Interview with Matt Lambert

Photos by Matt Lambert

Can you tell us something about yourself?
I’m Matt. I’m a filmmaker and photographer. I’m starting to realize I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m pretty into that. 

How would you describe your photography?
Narrative, Action-based, Youth-focussed, Hyper-real, Raw, Intimate and most say dark (I disagree)

What do you think has been the most significant transformation in your work?
The most significant transformation has actually happened this year after finally settling into my own in Berlin. This city has slowed me down, forced me to pull from my gut and be more honest with myself. In turn, I’ve been more productive than ever. I live in a bubble compared to my lives in LA, NYC and London, and have become much less concerned about what other people are doing outside of a close group of peers. 

What is main inspiration for your work? References? Influence? 
Filmmaking is my primary focus, so a lot of my work begins with more cinematic and narrative references — Fritz Lang, Larry Clark, Guy Maddin, Kenneth Anger, Michael Haneke, Gaspar Noé and Greg Araki, Weegie, Boogie, Crewdson, Newton, Niall O’Brien, Gio Black Peter, Slava Mogutin, AG Rojas, Focus Creeps, Radical Friend, David Wilson, Bruce LaBruce, Ross McDonnell, Alex Turvey, Alex Binder, etc.

Oh yea.. and early 80s LA Hardcore punk, LA gang culture and porn…

Do you work spontaneously or do you plan ahead? 
I used to plan ahead a lot since film requires you to do so and before film I was doing animation which required even more architecture. However, I’m trusting my intuition more now and building shoots around who I’m shooting as we go along more and more often.  Working with Harry Malt and Chris Bianchi and the rest of Bare Bones on collaborative installations taught be a lot about spontaneity. 

What was it like to grow up in US? What inspired you to move to Berlin?

I grew up in LA, then lived in London for a few years and then NYC for a few more before ending up in Berlin. 

My teen years in LA were filled with a lot of conflict, aggression and confusion. There was a lot of violence around me from a young age. I was punk and would hang out with gangbangers, skin heads and a lot of other morally challenged groups. 

It’s from these times that I still pull a lot of my inspiration. I try to work through a lot of these issues and begin to understand the fundamental core of our primal nature. 

Berlin has been a place for me to grow and escape reality to a certain extent. Though my commercial career is virtually on hold, I’m building the first body of work that I actually feel good about in a long time. I’m also happier than I’ve ever been, though my work may not always reflect that.

What kind of relationship do you have with your subject when you shoot?
It’s never really about the shoot, but what happens in between the shots. It’s about connecting with people and making them feel as safe and comfortable as possible. It’s about a mutual respect and collaboration. It can become almost maternal at times. I have to like them as a person. 

What advise would you give to young starting artists how to get into the industry? How did you get there? 
Find what excites you. Dig deep and be honest with yourself. If the work you’re making isn’t personal, it’ll show, fall flat and you’ll get bored quickly. 

I’ve been making film and video work for about 10 years. The photo thing is relatively new. I’ve always been shooting as a supplement to my films – to test and work through ideas or study people – but it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been taking it as serious as my directing career. 

Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
I can’t really say, since I’ve never been trained in photography. German Expressionism is one of the only schools I followed when first developing my experimental film work. Though I’ve broken from that, it still subconsciously informs the way I light, frame and edit. 

What’s the photo you want to take and you never did?
The one I’m trying to take this week. I’m pretty short-sighted at the moment, so it’s all about the next shoot. I’ve started a project shooting Escorts around Berlin. I’m trying to capture an intimacy in the subtexts that exist between the moments when they are not working — or preparing to work.

What’s your photo-mission?
I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s been a therapeutic and introspective journey over the past couple years. Building real human connections with people I wouldn’t normally encounter and learning through them has been the most gratifying recently. It’s been a bit indulgent lately and I’m trying to move toward telling the stories of other’s that need to be told.

How do you find your models? Are they your friends, lovers or people you see on the street captivate your imagination? 
Casting varies for me. The majority of people I shoot are friends. Having a relationship of some kind before I shoot always gives me the best results. 

However I do sometimes street cast and shoot models or actors sometimes as while. Very often I shoot people I’ve cast as small parts in my films or conversely use people I’ve photographed in a film later on. The deeper the relationship and the more trust that exists, the better the outcome is. 

What does it mean for you to be an artist?
Aesthetics and themes aside, truth, honesty, intuition and principle have been what I’ve been focusing on most this year. Having spent the beginning of my career working commercially, I’ve been trying to unlearn everything and do the opposite of what I was trained to do. I’m capable of making art, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be an artist. The depths and risks I’ve seen from some of my peers is something I may be too much of a pussy to commit to full time. 

Most of your work are photographs of men, are you exploring a theme?
This body of work is just over a year old, though I’ve often focused on male youth and coming-of-age themes. A lot this comes from not really wanting to grow up and to constantly revisit and explore topics I didn’t have the mind or language to explore when I was younger. 

Can we be friends? 
Can I borrow a camera this week?

KVÄVA trailer from matt lambert on Vimeo.

Caspa ft. Keith Flint – WAR from matt lambert on Vimeo.

sugar from matt lambert on Vimeo.

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