Matt Kay (b. 1985, raised in Nottingham Road, Natal Midlands)
Currently living in Durban
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
I’m not sure I have a favourite subject, but I know what I’m looking for when I see it. It’s almost panic I feel when I see something to shoot – I’m scared I’m going to cock it up.
Describe your photographic style.
My style shifts depending on the project, I think that’s important. Photographers can be obsessed with creating their “own style” and I think often that comes across as forced. Also, the obsession with look or style can compromise the photograph. Everyone has a camera these days, but I think good photography comes with specific intentions not just a collection of cool pics. Photography is supposed to be difficult – it’s the easiest art form to get into, but the hardest to have a unique voice. Ironically, I think the secret to finding your own style is to stop trying to be different.
Photography is a lot about the journey. How has it influenced your personal life and the way in which you view the world (around you)?
I was obsessive once I started shooting, I read everything and photographed everything I could find. As I have progressed as a photographer, I’ve found that I’ve become less concerned with what people around me are photographing, and any approval in the photography circles. I’m more concerned with understanding what I’m doing with my photographs.
Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a shot, and your approach to a new body of work?
I don’t really start with a specific idea for a body of work, its more a case of feeding off a previous image. If I take an image I’m happy with, then I start looking for images that can sit beside it – and in that way a body of work grows. It’s only really in the editing process that I start to understand what I was doing.
I have loads of work that I’ve done that I’m sitting on still trying to figure out what it is. I know I’ve done something but it can take years before I’m happy to say “yes, that’s finished, and I’m at peace with what it is”.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
Photography is pretty much what I do.
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
35 mm: Rollei 35, Nikon F, Canon FTB (35 mm or 50mm lenses)
Medium format: Pentax 6×7, Hasselblad and a Mamiya twin reflex.
Film: Ilford HP5, black and white. Colour; mostly Portra (if I can get hold of it), but anything will do.
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and enthusiastic about your work?
I definitely fall in and out of love with photography. I have periods of manic work and then sometimes months where I hate my camera and nothing seems worth photographing. What helps me is to take a break from shooting anything and do something else completely. I surf and study.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or
things that generally inspire your image-making process.
I have always had a soft spot for 1950s street photography, but I look at loads of photographers so these are really just a few off the top of my head –
Larry Clark ,David Goldblatt ,Thabiso Sekgala, Koudelka, Larry Fink, Chris Blue, Diane Arbus Araki, Garry Winogrand, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Martin Parr, and my friend Michelle Loukidis who really taught me to love photography.
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
I surf and I read the news obsessively.
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
Start on black and white, learn the sunny 16th rule, process film yourself and remember that a shit photograph is a shit photograph. Film doesn’t make it special.
…and read the writing next to pictures.
What lies on the horizon (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels etc)? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
I’m hoping to start a new body of work in June, and I’m part of a group show in Tunisia with a few other African photographers which is pretty rad.
All photos by Matt Kay.
DEAD TOWN™ | Film-only Photographic Showcase ©2017.