Matt Carr – Portrait & Lifestyle Photographer


– Hello and welcome to
the i3 Lecture Series hosted by the Masters in
Digital Photography Program at the School of Visual Arts. We’re thrilled to have
photographer Matt Carr as tonight’s guest speaker. Matt earned a degree in Photo Journalism and Philosophy and Religious Studies from Ball State University. At the outset of his career, he worked for newspapers
and wire services, AP, Reuters, and Getty
Images for a number of years. After moving to Prague in the early ’90s, Matt transitioned into
editorial and corporate work. Six years later, he moved to London before eventually returning to the US. His photography has been
published extensively in The New York Times,
Entertainment Weekly, ESPN, GQ, Men’s Health, Premiere, and Rolling Stone among others. And he has been recognized
by American Photo, Hasselblad Masters, PDN,
IPA, and Communication Arts. Please help me welcome Matt
Carr to our lecture series. (audience applauding) – Thank you very much. That was pretty much my speech, I think. But I am a commercial photographer now. My work is very varied. I do almost a bit of everything. Just as an example, the last two weeks, I did three jobs, corporate portrait jobs. One inside a children’s book illustrations that they’re gonna do characters on top of and I did a series of
wrist portraits for Timex. You know, those people. So it’s always changing. That’s the main thing. Anyways, thanks for coming. So my career has changed
considerably over the years. I started off in journalism
school and newspapers, and now, I do none of that. It’s not even remotely the same, but it has been 30 years to turn that boat to where we are today. So to go way back, in high school, I had
two things I was good at, English and photography. And so I had a guidance
counselor who told me why don’t you try photo journalism? And that was good enough for me. So we’ll start off with some of my first. This is some school work that actually got me my
first job in newspapers. It was a story on poverty in America. This is Muncie, Indiana at Ball State which at the time was a
pretty depressed area. And being an extremely poor student, I was living in even the worst area. So I was actually living
upstairs from these people and everyone around me was
just in pretty extreme poverty. This is the photo that I’d
taken a photo of them once outside, I believe, and they didn’t want me
inside their house at all. They were really nervous about me. But I took this photo and then I delivered a hand printed 8×10 and that kind of opened the
door where they trusted me and then I went inside and
I got the family photo. These are very raw. In the early days, I had one camera. A Canon PF, I think it was called. Just imagine a piece of brass that they carved out
and stuck a lens on it and not much else. So it’s all 50 millimeter. This is the father enjoying a cigarette on an oxygen machine right
below my bedroom, so. Yeah. I forget all their names,
but I remember this guy. His name was Snake. Fairly nice guy. Here in Southbend, I lived in
kinda the poor side of town, the kinda usually the historic slash crime district of (mumbles). And I was like there’s
some benefits for that ’cause all the characters, once they get to trust you if you show them you’re a real person and you’re not a narc or something, then they really open up and you can get all sorts of access. But today, after the journalism stuff, I’m just gonna show personal stuff because I think the work stuff is, although it’s important
because it keeps things going. It keeps me eating and paying rent, but how I use the personal work is how I change the creative
where I want it to be or it also shows just what I care about. And I think the more you learn about that, the more you can kind of
base like your work stuff on. Just find out what does it mean to be me? So this is a very early
newspaper portfolio. This is a train conductor
who’s also a fine artist. So in school, I took all
the photojournalism classes and I just felt like there
was something I was missing. I thought maybe the art department knows something that we don’t. So I went over there and
I took all their classes and I didn’t find it there either, but I did find that it was
much more experimental. You’re allowed to make mistakes and you’re allowed to get wacky and weird. And that’s a great lesson to learn even if you go back in the newspapers and you’re just gonna be, have like these regimented photos. This is a, Bob might remember this. This guy in the middle here
worked with me at the time, but we did a 24 hour
story about this diner, this really old school diner, and we took like four hour shifts. We’d just hang out and
photograph whatever happened. This guy came in. I forget what he said, something fairly
disgusting to the waitress and then passed out. So I took that picture and that was one of the main pictures. And at the time, my mother
worked at a psych hospital and this guy checked himself in like the day after this came out, so. I am helping people in my way, yeah. This is something for
a story on gun crime. There’s me looking very
menacing in my Dockers, right? It’s easier to find a
gun in Indiana for that. I think it would take like a
couple weeks here to do that. Early portrait work. I always gravitated
towards the portrait work. My friend Julian up here asked if this guy got that off a dead Nazi and I said this is
before eBay, so probably. This won some award at the time. It’s one of these photos I took just walking around taking
photos for the newspaper. In case there’s a slow news day, you always have to have
something in the bag. When I took this, I didn’t
really even like it. I didn’t print it and then the photo editor saw
it and he’s like print that. And then he ran it and then he’s like send
that in for the thing. And then I won that thing. Sometimes you just don’t know
at all, sometimes you do. I’m kinda lacking of photos in this period because it’s all film and most of it’s in the storage unit or stuck in the newspaper somewhere. I mean, I practically got a tetanus shot for having to find these
things in the first place. This is Lou Holtz. I went to Catholic school,
so this one kinda kills me. He’s doing the devil horns
at the Catholic university. It always comes back to that. This is back 1600 color
film, just crunchy. Again, Catholic. I like to make the priests look weird. So a newspaper is great for just getting a feel for everything. You do portraits, you do
lifestyle, you do everything. You have no budget. There’s no makeup, no nothing, but it was a great way for me to figure out like what I liked and that it always came
back to portraiture for just I don’t know if
I just like the control or just the one on one with people. That always resonated with me and it became clear that that was kind of one
direction I needed to go into. This is my one decent shot from my internship at
the Indianapolis 500. I was working for Reuters and they put me on turn two and they said, “Don’t take a picture
unless there’s an accident,” for the whole month. And one day, I snuck into the
pits and took some pictures. But from school, I managed to
get a job at this newspaper, the local paper in Muncie, Indiana. Still in school which
is kind of incredible. I went in with a box of
prints, not even a portfolio. I wasn’t arrogant so much as clueless as to how to get a job. I think it was that story of the family that really sold me to them. And so they brought me in. I didn’t even bother
asking how much it paid. All those things I thought
I was missing in school, I quickly learned at the newspaper because I was just on my own. Well first off, there was
six other photographers. Each one of them took me in the dark room to show me how to develop film even though I had obviously
known how to do that. I was under everyone’s wing and everyone did it slightly different, but it was finally a place where they could teach me all that stuff that I thought I knew but I clearly didn’t ’cause to have deadlines and just have feedback in one hour and have something printed in another hour that’s gonna go in the paper otherwise there’s gonna
be a hole is kind of, you learn quickly. And that job lasted for about a year until just before graduation and then the first
signs of digital came in which was AP Leaf Desk, The Associated Press Leaf Desk scanner. And once that came in, that just took away the need for printing and took away the need
for two photographers and I was one of them. So I stuck around long
enough to learn the thing which is good and bad. So the next time I got a job, I could at least say, oh, I know how to work all the machines. And I was the young guy back then who knew all the electronic stuff, so I was the go to guy. So after that, ended up at Southbend at the Southbend Tribune Newspaper where I worked for a couple
years with this guy over here. We both had long ponytails,
big foreheads, big nose. They thought we were the same person. They’d be like, “Hey Bob, great photo.” I’d be like, “Thanks.” I’m sure they would say the
same to you all the time, right? All the time. So I worked there a couple
years and it was great. The newspaper’s wonderful. And two years into that, I was talking with a
friend who moved to Germany and she’s like you know, the
flights out here are $400. And I was like I have $400. So I just bought a ticket
and then three months later, I just put all my stuff in storage, brought two cameras,
that portfolio you saw, and some ill fitting
’90s clothing, you know? Like the baggy sweater. And I was in Europe for three months hoping not to come home
with that portfolio. And I ended up at there was an English language newspaper in Prague called the Prague Post. And the photo editor said, “You can’t make a living at it, “but if you want to try,
come back and work for me.” So I came back and just
fell in love with it. The city was, you know, everything was like crumbling. Everything was broken. No one spoke English. The government was in flux. It was just like a city
trying to find its own feet which is kind of my life
story as well, I think, so it was just like
comfortable to live there. I ended up learning the language and just about the people
and all of the politics and it was just fascinating. Every day was just something different and coming from Indiana to a town that has a castle is just
ridiculous, you know? I live in a town with a castle. So I stayed there. This is actually a job. This is an anarchist rally. They had their own brush with hardcore right wing
politics at the time and the skinheads are
behind me in the shot. But a lot of these are just photos I took. I ended up buying a Leica and just carrying that everyday. This is like pre-Instagram Instagram. This was actually a job. They were swearing in the
army up on the Zhukov Monument and the city didn’t like it so the city called the police to tell the police to stop
the army from doing this. And I was like I gotta see this. I don’t think it was even a job. It was just like I want to see
the army take on the police. Nothing happened, of course, but clearly there was no. You know, I’m wandering
among the soldiers. There was almost no rules
there I felt, which is fun, until you start thinking there’s no rules, I can do anything, and then it becomes not so fun. So there are just a
collection of personal photos. I would just scroll
through black and white, a couple rolls a week. And I just wanted to
tell like my story there and the Prague that was
there when I got there because things were changing so quickly. I wanted to kind of
put this thing in aspic and keep it the way it was before it became a McDonald’s
and a Disney World. This must have been a job. That’s not a (mumbles). This is underneath the Prague Castle. This is the bunker. Built in the ’50s when they
thought we were gonna bomb ’em. So yeah, so at the time, I was shooting a lot of newspaper and just cranking this stuff out. And then at some point, a friend of mine who was
working at Elle Magazine invited me to take a
portrait of an actress that he was doing a story on. So I went happily and photographed this woman
at this beautiful cafe. And brought it in, the photo editor, art director liked it, and then they brought me
in for the next thing, and the next thing, and the next. Within a year, I was Elle
Magazine’s portrait guy and I did the what’s in your hand bag and like all those things you can imagine except from the fashion pages. Nobody from Indiana does fashion. Let that be a lesson to you. So I was like a trial by fire because I didn’t know
anything about lighting. Everything I had done before
was all very on camera flash or just natural light so I got into the Elle Studios which was just this massive room, but at the time, they
were just starting out, so they had just one giant flash. It looked like something
out of the Apollo mission, you know, with the plugs that
don’t make sense anymore. And just some bounce things. So I’d go in there and try to like bounce light
around as much as I could just off this one head which was a fantastic learning experience. I mean, everything kinda had that look which I think is coming back, you know, the one giant. But I learned tons about lighting and about working with art directors, and designers, and how to. They would bring me a spread
of this blank piece of paper with the headline, the words, and some other stuff they needed in there. And they’d say, “Okay, your photo’s gotta
fit in this area here “and the direction is going that way.” And I said, “Oh okay, I gotta do that.” So I went from like the loosey
goosey world of newspaper to this kind of hardcore, you know, you gotta please this guy or
you’re never gonna work again. So my portfolio just got
more and more art directed, became less about me, not that it was very much about me before, but I was starting to get the idea that I need to make this
thing more personal. So let me just roll through here. They’re opening the first
Catholic Church in 40 years and look at those smiles. A moment at the circus. This is my favorite pub. We called it the Dirty Finger. It didn’t really have a real name, but Dirty Finger stuck somehow. This is actually in Poland. This is my Instagram
before Instagram, you know? This is what everyone does now. Then, it was kind of novelty. A Hare Krishna having a good day. That’s Vaclav Havel and some
German foreign minister. I just love the arrow up in this corner bringing your eye back into the circle. I’m not sure if the
beer is larger than that due to the lens distortion, but I like to think that’s the size of it. This, they’re ordaining two new bishops at the main cathedral in Prague and they had the photographers
up on the scaffolding. It was a very pious occasion and there were tons of priests, two of ’em prostrating on the crown, and I turned around and I
get Iggy Pop staring at me. I was like I’ve got, this is the guy. And he’s just, yeah. His expression says it all. He’s like yeah, not very
happy with that one. Vaclav Klaus, the former prime minister. That’s his classic smug look. He was the president for a while later. After he was thrown out for corruption, he came back as president. There’s the aforementioned castle. It’s my only picture of the castle here. Later on right before I left Prague, I did the Time Out guide for Prague, so I got to do all the touristy
pictures in blazing color. ‘Cause Prague, it’s an
amazingly colorful city, but it shows black and white ’cause I didn’t want any
noises in the background, Coke signs or any advertisements
that were creeping in to get in the way of what
I was trying to show. There might be a beautiful old person, but then in the background, there’d be somebody wearing
spandex or something, killing my photo. I mean, these days, you
can just Photoshop it away, but not back then. This is again Vaclav Klaus at a rally. Pretty light security. (mumbles) That’s real. All this is real. I didn’t start really talking to people in the street portraits until later. This is Michael Jackson came to town and he erected a 30 foot or
30 meter statue of himself right on the same pedestal
where Stalin used to stand, the statue of Stalin. Yeah, it’s weird. Perfectly normal. No parking here. There’s the (mumbles) post on the corner. It doesn’t exist anymore. I think it was a tax write
off for some wealthy Texan. He would come in occasionally and yell at us for
spending too much money. This is the night train to Russia. It’s like do you speak Czech? No. You speak English? No. I was like okay, I’m just
gonna start taking pictures. This was with a 14. This one, I thought I was being discrete. I was using an RB67 which is
not a very discrete camera. A big clunky thing. And I was like yeah, I
totally snuck up on this guy. And then I was looking
at the context later and there’s like four pictures
of him scowling at me. I was like okay, maybe not so sneaky. Like this kind of. At the time, everything
was kind of crusty. It was coming back from Communism. They hadn’t repaired stuff, but it had that kind of patina. It was still soft. Everything was soft. The anniversary of the
Liberation of Pilsen. (mumbles) history. Germans lost, so that’s where you stand, in front of the Germans. This is at another Sladek rally. He was kind of the hardcore right wing. I was working with a
German guy at the time and he was like this stuff
sounds very familiar. Oh man. I was waiting for about 20
minutes to photograph this guy. Every time I would lean over
and try to take his picture, he would just give me this scowl. I was like oop. And I’d just try again, and again, and finally I gave up and I stood up and he raised his camera
and took my picture. And then put it down
and just gave me that. I was like thank you. I was like looking at
myself in the future. That’s my old neighborhood. This is kind of an example of what I was talking about
shooting black and white. The car behind it is some new citron kind of nasty, you know. If we had Skodas in a row,
that would be beautiful. It still bugs me. This is in the bunker
underneath the Prague Castle. That’s the technology at the time. There’s that and boxes of bones. No champagne, no (mumbles). Any questions about any of these things? I was using the cheapest
film available, (mumbles). 60 crowns or the Tri-X
equivalent was 120 in a way. 60 crowns. Vole is impolite to say
to somebody you don’t know but polite, semi-polite to
say to somebody you know. I’ll leave it at that. A lot of the communist
statues were coming down. This is a war memorial. (mumbles) there. Let’s see. I like this guy. So this is a story, this is after six years in Prague. I was a very big fish
in a very small pond. Things were going really well. I was doing like covers, and spreads, and working all the time. I didn’t have a portfolio. I didn’t need a portfolio. But there was kind of a glass ceiling of how much you can make there which is not very much. Like in Elle Magazine, a
full page would be $20. And a film budget is two rolls of 120. In a RB, that’s 10 photos
and like three Polaroids. So a little restricting and I thought you know, if I can go somewhere else
and do 40% of this work, it would be, I’d be the man. I’d be perfectly happy. So I just moved to London. I didn’t look into the immigration. I didn’t read anything about it. I just shipped my stuff
and moved to London. Can you see a little pattern imaging? Don’t worry. I’m married. I’ve got a child now. I can’t leave. I’m stuck here. So I moved to London and it was here that I showed up and I had this portfolio
that was mostly made of clips from Prague, from heavily art
directed shoots from magazines which I don’t like anymore which is also why I’m not showing them. It was a great training ground, but as a portfolio, it
just looked schizophrenic. There was portraits, there was lifestyle, there was different
stories about random things in black in white and color and there wasn’t any
cohesive unit to them at all. So it was when I went to London, a big town like New York, that I realized that you have to, like they ask you what do you do? And they mean it. They’re like you do portraits and what’s the style when you say that? Or you do lifestyle and what’s
the style when you say that? So I got there and I had that book and I had my small black and white book which strange enough got me, it was the black and
whites that you saw before, like all that stuff got me more attention than the other books. But I think having them both
kind of helped people see that I’m not entirely a freak, that I can do a job, but I also have some kind
of soul on the other side. So it was in London that I decided like I need to find the style that’s me, that makes sense to me so if somebody hires me
and they want Matt Carr then I will know what that means. So by this time, I switched to Hasselblad which is one of the
smartest things I ever did. So you ever use Hasselblad? It’s wonderful. Anyways, so this is the
Natural History Museum, the entomology department. This is sort of right before
they tore the department down and redid it to make it
more open to the public, I went in there and I did
portraits of all the entomologists so that we’d have a record of this thing as it existed in the
time which was amazing ’cause like they have stuff
from Caption Cook’s days. So I went in there with
this kind of style in mind and the entomologists were
just like not having any of it. They didn’t want any of it. They’re scientists. They didn’t care about any of this. So I managed to talk one guy into it, this guy, and I photographed him like a king. Again, he’s like lit like a God and you’re looking up at him a little bit. Those cockroaches are, this is a wide angle, but
they are pretty darn big. And then you show the Polaroids around and the next thing you know, people there were lining up. It was great. I was like I’m here to make you look cool. We’re not gonna nerd out. This is one of the fun things I find is bringing out kind of
the character in people and making it seem like
they’re part of the process. I’m not just barking orders at them. She was great. I made a mistake of telling the writer who was writing the story that
we were gonna photograph her. And I was like can you see if
she could put on a lab coat? I just I really like women in lab coats. I have this weird thing. And then I went to photograph her and she’s like very English, very polite. And I said, “Do you have a lab coat?” And she goes, “Yes, I’ve been
informed of your fetish.” It’s not a fetish, it’s just
I think it would be cool. So never tell writers anything. This guy was just rock and roll. This is just two lights obviously. Like just one is bearing down. I’m still learning about
the subtleties of light, but I think that they still kinda worked. Well, there’s one story. When I started showing
the schizophrenic book with the black and white book around, I did get one art director who she asked me to do
a series of portraits of these people who had severe memory loss through like accidents or brain issues and she wanted like this
really heartfelt series of black and white portraits of these people in their
homes to tell the story. And she said on the phone, “I want you to do it, “you know, I want Matt Carr photos.” And she was talking about
the black and white stuff and I was like, I said, “Yes, I will take this job,” ’cause I like to eat, I need the money. And then later on, I freaked out for the whole weekend thinking like what is the Matt Carr style in the black and white? I didn’t even know what it
was in any portraiture at all. That just made me think
about what it means, like how I do things, and why I do things, and the choices I make. I did it all in black and
white with a small Leica. Just natural light, raw, in their homes, just in that journalistic style, but kind of doing a lot more talking. It’s always just whenever I do portraits, I just talk a lot to people, and ask a lot of questions, and get a lot of back and forth so they’re part of the process. So that was like a
defining moment in my life, my work life at least. I really kinda said I need
to put this thing in a box and make it make sense. Otherwise, I’ll be dragged
around by whatever job comes next and I won’t be in charge of my career. Now, we’re in New York where
a lot of my art directors, art director friends, and
friends in general came. After three years in London and somehow or another I got
work in The New York Times. Within the first couple months, there’s the special sections and they hired me to
do some (mumbles) stuff on the Harlem Celebrates issue. And I was like okay, that sounds nice, but how about we do
street portraits instead and show like the people who live there and the culture of that? And they’re like okay, but
do ’em both for the same fee. So anyways, I went around
and just one assistant with one light and just
talked to people in the street which became more and more. I mean, that’s my whole job is talking to people that I don’t know. That’s just, it’s fun, it’s exhilarating, it’s intimidating, it’s
scary, it’s everything, but it’s most of the job talking to them, getting them relaxed, and
getting something out of them. This person was just crossing
the street and I grabbed ’em. These people were just sitting
on the stoop, you know? Just sure, New York Times? New York Times opened the doors. Or Time Out too. For this Harlem Celebrates, I just went around and shot
a mess of street portraits and I did the reportage as well, but you know, I felt the main brunt of it, the story really was in
the people, you know? – [Female Speaker] So
how long would you keep, work with each person? Can you repeat that? – Oh, on each person? It depends on the person. Like some people, like these guys, probably pretty quick ’cause they were just
hanging out, you know? And I just got ’em laughing really. This guy, a couple minutes. I mean, more than
celebrities would give you. And this was all film too. So like I would maybe do
less than a roll of film on each person, kinda like five pictures? That’s how we used to do it. I think I take five pictures now. But yeah, like a bit of time. 10, 15 minutes maybe. So this is deeper in New York. This is within the last five years. At this point, I’ve established
a portfolio that’s all me and I’m basically adding to it but trying to up everything
to look more like an ad. So this is my, a friend of the neighbor George who’s like a local character. Fantastic guy. He’s got three teeth. He’s dead now, but super nice guy. And I just needed to
take a portrait of him so I brought him up to my house. I set up a time. I was like can you come over at 2:00? Like two o’clock, he was there, and you know, I’m just trying desperately to get him to smile ’cause he’s just got this great smile. He’s got three teeth in his head and he’s just a fantastic character. So I get this and then
I was like I need more ’cause I like to work, you know, do spreads in the portfolio of two shots of each person
like little diptychs of sorts. So one day, we’d take him down
to Coney Island for a day. Well actually, he would give
me less time than a celebrity. This guy, he was tough. He had like a schedule to keep. And then I shot bubbles
at his face one day. He enjoyed that. This is him in the house. Then I did a little show
of him at his local cafe where he goes and gets coffee every day. And four photos is not gonna make a show, so I went a little further. There’s this one as well which he remembered this fog being there, but it was not a foggy day. This is all Photoshop. He was like, “Remember that
time we were on the bridge “and there was that orange haze?” And I was like, “Yeah.” Yeah, so. I don’t feel like you always have to
contradict people, you know? So I did this. Like the background wasn’t working and he was in the Korean War. This was to kind of to make him a little bit more of an icon. And then pixel George just
to round out the site. And at the show, it was just a small
cafe in my neighborhood, you would see the photos and at the end, there would be George sitting at the chair to tell you a really off color joke. I mean really, he could go for it. Some more personal work. A lot of the stuff I do
just to stay relevant like in the ad world and
try to get some attention. So this is a series I did. I have a six year old daughter, but when she was four, we were playing the game
where you kind of laugh and then you stop laughing. And she was just amazingly
good at fake laughing and I thought, I thought that came
later when you’re older that we learn how to fake
everything in society, but apparently you start really young. So I invited these two friends of mine. I photographed this kid since he was born, literally, the day he was born. A friend of mine’s kid. I used to shoot a lot of stock photography and I would photograph everything and throw it on stock and
maybe make some money off it. So I got him and his sister to come and they were just, you know, just banged it out of the park. No problem, no questions asked. Like what do you want me to do? Okay, boom. You know, where’s my juice? And then round it out,
bring in some more people. I’m still hoping Colgate
will buy this for something. But I had people just
generate a fake laugh and just roll with it and just keep laughing, keep laughing. And that turns into a real laugh and some people find it
like very therapeutic. And this is all with
the Hasselblad digital, with a phase one back and a 50 millimeter. So pretty wide. I’m pretty close. This guy’s nuts. That’s my wife. This guy loved it. He thought it was like yoga. He’s a professional model from Madrid. He was just in town and he just came to my living room and laughed his ass off for an hour. It was hilarious. This guy, we’ll see him again later. This is a wow, this is
really bad rendering. This is another story. This is about, I just got to thinking about people were worried about the government, and about UFOs, and they
do the tin foil thing. Like they must have a life, right? What do they do? They’re not just quirks. They have daily schedules and stuff. So I did this one at a friend’s house ’cause I didn’t want to mess up my house. And then I thought maybe he’s married. Maybe he’s got a wife and what’s she like? So the other photo is
a horrible rendering, but she must support him. Maybe she’s the same way. Maybe she just does it ’cause he likes it. And then maybe she’s looking
for answers in the Jiffy Pop. I don’t know. But it’s like thinking of things like that and then following the storyline
to my own messed up ends. There might be a third one coming in that where they have a child, but I don’t know. It gets a little too funky. This is a series I did kind
of ripping off Robert Longo as so many people like to do. But I thought I’d take
it one step further. I loved his paintings and then he went back
and photographed them and I felt like he missed it, so I was like I’ll finish
it off for you, Robert. And so I photographed
the models in the studio and I went around looking to shoot plates in New York City and Brooklyn
that kind of made sense to me. Here’s a series of them. These are dancers. These are actually the dancers where my daughter goes
to school, dance school. It’s fun to make dancers do things that aren’t natural to them. So you know, dance, jump around like you’re
totally out of balance. So after trying to shoot
plates for a while, I was working with a retoucher and we’re both like this isn’t working. So I just literally, I went on Getty and I just looked for city scapes and found all these Asian cities that were just so beautiful and perfect. Oh, that’s Spain, I believe. (mumbles) I just plugged and played with that and kind of became an art
director of my own shots. I kinda liked that. It was nice not having to worry about doing the plates as well. So this is more personal work
that goes in the portfolio that hopefully gets some ad attention. That is Ed Harris, yes. A lot of the celebrities
are either for magazines like I used to work with Premiere Magazine when I came to New York
before they folded. And I forget the other ones. There’s a bunch of them
popped up and they all. And I also worked a lot doing
the film festivals for Getty. I would set up the portrait
studio at Sundance and Toronto and just through the week, we’d just get tons of people. It was like being in a laundry dryer. Like at the end of the day, people would say, “Like who’d you meet?” And I’m like, “I’m not sure. “I’ll have to take a
look through the files.” But a lot of those were for instant, like right on the web to be sold. There’s no Photoshopping of those. So later, I went back and
just chose my favorites and I worked on them
myself to my abilities. And then after a while, I’m like I gotta find somebody better to give these people what
they deserve, you know? So this is working with this
one retoucher in New Jersey. We wanted to put together like a little portfolio of
black and white celebrities in this kind of raw not really tintype but like maybe Polaroid 55 style where it’s a little bit messed up and give it some character because sometimes I’d be
shooting like an eight foot box so there wasn’t much room. I could play with lighting a little bit. I would have a Pocketwizard with two different lighting setups. Like a hard one and a soft one. And for Getty Images, I
needed to get a clean shot with like a smile or not a smile, you know, and then once I
got them out of the way, then I could do what I wanted. And with these people,
sometimes, you get seconds. Sometimes you get minutes. This guy was super, super nice. Anyways. I have just tons of people
that are in this box and I’ve been working on ways to like bring them out of the box and make the images more
relevant and more timeless. I had to take his gum away. He came in chewing gum. I was like I’ve got 30 seconds with you. Give me the gum. I should have sold it on eBay. I love this guy. He’s so, he’s so generous with his time. I’ve photographed him so many
times at these festivals. Okay, so this is, this is kind of what I
like to do for fun now is street photography in New York, but this is talking to people. I call it talking to strangers in Brooklyn and posing them a little bit with some (mumbles) and whatnot. I just love, I love these guys. I have like this little
conversation with them. I don’t write anything
down about them, I just… This is all with the little Leica. This is my normal expression
when I first approach them and then I get this. Just going out there and just being open and talking to strangers is just, is kind of, I find it kind of like practice, you know, for when I have to do it for a job. Okay, so this is some
celebrity’s random stuff. This is Junot Diaz for a magazine. A lot of times with people, like I give them a little direction and I like to give them a scene that they can work
through in their own heads and bring something special out of it. Clive Owen, not so much. He’ll give you Clive Owen. It will be beautiful, but he’s not gonna work with you too much. This is a surprisingly happy shot of him. That’s the normal him. That’s a photographer’s
nightmare, the tonality. That hat was just glowing. The light hits it, pops it, oh my god. Yeah. This, I was working
with another retoucher. This photo’s a couple years
old and I just really liked it, but it needed something. I wrote these guys and I was like can you make him look like he’s in a church window or something? You know, really iconic. And then they came up with
this king of kings thing which is a bit much, but he was in his whole
(mumbles) face at that time. This guy would not take any
direction, but he was cool. This is him after he
was fluffing his hair. That’s genuine irritation
from Tommy Lee Jones. That’s right. One magazine asked me to do a
series of photos about home, about where I grew up
which is Middle America. You know, we all have
memories of childhood which kinda don’t always
make sense to you, so I took some of these memories and I kinda ran it through
a Jim Thompson filter if you know Jim Thompson,
the pulp fiction writer. And obscured them enough where they wouldn’t make
sense to other people, but maybe would be interesting
like this Revelation 3:3. I will give you one image
if you can quote that one. The day the Lord will come
like a thief in the night. Okay, anyways. With these, everything in this has some
relation to like my childhood, but it’s not obvious, which I like. And a lot of people, I send it out there and people
see different things in ’em. Like oh, this means that. I don’t tell people what they are and it’s like yeah, that sounds good. A few people who’ve
like went to art school had better interpretations
of them than my original one, you know? Like I’m gonna start using that one. So there’s only one thing
I wanted to finish with. I want to show something I’ve been kind of sitting
on the back burner for a while with. Just gonna show you what work in progress for me at least looks like. This is that guy who was laughing earlier. He does a balloon show where he blows up a big
balloon and gets inside it and I did all these portraits of him. Just so ridiculous. They’re like, I feel like. I like that he looks distressed in there. It’s one of those things I got someday, someday I’ll have to finish. It’s him coming out,
but I feel like there’s. Sometimes you do these
shots and they’re so great, but it’s like I don’t even know and would they even fit in the portfolio? Do I care? I don’t know. But that’s my work. (audience applauding) – [Female Speaker] So I’m curious. You did a lot of work with film. Do you look back nostalgically? Do you miss anything about film? How do you see that? – Only in the way that you
didn’t have to think as much about the look in the end ’cause
it was baked in, you know? Like you get a film stock
that’s warm, or whatever, or contrasty, and damage comes out, and it’s warm, contrasty, and there’s not a whole
lot you can do with that. Digital, you have all the
choices under the sun. But I don’t miss having some scanner’s fingerprints on my stuff. You didn’t do that, Alandro. I appreciate that. But I used to do tons of stock and I would spend half my
time getting fingerprints or some issues from the scan out of it and I don’t miss that. But I love the control. I’ve taken a lot of time
learning Photoshop and I just, I love that you can just
take it as a whole image and just push and pull and
it can go all over the place. Yeah, so. I would like a candle
that smelled like fixer. That’d be nice. They make those. (people chattering) – [Male Speaker] For
your personal projects, what do you value the most? The moment, the light, or the composition? And if this defined your, your style. – Yeah, well, kind of
all those things really. I mean, the lighting
is extremely important. The main thing for me is there’s always, I think I’ve always
been stuck on this idea that once I had this established
portfolio that I liked, anything that goes in there needs to fit. And it can fit. It’s like a Venn diagram. All three things can fit, composition, lighting, and the mood, or like just is one enough? That’s a tough one. I mean, you think like some of
the really just straight up. Like a lot of those celebrities are like three point lighting. That’s like the most basic thing. That’s the first lighting you learn, but it’s all in the face. It’s in the what they’re
giving you, so yeah. You think of Avedon’s photos. Those are just. They’re not all like wow,
the lighting’s crazy. It’s like very clean,
beautifully done, expressive, and nobody says, “Oh, you
didn’t know lighting.” It’s like does it really matter? I don’t know. But yeah, I like to mix it all together. If there’s cool light,
that makes me more excited. – [Male Speaker] All right, Matt, I hear you, I hear some photographers talk about controlling their subject
when they’re taking portraits. So I was interested to hear
about what the differences are, how you approach stars versus
the people on the street, and which one do you enjoy the most? – I don’t control too much. I mean, there’s things I, body positioning. Even with the stars, I would try to give them the
motivation and the scene. Like a lot of them just
hated being out of character and being photographed. Like actually, I have a list
of them who have a hard time. Like Paul Giamatti just couldn’t stand it. He just hated it. And so I was like okay, I’m on your land and give me that get off my land look. And like everyone knows that, you know? But the guy from the Sopranos, I’m blanking on his name. – [Male Speaker] Giamatti. – Yeah, Giamatti, who died. Like he just, he was very uncomfortable. I photographed him a number of times. I mean, you could see the sweat and he was a big scary guy. And he just hated it ’cause
he was out of character. And I would try that with him, but he’s like the last
time I photographed him, he was just visibly upset. I was surprised he showed up. And I could hear him under his breath saying I fucking hate this. I was like I just need a smile, man. But in terms of the star
or the regular people, I treat them all the same way, but sometimes with the star, you’ll know right away whether
or not they’re gonna take it. Like some of them are like
this is my look and don’t. They’re nice about it. They have the assistant come
later to delete the stuff, but they’re nice about it. You know? I love just seeing what I
get from a regular person. I think when I first started here, I was really more like okay,
just smile or whatever, but now I’m getting more
into like kinda posing more and bringing lights into it which is fun. Just random people and you
make something out of them. That’s crazy fun, you know? Especially when it works. Oh yes, please. – [Female Speaker] Hi, Matt. Thanks for coming to speak to us today. – Thank you. – [Female Speaker] This kinda
goes along the same lines of a little bit of what
we were talking about, but when I’ve spoken to photographers who particularly do portraits, there is sometimes like
a almost like a spiel or like some sort of language that they feel comfortable using to talk about the direction
that they want to take the person that they’re
photographing with. So how do you maintain that level of control and collaboration? Do you have any specific
techniques that you use or specific languages
type things that you use when it comes to that stuff? – Well, I certainly have some
stock phrases that I use. I do a lot of corporate work and those are people that
just want to get out the room. There’s a number of stupid jokes. Most of it is just making
people comfortable, you know? Just do my best Oprah without hugging and just try to get ’em relaxed ’cause most people go
into a photo session. If they’ve never done
it, they’re horrified. They’re like at the dentist. So whatever you can do to break that down and say this is gonna be fun, don’t worry. We’re working together. Look at the monitor. If you don’t like it, I’m gonna fix it. That kind of thing. But if it’s like more
personal or evocative photo, that’s like a different conversation where you kind of tell
them the feeling you want and it can be a longer talk, but it’s always a conversation. I do a lot of talking. I do a lot of listening. I do more listening than talking and just express interest in people. I’m very interested normally, but that’s a huge plus for
me just to break it down because most people don’t
get peppered with questions, you know? Especially in New York. You get just monologued. So if you act generally interested, then you can make a connection and then hopefully they’ll open up to do whatever you need to do. But does that make, does that close it? Okay. – [Male Speaker] So Matt, thank
you for sharing your photos. – Thank you. – [Male Speaker] So I have two questions. The first one is what in your opinion makes a good portrait of anyone? – That’s a winner.
– That’s a winner. – That’s a winner.
– Yeah. Is he a Tilda or is he a– – [Male Speaker] Tilda. – [Female Speaker] That’s a good one. I don’t want to (mumbles),
that’s a good question. You get to pick a picture. – So I think resonance
of a sort where you can, if the picture stays with you. If you look at it and half an hour later, you can remember it. So many photos coming by and if you feel like you’re
looking into somebody and it just grabs you. You know, like this Tilda
Swinton which you might now own. Like this is her, she gave this to me. Like I did very little other
than I posed her a little bit. I had the lighting, I was ready, but she was gonna do this. And I’ve seen other people’s
copies of versions of this, like the other way. I think Dan Winters has one
where she’s the other way and I looked at it and
I’m like, “Is that mine?” But she made her green and all that. But just that directness
that she does naturally but other people need
to be coaxed into it. That, I think, is the main thing. Like Avedon’s bee guy. You know, it’s a weird
picture of a guy with bees, but his look and his calmness, it just brings you in there and
you stay there, I think, so. – [Male Speaker] So the second question is so do you have any like
direction you want to go in the future with your portrait work? – I just want to keep going
in the same direction. I feel like my career is like a barge. The portfolio is what I
use to turn the thing. Like if I’m doing a lot of
stuff I don’t want to do, I start doing more, filling the book with
stuff I do want to do and try to get it going that way so people think oh, he’s
not the reportage guy. He’s the portrait guy. So I want to step out of
the studio a little bit more ’cause I feel I’m getting a
little pigeonholed in there and just bring my lighting out with me and that kind of like
more lifestyley stuff. That’s what my agent would like me to do ’cause there’s more work in it, so. But that’s yeah, that’s true. Any other questions? I was promised a Bob Cooley question. – [Bob] I gave you one. – Oh, you did. – [Male Speaker] Thank you so much. – Thank you. (audience applauding)

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