorated by HCB’s work. It has never died for me. His talent for framing and composition was incredible.

Who said it died?
Not that his work has died. It's just some people seem to write him off as being too classic, etc.
Well, the photo world has moved on to many other things. But that doesn't negate the power of his original work. It's still vital. Maybe the key question is, if people make similar work today, what place does that have? I think that's a pretty central question for street photographers. Because in many ways we're following in his footsteps. Repeating that same practice. So if his work is seen as passe I think the same opinion applies generally to street photography. From a fine arts photo perspective, what you and I do looks a lot like what they did 50 years ago.

Sure does. In fact his stuff looked a damn sight better! I don't consider myself an artist and I don't consider what I do as art. I feel that you and I document our times just as he did. Of course the technical aspect of it can't change that much, not with natural light and a camera to play with. However the places and the people change and develop for better or for worse and I think that is what is interesting. Change, not photographically but physically. The people and the places are evolving. That is what I find exciting.

So your main goal as a photographer is to document the physical surroundings? Doesn't Google Street View do that more efficiently? Why bother? Obviously I'm joking, but you get my drift. If the photos are mainly about the place and time they're taken that seems restrictive to me. Great photos can surpass the time and place. They're just about the photo. That's my view.

Because I control it. Not Google Street View. These are my surroundings, what I saw and what resonated with me. Realize I don't do this for anyone but myself. If people choose to look at it —Whoopee. But this is all for me, what I saw, what I felt about it and how it affected me.

Regent Street

I think you've nailed it there. Your photos reflect what YOU saw. They're more about that than documenting the times. Of course photos work in a lot of ways and one thing they do inevitably is record history. But for me that's not the main goal. I don't think it was HCB's primary goal either.

No, I'm not for recording history, and I'm sorry if it sounded that way. I find it hard to explain but I like my engagement with the place and the people. I also like the process. It helps me to relax. I am literally addicted to it. More than I was dope, almost as much as I was skateboarding! The loss of self and the meditative experience that it offers. 

Do you find you need to build up to that when you're shooting? I need at least a half hour or an hour shooting to feel fully relaxed. And that's when things begin to happen photographically.

So I have 3 different levels of "lost in the act of photographing". First level is "On Patrol" making sure that nothing is happening and quite frankly being happy that this is not happening.


Second is involved, but not tuned in and quite happy to stop for a coffee or dip into the Photographers Gallery to check out a book. I remember to eat, to drink, to go to the toilet, etc., basic human needs.


But the third level is totally switched on. Smelling and breathing everything that moves. Totally tuned in to touch, glances, feelings. I forget to piss, eat and go home. That's when I am at my most dangerous...for all involved...

Does each level need to follow from the last? Is it a sequential progression? Can you moved straight from a standstill to level 3? Or does it require the first two levels first?

No, it depends on the day. If I'm distracted I don't get past the first level. When I got divorced I didn't pass level one for a whole year! But seriously. I dip in and out. I'm aware of making sure I drink enough and eat enough. Otherwise my attention drifts.

I think I've seen you recently at level 3. When we encountered that old guy with the cane near the hotel in Paris. The world disappeared for five minutes, for you.

It depends. If I see something that pricks my interest I fast track to level 3. I'm pretty sure you saw me at level 3 with the old man and the cane. There's nothing quite like an old man with a cane to get me excited. How about you? Do you know when you are just going through the moves and when you are totally alert? Does it change day to day? You always seem pretty focused.

I am always alert. But sometimes photos seem to pop out everywhere, and other times they hide. But I think we're describing a similar thing. I need a half hour to warm up, and you have levels. Either way it takes some phases to get to full power vision. If I'm shooting a lot like I was in Paris it takes less time to warm up. But in Eugene it can take longer. And some of my outings here only last an hour, not enough time to get going. I think that's probably true for many photographers. They don't commit to it enough to really fully engage and lose themselves in it. That's a workshop skill, if we could teach it.

Time... The only thing money can't buy, and we can't teach.

That's what a workshop does almost as a secondary facet. It gets students out shooting for 6 hours straight. Something good has to come of that. The progression to comfort. 

So true. It's almost as if some days everyone is on your side and some days they can't be bothered to get out of bed. I'm thick in it at the moment trying to get a few extra pictures for my book. Some days I come back having shot ten rolls, some days only three. You can't force it, but I do think it helps to know the territory you are photographing in and the hot spots and the less fruitful. For instance Monday is when rich people go shopping in London. Deliveries are Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday is matinee afternoon so old people are rife getting their cheap seats at the theatre. Thursday is the new Friday so people go out drinking and having a fun time. Friday half of the people who live here head out and the tourists really start to come in. Saturday is Demo Day and tourist overload. Choose your spots and they generally deliver if you are looking for a certain thing.

Why do rich people shop on Monday? Odd.

Nobody else is around. The shops are quiet. Their chauffeurs can park outside the store. It's just something I have observed over twenty years on patrol....They don't have to mix with the peasants...

Do you feel like you are in complete control of your photos? The way you describe it almost seems like you've got to wait for the stars to align or the right level to settle in. And you're just an actor in the play. I feel that way too. The best photos seem to happen almost beyond my control. I mean, I click the shutter but it feels like some broader order is arranging the circumstances.

I think with the fluidity of the street and constantly moving objects/situations you are never in complete control. That is why it is so damn addictive. It's hard. There is no set formula. One of the best feelings whilst shooting on the street is when you predict something is going to happen before it does. Almost like a mind reader. Do you ever have that? I love that shit. Predicting a moment before it happens, because you are so involved.

Sometimes the photos seem to occur in such beautiful and chaotic circumstances that one could found a religion on the experience. It's just people milling around on the sidewalks. But sometimes they act with the intention of puppets. I don't pretend to understand why.  But I can sometimes tune in that feeling.

I'm totally with you. It is at this moment that you have hit level 3...

Do you always need to be at level 3 to get good photos? Or do good photos sometimes appear by chance in level 1? And if so, can you think of specific examples.

Oh sure, yes good pictures appear at level 1 all the time. You just have to make sure you haven't got cake in your mouth and your camera in your bag though...  Here is a level one...

Regent's Park

You shot that with cake in your mouth?

Not cake, a cup of tea. Had to put my tea down and get my camera out of my rucksack. It just presented itself to me. Just wandering along the canal thinking about what's for dinner when you spot a plastic bag dolphin in the water. I wasn't particularly alert at all. Although I guess your/my alertness is reasonably ON most of the time.

What was your camera doing in your rucksack?

My camera was tired, having a nap.

The fact that you spotted it tells me you weren't asleep on level one. But maybe static scenes require less reaction time.

They do. People moving towards you are some of the most difficult photographs to take, as you can't pan along with them easily like you can if you are walking alongside them. I've noticed recently a lot of Tony Ray-Jones's photographs involved a lot of stationary people. He didn't shoot a lot of people coming at him like Winogrand did. Not in any way to take away from TRJ. He was a master.

Two different styles. TRJ was more interested in the visual puzzle. Putting this and that in the exact right place. Winogrand did that sometimes, but I think he was more instinctual. Just shot when he felt it. But a lot of overlap. I think shooting someone coming toward you is a crapshoot. You can have a photo planned and something changes as they approach. It's more dicey and accidental I think. I still shoot sometimes that way but they usually don't turn out.

Just found this, quite like it.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Nice shot. Is it recent?

No it's old. Wish there was more colour in it though.

The guy gently lying right along the bench top is great.

The headless man in the background is something I liked.

You mentioned you are still looking for book images. And maybe this one above is one? But why? What do you feel is missing? Or what are you still looking for?

Something I am finding difficult to do is to make the book flow at the moment. I have forty or fifty stand alone street images. However, puzzling them together is difficult. I'm trying to make a broader narrative by stitching the photographs together which is extremely tricky. To find other shots to help the flow of the book is what I am attempting. I guess to a certain extent I'm also worried about any form of closure to this chapter of my life. I've enjoyed it and I am enjoying it. Any excuse for continuation suits me fine. Obviously I can't stop doing this as it is part of me, but finalising a set of pictures in book form is quite daunting. I want it to be as good as I can make it.

I don't envy the book editing. I know that's a daunting task and there's pressure to nail it right. Once it's published it's set in stone.

Yes, scary shit....

How has the editing process been for you?

The book is almost finished the editing process has been intense. Stuart Smith and me have been working on it for almost two years. It has been great fun and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. He is funny, slightly mad, a delight to work with. He makes a cake every time I go to the office.

What's the title? 

The book has changed names throughout the process. The title we have now is almost definite, All That Life Can Afford.  You’ll understand the reason for the title if you buy the book ;-)

Do you think your photos are generally well understood?

Lots of people understand my photos to a certain extent. I personally don't find them particularly funny, whereas lots of people appear to think they are funny.
You say lots of people understand your photos "to a certain extent". Who do you think is the main audience for your work? Who are you aiming at when you make a photo? Other photographers? The general public?

I'm really only making the photos for me. It's a record of where I was and what I tried to do with the camera at that moment. I send the film off, wait to get it back, and see if I nailed it or not. If I didn't, I'm back out there again. If I did, I'm back out there again. I do this every day. It isn't for anyone else. Why would I spend that much time on my own walking the streets for anyone else?! Gotta be joking... It is for me.  I would guess other photographers are the main audience for my work.

If it's only for you, why make a book? A dumb question maybe. But it brings home the point. I think photography needs to connect with some outside viewer to really activate. Otherwise why even develop the film?

Because I love books and I want to see my photographs in a book. I guess other people do too so I am going to make some extras (but not many).

Tell me about your book collection. Photobooks I mean. Not all those trashy romance novels.

Its getting pretty big again now. I had to cull it when I got divorced, sold off about half of them. I kept hold of all my favourites. I would say it is pretty street photography biased. Although I have recently got hold of Juergen Teller's Go Sees which I love and a book by Irving Penn called Small Trades. Generally it is pretty street heavy. I have a lot of books. Most of my favourites appear to start with W...Winogrand, Wessel, Webb, Wood, Way-Jones.

Weiner, Weston, White, Winters, Weegee...brainstorming...You buy two of many books, right?

Yeah, one to look at, one to keep for best.

What's going to happen to the doubles eventually? Are they kept together or in different places?

I tend to give a lot of the spare copies away.

You give the good ones away? Or the looked at ones?

The good ones. It's far nicer to give and receive a fresh book. I gave a shit load away. I didn't even have the chance to sell them.

Gave away to who? The London street crew?
I gave tons to the assistant I got in to help me move the boxes that day. He was just in the right place at the right time. He got paid too!

Bummer. If you'd had time you could've given them a proper home. Next time you cull them give me a chance to bid first.
If you ever need any books I have a lot of spares.... Do you have Sidewalk, Tony Ray-Jones (Russell Roberts)? I have triples of those... I did have two Minutes to Midnights but I gave the good one to Justin...

Got all those. What else? I can trade. I have some extras too.

I have the French version and the English version of the Sergio Larrain book. If you want a French copy? I would have to suitcase it though as it costs a fortune to send it in the post.

I don't have either version. But if it's expensive to ship just hang on to it until I see you.

Ok cool, I'll bring you the French version when I next see you. It is a terrific book.

Bad Weather and Ray's A Laugh just came out with Errata. Not quite the same as the originals. But two very fine books.

I have both of those as originals.


I'm trying to take a selfie of them with me looking smug, but can't multitask.

I'll have to make myself happy with the tiny reproductions and silly essays. Fuck me.
Do you take photos of your kids? Photos you'd put in your portfolio?

No, not really. I tend to shoot my family on my phone. I keep it easy and uncomplicated. I don't make 'good' photos of my family. I make sweet ones... Unlike you. You have some cracking pics of your boys. Although I did notice you don't photograph your wife much. Is that something you want to discuss with me or a counselor?

I shoot the kids more. They're less self conscious in front of a camera. Or were. Now they're not as game to be photographed. It's the old street shooter's trick. Picking on the young and helpless.

Or the old and infirm...

I hadn't thought about shooting Tab. She is in a lot of photos but maybe I'm less ready to put them out in public. It's a loaded situation, publishing photos of people close to you. I don't know how some people do it. That's why I asked you.

The type of photos I take of Su, Max and Oscar are pretty web friendly. Smiley happy people. Nothing offensive, unless you get sick of smiley happy people...

Do Max and Oscar spend time together?

Yes, as much as they can. I don't see as much of Oscar as I would like to as he has moved to Bristol, which is two or three hours away.

Bummer. Here's a loaded question. Name something that parenting has taught you about photography.

Regent Street

Don't drop it.

Babies are even more fragile than cameras. 
Hmmmm... debatable... If you drop a digital camera it is dead or at least in emergency. If you drop a baby... it bruises a bit...

But seriously, Patience. Both need a lot of that. Without patience you aren't going to be a particularly good photographer and you aren't going to be a particularly g…

Yeah, yeah, whatever. So, let me ask you this. The stereotype is that when you have kids everything else seems less important. Parenting puts a new slant on life. Photography takes a back seat. Is any of that true?

Absolutely not. As soon as Max turned up I was more inspired than ever. I was out shooting as much as I could. Mainly to avoid changing the diapers.

"I smell something. Back in an hour, honey…"

What defines your visual style as yours?

One of the things that make my photos mine is the colour. I feel that my London is a pretty colourful place, whereas if you look at some other photographers working in London (some of my In-Public colleagues even) their work seems less colourful perhaps. I shoot for colour first, and hope that the moment that follows it or accompanies it is colourful too. I look at a lot of colour work which shouldn't really have been shot in colour. It would be far more effective in black and white. Black and white may have made it more evocative or emotional, but they have chosen to shoot it in colour without looking at colour. Did that make sense? 
I don't shoot color much so it's hard for me to understand it in those terms. But it's the comment you made earlier about your photo: Needs more color. That's funny because I think of your photos as more situational. You create scenes, sometimes bordering on fictional. The color seems incidental. But again I'm not really a color guy…
The photos are situational but if they don't work in colour they don't tend to go much further than the storage box.

Needham Road

What's your favorite color? The kindergarten entrance exam question.

Red, of course. I especially love bus-y reds....

Smithfield Market

Are you saying color is more demanding than Black and White?

No, I think you need to be receptive to colour and how it works. In exactly the same way as you need to be receptive to black and white to use it effectively. To a certain extent black and white is more forgiving because if there was a distracting pink thing which draws your eye to the edge of the frame your colour photo is screwed whereas your black and white photo has another grey tone.

I just think there are a lot of colour photographers making very drab colour photos because colour is contemporary, etc. Their pictures might be more effective in black and white as the colours in their photographs add nothing.

Well, it's more realistic. The world is in color. Isn't that as good a reason as any to shoot it?

Not really, not if it isn't communicating as well as black and white would.

You used to shoot black and white. Did it take a while to develop your eye for color to the point where you were looking for specific colors in specific scenes?

Millennium Wheel

Well, I started with black and white because all of my heroes shot that way. HCB, Erwitt, Tony Ray-Jones, Friedlander, Winogrand. Then at some point you realise that their work is so exceptional that you can't match it. In fact I think Trent's work was the nail in my black and white coffin... So I tried colour and it suited my photos and personality. I'm colourful. I kind of feel the black and white work was more derivative. The colour work is me.

Trent's work was the nail in his own black and white coffin. He quickly shifted to color. 
Trent is back to shooting black and white now. He's an inspiration, one of the few photographers that handle black and white and colour extremely well.
Well there are a lot of exceptional photos now made in color. That needn't be a nail in the coffin. What about the initial stages of shooting color? I hadn't realized until now you were so focused on color. Did that take some time to develop or was it more immediate?

At the time I was still developing as a photographer whilst shooting black and white, whereas I have developed my own style now in colour. It took a long time to develop, but it is mainly down to editing. I shoot a lot of uncolourful photographs and realise that at the editing stage. Those photos are then rejected to a certain extent. 

I think the general shift among photographers is usually in one direction, from b/w to color. Do you agree? If so, do you have an explanation? Take In-Public as a small sample. Every single member has shifted in that direction. No one has shifted the other way, except I guess Trent. And Jesse? Or is that just a fling?
I think Jesse swings both ways...

It makes me think of Moonshine. I found it with you at Le Bal and I really enjoyed that book. Every two-page spread has one color and one black and white photo. I can't think of another book that does that. And so seamlessly, so you barely notice the difference. She is one of the few photographers to shift easily between the formats. It's like speaking Spanglish without thinking.

Yes, she is extremely good at both. It is a great book, I think. Still trying to come to terms with the black and white to colour thing. We have just rented out our Amsterdam flat to her niece.

Wow. Just a coincidence or what's the connection?

We made friends on FB an she asked everyone whether they knew of a flat free in Amsterdam. I hooked her up with Su and the rest is history. The niece came over last weekend and picked up the keys.

Have you met Bertien Van Manen?

No, but she would like to meet. 

She's only recently getting attention. She must have scads of good photos that no one has seen yet.

I think so. She appears to be a very nice lady. Hooked me up with the best photo spots to check out in Amsterdam. 

Matt Stuart by Billy Reeves

What do you think of In-Public?

I think In-Public is ok. Some of the best photographers on it don't really contribute much which is a shame, but that is possibly why they are the best! They are so busy!!! Last year we paid to have it re-designed and started doing workshops in earnest through it which has been enjoyable and has blown some life into the old girl. The best thing is the discussion board where we share photos, that can be really inspiring. I’m particularly enjoying David Solomons' and Todd Gross’ work at the moment.

How could it be better?
In-Public is like any collective or community. Some people are along for the free ride, some people do stuff. I guess that would be the only thing that is mildly irritating about it. But hey, that's the same with anything of that nature. Over the years we have all had lots of disagreements and arguments but we have kind of mellowed now. It has been interesting to see how everyone involved has changed and where their work/lives have taken them. Some have had breakdowns, some have been un-well, some have got divorced, moved away, tried different types of photography. It's a cliche but it is like one big dysfunctional family that just about manages to keep itself together. I would very much like to start doing filmed interviews with each photographer to give them a face and a personality as I feel at the moment apart from the pictures it is pretty two dimensional. Its main reason to exist is to inspire people coming to Street Photography. I think —at least hope— it still does that.

How will it all end, Matt?

Without knowing it, Blake.

(All photos above by Matt Stuart unless otherwise noted)


Art Bueno said...

it all makes sense now

Marilyn Andrews said...

One of your best interviews - a real rapport between you and Matt!

Anonymous said...

Not funny? That's funny, picture after picture is a pun. Great

Hernan Zenteno said...

I super enjoyed the chat and the photos. Something Blake commented stayed making questions inside me, "If I'm shooting a lot like I was in Paris it takes less time to warm up. But in Eugene it can take longer."
How important is travel to stay being alert? I mean, stay in one place for long time is good to know all but at the same time one lost the mysterious hook. Are other tricks, like think if we were in Paris, to short the warm up time? I believe that stay in the same city all the time is a kill for street photography.

binotto said...

Thanks for this excellent interview Blake!

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