Matt Politano is a good friend of mine, but he is also a very talented photographer and graphic designer. Born and raised in Victoria, Matt always took a liking to the arts and studied art and art history at UVic, graduating with a degree in Art Education. But Matt found himself drawn towards digital media and developed a passion for fine art photography and graphic design and now has two businesses: His namesake photography studio and Oculus Design + Marketing.
What I love about Matt’s image work is that he really blends fantasy and reality seamlessly, and has a fascinating process involving modern technology (such as Photoshop, digital cameras, flatbed scanners etc) and tried and true printing techniques for magnificently layered pieces. As a graphic designer, Matt is able to consistently produce work with and for his clients with a clean and understated aesthetic. I also appreciate that he is a proud member of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, and is terrific at spreading the word on why it is so beneficial to work with a certified designer.
Another reason why I can connect so well with Matt? We are both avid bloggers! Matt does a great job of sharing ideas and work on his blog – including a daily dose of his photography, check it out for a little eye candy!
Matt’s got a new exhibition on the horizon, and I cannot wait to share his work and design insights with my readers – please read on to get in on the conversation…
Iván Meade – What was the first photograph you ever took, do you still remember the subject? Do you still have it?
Matt Politano – I think the first photo I took was probably a Polaroid at some family get-together. I remember being fascinated by Polaroids; watching the image slowly resolve before my eyes. I received my first SLR camera as a high school graduation gift (I still use some of the negatives shot with that camera in my work today) and shot almost exclusively in B&W for a number of years. My first deliberate art photo was actually a digital composite created from multiple scanned images – digital cameras still being exotic items at the time.
Iván Meade – When did you first get started in photography?
Matt Politano – It really started with that first SLR camera; I took a photo course in University and fell in love with the immediacy of the medium. I would spend long hours in the darkroom, often staying into the early morning hours – until the headaches from exposure to the chemicals just became too much. I experimented with anything I was introduced to: solarization, photograms, colour filters. Eventually, I transitioned to digital – lured by the increased speed with which I could experiment.
Iván – What is it about photography that interests you as a graphic designer/artist?
Matt Politano – I love the duality of photography: on one hand, because we can ‘capture’ what’s in front of the lens, we have always trusted photography as a documentary tool – but, right from day one, photographs have been manipulated to match their creators’ vision. With the tools at our disposal today it’s easier than ever to fabricate reality and so there’s a constant tension between our trusting eyes and our sceptical brains – it’s interesting to explore and even exploit this tension.
I also enjoy the immediacy that photography offers, allowing you to not only be a part of the scene, experiencing it, but also capture fragments of it and manipulate the experience – and the memory of it – at the same time.
Matt Politano – I actually came to photography fairly late, starting out in more traditional media like painting and ceramics. Even now I don’t work exclusively in photography; I integrate other disciplines/media where it creates the desired effect. And there’s still something inherently satisfying about getting your hands dirty; a tactility that’s missing in photography – especially digital.
Iván Meade – What has influenced you and your sense of style?
Matt Politano – I’ve always been drawn to the Surrealists and the Pop Art movement, perhaps because I have a well-developed appreciation for the absurd. I also love to travel and explore architecture and spaces/places where humans have imposed some kind of order on nature. A lot of my work is devoid of human presence, and yet focuses on spaces created specifically for their use. I think this is perhaps because I feel that these rational spaces are utilitarian in use but, by standing quietly, alone, one can truly appreciate their beauty – so many of my images place the viewer in that position.
Iván Meade – Who or what would be your dream subject?
Matt Politano – I have too many, I think, but an area I’d love to experiment with is fashion photography. One of my biggest influences is Tim Walker, who creates incredible images for Vogue – he has a delightful vision that could be described as ‘Terry Gilliam shoots fashion’. His models are often players in absurd dramas and the images are more about concept than the models or even the clothes. There’s so much room for whimsical and surreal storytelling.
Iván Meade – What is your favourite photograph?
Matt Politano – My absolute favourite photo is a Tim Walker image: Lily and Spiral Staircase – such a simple, but stunningly beautiful image. A recent favourite is Hideaway by Rosie Hardy, a young photographer based in the UK. I also recently saw a show of work by Ellen Kooi that simply blew me away; I could have happily bought half of the pieces.
Iván Meade – How do you find the transition from graphics to photography?
Matt Politano – In a word: difficult. The imagery I select, direct or shoot for communication and experience design is all carefully directed at communicating a specific concept or message and is usually only one supporting element that must work with text and other elements. Switching gears to personal work often requires a lot of effort, because I’m no longer focusing on someone else’s needs, but rather on my own vision or feelings. So while I’m using almost all of the same tools, the intent behind it is very different.
I do find, too, that there are aspects of my personal work – a certain aesthetic– that sneak into my design work, as well as compositional and other design elements that filter through and influence my personal work.
Iván Meade – Do you use your photography in your graphic design projects?
Matt Politano – Absolutely. I don’t shoot much commercial work, preferring instead to art direct and work with some excellent photographers in town (is an added bonus, I learn from their techniques and practices) but I do occasionally shoot for clients and also shoot elements like backgrounds or textures as needed for client projects. Stock photography is just so predictable and repetitive that I often prefer to simply shoot something myself. It’s also a great way to keep learning and keep from getting stuck, creatively.
Iván Meade – You will be presenting on April 5th at Dales Gallery a new exhibition “The Floating World” – What can you tell us about this exhibit?
Matt Politano – The show features several different series I’ve been working on recently, including some large double-exposures, landscapes and a series of images that pays homage to Japanese woodblock prints, using a combination of photographs and appropriated imagery. The prints are a mix of paper-based and transmounted, almost all limited edition and all signed. The pieces range in size from 36″ wide down to some 10″x10″ squares of market images, ideal for displaying in a kitchen and priced to make attractive gifts.
Dales Gallery is an excellent space for displaying these pieces – I’m really excited to see everything up on the walls and I hope your readers will come to the opening on Thursday, April 12 from 7-9. The show runs until May 1 so if you can’t make it to the opening, the gallery is open Monday-Friday 10 am – 5 pm and Saturday 11 am – 4 pm. You can find the event on Facebook.
You can view my previous work, as well as some of the pieces in this show at Matt Politano. If you’d like to stay in the loop on my shows and new work, you can subscribe to my very occasional email newsletter – as an added incentive, until the end of the show’s run, I’m entering everyone who signs up for my mailing list in a draw for a signed copy of my upcoming photo book.