One of the things I love about college and undeniably one of the things that makes me wish I was still in college, is the incredible gathering of amazing and talented people in one small place. Being surrounded by such people is an inspiration in and of itself. People I’ve met have gone on to do some incredible things in the small time since college; Some acting in movies, others working in politics, others writing books or blogs that have become popular, and several discovering something they love to do, and that to me is the ultimate success in college.
Finding something you love to do and doing it beautifully is art(Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!) and Matt is definitely an artist. I met Matt my second semester at SUNY New Paltz (a fairly modest New York State school filled with incredibly artistic people) in Integrated Design if I remember right, a great class that helps shape your basic artistic skills…well Matt has come a long way from that basic class. He is a wonderful portrait photographer, and his skills have grown into their own animal, so much so that you can tell just from a glance that photography is a part of him.
He is able to take the traditional portrait and give it a life of its own. Fun, sexy, serious, beautiful, and unconventional all at the same time, his portrait work is just a hint at his underlying talents. Proficient in photo-manipulations, graphic design, drawing and painting even, Matt is a verifiable jack-of-all-trades in the visual art world. And he is still in college! Let’s catch up with him.
Chris-Matt, thanks for taking the time out to chat with us, lets get right into it. If you would, just give us a quick summary of how you got interested in photography.
Matt- I’ve always been a pretty visual person. I’ve been drawing for the longest time, thanks to my mom. In high school, I started getting into graphic design. I taught myself everything I know about Photoshop, before I even had a decent camera. I came to college for graphic design, and my focus slowly turned to photography as I went through my college career. Now that I’m at the end of it, my heart is really in photography.
C-After you graduate do you plan to advance your schooling, or would you like to move into full time photography (Which wouldn’t be too hard a jump from seeing your portfolio)?
M- I’m definitely interested in moving into full time photography. I just want to be able to shoot some great models, enjoy myself, and make some beautiful photos. For a while, I thought about continuing my education and getting into Toy Design, but I think I’m ready to just get out there are really applying myself
C-What’s your chosen weapon(camera/gear)? Does it ever leave your side?
M- I have a Canon Digital Rebel xTi. It’s on the cheaper side, but it’s good enough for me. It’s the photographer that makes the image, not the camera.
C-How much post(Photoshop) effort do put into common portrait work?
M- I put in a lot of Photoshop work into the majority of my images. I love digital photography because it’s so easy to mold. I usually spend a few hours touching up each picture to personal perfection. I love the kind of control I have with it. However, when shooting portraits in a studio, the Photoshop work is usually cut down a bit, due to the amazing control you have when originally photographing. Since most of my later stuff has been studio work, I still use Photoshop, but much more sparingly than I have in the past.
C-Your portrait photography is stunning; Each series is original, often dramatic, beautiful, and often look really fun to shoot, where do you draw your inspiration and ideas from?
M- Thank you! It’s hard to say where i get my inspiration from, but I guess I’d have to say just from the faces of my models. I usually see someone I want to shoot, before I even know them. I’m really attracted to faces that are beautiful in a non-conventional way. I like seeing a face that is different, but still gorgeous in its own unique way. There’s just something about portraiture that keeps me addicted.
C-Color is such a powerful element and in some series you paint on your models, achieving such beautifully stark contrasts, could you talk about the expression there and how the challenge is different mixing painting elements with photography?
M- I’ve been on a kick lately with bright colors. It adds something new to a traditional portrait, and draws the viewer in. I’ve done work with paint, colored acetate, and chalk pastels. When you have bright props in your pictures, you need an even stronger body language, so the color doesn’t take over the whole image. I try to keep in mind that the face is always what is most important, and everything else comes second. it’s definitely a challenge to use paint in a portrait, and very, VERY, messy.
C-Several portraits of yours involve cultural fashion, what were you seeking to explore here, or did it just happen to be the models who stepped up for you those days?
M- The cultural series is one of my favorites. I sought out particular models for that, and I’m lucky enough to have a pretty diverse group of people that were willing to model for me for that series. I had models that are Polish, Indian, Russian, Albanian, and Italian. My favorite from that series is “Sonia”. I tried to really capture the essence of personal culture. I thought about how much an individuals ethnicity means to them, and I wanted to portray that my models are proud people. Everyone should be proud to be who they are, and I created this series to support that idea.
C-You have quite a few self-portraits in your portfolio, is this due to lack of models, or just trying out ideas, or are you just horribly vain ?
M- Haha. Hmmm, well I do a lot of self portraits because I often can’t vocalize ideas to my models. Therefore, my self portraits are essentially a way of experimenting, and sometimes I actually get some not-so-bad shots. Plus, self portraits are just fun to do sometimes.
C-One of your first series’(not online) depicts you and a woman with profanities written on your skin. Social commentary is huge in portrait photography, do you welcome that challenge, maybe plan to do more along those lines, or do you see yourself moving in more of a fashion/commercial photography direction?
M- Many of those images aren’t online because I wasn’t the photographer. The photo credit actually goes to Vicky Haralam, but I did the retouching. I’d love to use more social commentary in my photography, because I think it packs a powerful punch. The human body can be an excellent canvas. I’d really like to expand my photography into lots of different facets, and not just stay hooked on one type.
C-You’ve done a bit of traveling out of the states, can you talk a bit about Limerick, and how being in Europe has maybe changed your view of photography, or art in general?
M- My experience living in Ireland and traveling around Europe really changed my life. It triggered my love for travel photography, and my passion to always find someplace new. I can’t wait to spend more time abroad, and to bring my camera to all the new places I discover. Living in a different country really forces you to grow up, and become completely independent. It’s a good feeling. It was because of this sense of growth that I was able to get out there and get some good shots. Everything just felt limitless, and I tried to really capture what is out there. It made me realize that art really is universal, and can be globally appreciated.
C-By now, we know you love portrait photography, but talk a bit about other forms of art that you enjoy, your favorite type of photographs to take.
M- Yes, I do love portrait photography, but I seriously fell in love with travel photography. It became a way of documenting my experiences, and now I get that warm nostalgic feeling every time I look at a picture from Europe. I also enjoy photo-manipulations, which rely heavily on Photoshop, but allow me to create a really fantastical image.
C-What do you get into daily for inspiration, or just to get by, do you read blogs or browse Flickr, etc? How important is inspiration and creativity to your everyday life?
M- Inspiration is NECESSARY. How can you create anything interesting without a strong original source of inspiration? Everyone has to have some sort of inspiration, whether it applies to art or not. I browse Flickr quite a lot. I enjoy seeing what other young photographers are doing out there. It often does serve as some sort of inspiration, or a daily dose of artiness at the very least.
C- Well Matt, that’s all I have for now, Thanks very much for chatting with me.
M-Thanks again, I really appreciate you featuring my stuff.
Here’s a few more of his works for your viewing pleasure:
Thanks for stopping by viewers, Comment and leave some love for Matt, he’ll be dropping by DJ continue conversations if you guys have any questions for him, and be sure to stick around DJ for some more awesome content every day/week!!!
Find Matt Monath Online:
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