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Filmmaker Matt Lambert on beauty, sweat and success

To celebrate director Matt Lambert's film His Sweat hitting 15 million views on Nowness, we asked him a couple of questions

This week is #DefineBeauty week on Nowness, a special week of programming exploring the politics and provocations of attraction. As part of the programme, Dazed Beauty and Nowness are teaming up to release some new editorial collaborations, like artist Frederik Heyman's Define Beauty: Virtual Embalming and director Rhea Dillon's Define Beauty: Process. Also this week, we're celebrating the fact that Matt Lambert's Define Beauty film His Sweat hit 15 million views on the Nowness YouTube.

Matt Lambert's style is unmistakable; soft flesh, soft light, soft focus. His subject matter is often the human body, pictured at times with almost uncomfortable intimacy. By reshifting the male gaze onto men, in both his film and photo work, he asks us to rethink our assumptions about who is the viewer – an inherently queer proposition. 

Over his ten-year career, Lambert has shot editorials for GQ, Dazed and Vogue, carved out a niche making music videos for primarily LGBT musicians, including Patrick Wolk, Mykki Blanco and Years & Years, and worked with brands such as Rick Owens, Charles Jeffrey and YSL. His Nowness film His Sweat, a sexy NSFW ode to perspiration, just hit 15 million views on YouTube, and he's pretty surprised about it.  

Watch the film below, and read our interview with Matt about beauty, sweat and success.

What's the first memory you have of finding someone beautiful? 
It was probably in summer camp in LA in the 90s. There was a counsellor who rode a motorcycle and looked like River Phoenix.

When you decided to become a filmmaker, how did you find your style and subject matter?
I started with fine art and that lead to animation. Filmmaking was the next step. My subject matter was a way for me to explore and understand things about myself that I wanted to deconstruct — things that terrified me, turned me on, confused me, etc. Now it more often becomes a way to create a dialogue within my community.

Your work refocusses the gaze from women to men, which is so refreshing... do you think of your work as political?
I work with women more and more. I made my first homoerotic all female film earlier this year called ‘RELEASE ME’. I’m a very politically-minded person and I do see my work as being political because it’s an unapologetic and celebratory representation of people who are often politically marginalised. Censorship is also a loud subtext in lots of my work.

Tell me about the idea for His Sweat. 
Raven Smith was commissioning this series at the time and was really excited about seeing what I’d do with the theme. For me, it was important to make something that was erotic, but humanising at the same time. It’s so often that queer sexuality is reduced to a point of removing the personal stories that lead people toward certain tastes. Fetish becomes fashion or Tumblr-consciousness, leaving people unaware of the root of desire. 

The ambition to make something beautiful that bordered on the grotesque, something that was both educational and intimate and overall allowed people to potentially see SWEAT in a way they hadn’t before. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
Quite a lot, but the highlights are being in development on my first feature film, working with Mykki Blanco on his new album campaign and producing an album with a young new artist in Berlin (more soon on that...)

What will you be doing and where will you be in 20 years time? 
No idea. Hopefully still making things that matter to people and work that allows people to navigate their lives with more love and openness. 

How does it feel to get 15 million views? 
I'm a bit shocked to be honest. I never assumed there was such an audience for the esoteric homoerotic art video…