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Matt Lambert Keim
Photography by Matt Lambert

Matt Lambert’s modern lovers

The Dazed contributor celebrates V-Day with a special look inside his first book of 21st century intimacy

Longtime Dazed contributor, photographer Matt Lambert is serving up the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift with an exclusive preview of his first-ever book. Titled Keim (meaning ‘seed’ or ‘germ’ in German) the book – published by Pogo Books – is an archive of images shot between 2011-2014, with Dazed founder Jefferson Hack providing the tome’s foreword. Lambert’s signature style of Gen Y’s nihilist interpretation of intimacy is rife throughout its pages – reminiscent of his take on Berlin’s youth in short film Heile Gänsje, as well as his no-holds-barred three-part portrait series of 21st century sex. 

For his debut book, the US-born, Berlin-based photographer doesn’t hold back. Lambert’s gang are a deliberately anonymous cast of turned on skinny boys: mid-ejaculation, mid-kiss or simply midday in bed. “This camboy view is analogous to Lambert’s generational twist on the documentation of adolescent sexual behaviour,” explains Hack. “It’s sex as a way to kill the boredom, the pain, the angst, the good times and the bad. It’s the normalisation of sex; normcore as opposed to hardcore.” Below, we catch up with Lambert to talk about intimacy in the digital age and why sex is so much better with social media.

Can you tell us a bit about your first book Keim?

Matt Lambert: Keim (German for "Seed" or "Germ) is an archive of photos shot between 2011-2014 – the majority of which from Berlin and also when I first started really taking pictures. It's when I moved to Berlin in 2011 and fell love that I started making my life a much more central theme in my work. Although I work primarily as a filmmaker, it's the photography that has inspired the intimacy and honesty that I try to emulate in my films. 

Your characters are nameless and without an obvious identity, what's the decision behind that and how does it play into your aesthetic?

Matt Lambert: I suppose there's a bit of a dystopian future fantasy world that I'm trying to promote where ambiguity can be a very provocative device. Coming from a filmmaking background as well, most these photos feel like stolen moments rather than iconic portraiture. 

What made you want to cross over from projects, short films and generally shorter series of images to creating something of a tome?

Matt Lambert: I'm working on this almost year long TV project right now, and have been shooting on the road and away from Berlin for quite a while. I wanted to put a cap on my first Berlin moment so I can start fresh when I return. There were also so many loose and unreleased images that needed a home. Books are sexy and lend themselves so well to an intimate relationship with the content.

What do your pictures tell us about the changing and unchanging story of intimacy?

Matt Lambert: A moment is still always a moment. With iPhones and clothes put aside, intimacy is still intimacy. What happens before and after will be the ever-changing variable.

“A moment is still always a moment. With iPhones and clothes put aside, intimacy is still intimacy. What happens before and after will be the ever-changing variable” – Matt Lambert

What impact do you think you living in Berlin, as an American, has on you?

Matt Lambert: I would've never made the work I am had I stayed in America. I spent all my time living in LA and NYC working in commercials. Commercial success is the defining focus of so many young artists in LA and NYC. They are nothing until a brand co-signs.

It's hard to hold onto your integrity if you're chasing this model. It censors your heart. Every time I return I'm reminded of how conservative and puritanical it is – especially when it comes to sexuality. It's also allowed me to be a polymath and define my own process. The US creative world tend to follow predetermined paths, whereas Berlin is pretty wide-open. It's easy to get lost in that fray, but allows for an intuitive flow that can take you to unexpected place.

How different are those two worlds in terms of the subjects you shoot and topics you broach? Berlin to America, America to Berlin...

Matt Lambert: I feel more connected to London as my second city rather than Berlin. I only lived there for three years, but I really understood "taste" in a way I hadn't living in the US. I've also shot very little in the US since I started making this kind of work. Some of most inspiring people I know are artists and musicians living in NYC and LA, but they represent such a niché in forward consciousness. 

Do you agree with Jefferson's observations that the boys in your photos epitomise boredom and 'normcore'? Do you feel it's something new in our and the next generation's mindsets?

Matt Lambert: I don’t necessarily agree with Jefferson on this one, but also haven’t given it as much thought in relation to anthropological context. I feel like there's a soft and internalised confidence to most of the people I shoot. I don’t think they’re bored, it’s just that some of them haven’t yet developed the ways of externalising what already exists upstairs and what’s makes up their virtual selves. 

How has love changed in recent times?

Matt Lambert: Digital spaces have changed the dynamics of love. A lot of my upcoming film work weaves virtual identities and and interactions as underlying subtexts. Rather than proposing a nihilistic view of social media v sexuality, I tend to focus on its triumphant qualities. Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Grindr, Tinder, Facebook, etc. become spaces for people to explore and educate themselves as their own pace.

They allow for communities to build and places to gives voices to the voiceless. They allow for kids to define themselves within the safety of their own homes before taking it to the streets. They allow for more dynamic relationships and an acceleration of communication when it comes to sexuality. They can kill relationships as well, but I think love and sex is much better off with social media. 

Finally – what will you be doing on Valentine's Day?

Matt Lambert: I’ll be in Mexico City with my husband casting for the next episode of our TV project, but definitely making time for a bit of romance!

Keim (designed by Studio Yukiko) will be available from April – published by Pogo BooksFor pre-order information, click here. The first 25 orders will receive an original and unseen polaroid