Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interview with Matt Glass

In our senior seminar class, we were asked to interview an artist in our field. I chose to talk to Matt Glass about his images and photographic process. I have been following Matt's work for a little over a year, and I really enjoy the cinematic qualities of his work, especially his sensitivity to lighting and directorial skills. Below is my favorite image by Matt,'Famine' from the series Apocrypha, followed by the interview. Much more of Matt's work can be found here.

© Matt Glass 2008
1.) All of your work shows an interest in tableau, but the elaborate/dramatic lighting did not appear until about 2008. Was that a natural progression or did you make a conscious decision to incorporate artificial light?
It was a pretty natural progression. My earlier work had tableau elements but there were pretty one dimensional. Once my photographs really began to act as narratives and tell stories, having more control over the lighting seemed necessary. Lighting is a great way to convey emotion and set a tone for a photograph. It became impossible to depend on natural light to achieve the dark moods I needed.

2.) I completely agree that lighting has the ability to get a tone or emotion across in the photograph. When you began to work with lights were you figuring things out on your own or did you have any guidance, from school or otherwise?
I mostly learned on my own. I'd throw in a DVD of a movie I liked and try to figure out how it was lit. I also looked at baroque paintings and try to emulate their light.

3.) Are you influenced/inspired by other artists and photographers working in tableau? If so, who?
Most of my influence comes from movies, but a few photographers that I enjoy include: Gregory Crewdson, who is the master of large scale cinematically lit photographs. Kahn & Selesnick whose tableau work goes beyond photography and includes props and histories and all sorts of supplemental material. They do a lot of work with miniatures. I have their book The Apollo Prophecies. It's a very long panorama and quite cool. Robert and Shana Parkeharrison whose work (especially The Architect's Brother) is very imaginative. Like Kahn & Selesnick, they create whole new worlds in their photographs. They don't take place in reality.

As for filmmakers, I'm a big fan of Terry Gilliam. Brazil is probably my favorite movie of all time. Very imaginative. Another one of my favorite filmmakers is Guillermo Del Toro. He does a lot of big budget action movies like Hellboy and Blade 2, but his more personal films like The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth pleasantly juxtapose his more commercial work. He's also one of the most well spoken individuals I've ever heard on a Directors' Commentary. He's very knowledgeable about fairy tales, horror and film making in general.

4.) You also like including material for viewers other than just the photograph such as text or an underlying story, like you described Kahn & Selesnick do. Are these supplemental parts of the work in your initial vision or do they develop along with the image making?
Usually their content is part of the initial vision. I usually have pretty specific stories in my head. The fun part is figuring out what elements are needed to tell the whole story. These elements can come in the form of photographs, a few paragraphs of text, videos or music. I like the idea of providing back stories for my photographs. It's not something I've perfected or even fully implemented yet, but I expect to continue experimenting with it in the future.

5.) Your imagery and lighting setups have a strong cinematic sensibility, do you see that as an extension of your video work?
I don't really take any of my video work very seriously. I don't have the tools or skills to do it right. I'd rather not make a serious film until I know I can get the results to match the vision in my head. I began doing photography so I could learn to perfect the single frame in hopes of one day perfecting the moving frames of a movie/film.

6.) There seems to be a strong balance between humorous and serious subject matter in your work. Do you prefer either or does one come more easily than the other?
When I start a new project or get a new idea, it always seems to start out fairly light and sometimes comical. As the project progresses, the imagery seems to get darker and darker. I'm not really sure why it happens that way. In my newest series The Origin of Waking, I'm trying to create a cohesive series of photographs that are not overly violent but still have a strong impact.

7.) Besides your Apocrypha series, do any other bodies of your narrative work draw inspiration from existing stories?
An old series of mine “Office Murder” is loosely based on an old CLUE book where you see a before-and-after drawing of a crime scene, and you have to investigate to figure out how the people were killed.
Some of the photographs in my newest series, The Origin of Waking, share titles with old fairy tales. The titles are the only things that they have in common. The stories in the photographs are different.

8.) I notice you show work primarily in Utah, do you find it difficult to show your work elsewhere, or is that a concern for you?
I mostly show in Utah because I don't feel I have a big enough body of work to show in any bigger markets. Plus, for my Apocrypha series, I made the mistake of having HUGE prints. Shipping them to out of state galleries would be quite expensive and risky. For my Origin Of Waking series, I'm hoping to have the photographs easier to transport. They will also (hopefully) be available in book form and come with a CD of songs that act as a soundtrack to the photographs.

9.) Providing a soundtrack for the Origin of Waking series seems like an interesting idea. Do you feel that this might direct the photographs in too specific of a direction or mood? How important to you is it that they are read in a certain way?

The songs DO give the photographs a pretty specific mood. But listening to the music can expand on the imagery of the photograph without spelling out exactly what is happening and what it might mean. A good example is “The Rise and Fall of the King of Stone.” The photograph shows a sad man sitting on a thrown in a big empty cave holding a crown. When you listen to the song, it starts out pretty happy and joyous, then seeds of darkness begin to grow until the epic destructive ending. The songs don't have specifics, just moods. It can give the image in the story a bit more impact.

10.) Being an artist with a studio practice isn’t the most lucrative career. Do you do any commercial work, considering your sensitivity to lighting?
I don't make enough money from my photographs to make a good living. I've done some photo assisting, and I've come to the conclusion that commercial photography really isn't for me. There are too many people involved in the process and the original vision usually gets lost. I'm sure if I was offered a great job by people that understood my style, I'd give commercial photography another chance, but right now, Its just not for me. I'd probably have to get much more well known before anything like that would happen.

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