Any good craftsman can tell you, learning a specific skill or trade that will ultimately allow you to become accomplished in one recognised way or the other, is no easy and quick task. In order for the bettering of ones ability in his/hers chosen medium, a degree of experimentation, testing and trying is necessarily pursued to finally reach a level of satisfaction. Matthew Brandt has done exactly this, doing what any good photographer must do in order to create unique imagery that puts their work aside from the rest.
In Brandt's latest collection, Lakes and Reservoirs, his technique is carefully assembled in different stages from the very instance of preparing the exposure through to his unique processes of manipulation. The creative process of his latest series shows that he clearly understands the art in photography, although Brandt himself insists it is merely a representation of what he sees in front of him. What is also interesting about his 'experiments' is the connection he builds between what is real and what is visualized. By using the elements available to him, Brandt creates imagery that is more than just a picture, successfully juxstaposing his subject matter. We listen as he explains the concept of Lakes and Resevoirs and gain his views on the importance of experimentation.
Dazed Digital: In your latest collection of photographs, Lakes and Resevoirs, you've chosen to manipulate the images. Can you explain the process of how and why did this?
Matthew Brandt: The procedure in making the Lakes and Reservoirs is fairly simple. I visit a lake and/or reservoir. I photograph it and collect water from it, then make a C-print of this photograph and soak it in the water that was collected. The outcome is the reaction of the image of this lake or reservoir that has been soaked in its own water over a period of time. They are circumstances of a Lakes’ image that meets its real substance.
Before this I was making portraits of people, salted paper prints with their own bodily fluids to chemically produce their own image. For example, a picture of my friend Will was printed with his tears as the salt content to produce his image. So I was already in this territory of representation and how the image reacts with the real. I have always liked to think about photography in relation to mirrors, which is a very standardized almost cliché notion of photography.
DD: There seems to almost be a distorted view of nature, what were you trying to conceive whilst taking these shots?
Matthew Brandt: On the subject of clichés, for these ‘shots’, I was looking for the most calendaresque view I could find. A view and composition that was the most encompassing to visually represent that lake and/or reservoir. There are certain conventions of making ‘good’ photographs that I was interested in as well, like for instance the ‘rule of thirds’. Although I knew in the back of my mind that these images were to later be degraded, I still sought out the ‘best’ shot I could get by hiking to tops of hills, going into strangers’ balconies, waiting for the sun etc. And to me, I enjoy the perversity in subverting all this photographic labor by later degrading it with the lake water.
DD: Would you say this is an attempt to create your own unique version of a permanent landscape?
Matthew Brandt: I see what the question implies, and it is very interesting to think about. But I don’t feel comfortable in claiming any authorship to a ‘unique version of a permanent landscape’… I suppose I just connected the dots. It IS an attempt, an attempt to represent this lake or reservoir. And I would say perhaps it might be more about an unstable landscape. An important footnote to this project is that it tries to parallel two ideas of degradation, the lowering waterlines of these lakes and reservoirs and the upcoming obsolescence of the c-print. The unique tricolor qualities of the c-print allow these pictures to be so colorful and vibrant. It is a ridiculously amazing technological process that is now becoming outdated by the more efficient inkjet print.
DD: You studied first in New York, then in L.A and now currently live in L.A; How did you develop as a person from your time spent in these places and what influence did this background have on your work?
Matthew Brandt: When living in New York, I thought about my work more conceptually, this inevitably happens with tighter real estate. I was making much smaller works, and was researching a lot more. Upon moving to LA (where I am originally from), I have more space to experiment and inevitably have more room to fail.
DD: Why do you think experimentation is important in photography ?
Matthew Brandt: Because it is always easy to settle on an outcome… but only through experimentation can you arrive at something new.
DD: You've been involved in plenty of group exhibitions and you've also curated too. What do you plan on doing next?
Matthew Brandt: Currently I am working on a show that will open this fall at M+B gallery in Los Angeles. It will be titled: ‘two boats passing’. It presents two bodies of work that I have made, one from America and one from China. And there will also be a show for the spring of 2012 at Yossi Milo Gallery in NYC.