Matthew Hart aka Matt Hart is a Street photographer from Liverpool, England. He’s one of the very talented members of the f/50 Collective sharing their inspiring projects and stories with the world. We’ve already showcased works of its members John Meehan and Steve Coleman with their detailed interviews. Matthew’s photography is full of fun and frolic elements found on Streets and with an occasional discreet, silent and pensive shot coming by. Working primarily with Fuji X system cameras, Matthew also shoots events and teaches photography in training courses and workshops. In the interview below, Matthew tells us in great detail about his life, likings, preferences, and work:
I was born in Hammersmith in London, England UK. I was born Dyslexic and I struggled at school with the more academic subjects but did very well in the Arts and Science. I found being Dyslexic more of a gift than a disability. My Dyslexia was one of the more rare forms so there was no hope for me to improve my academic skills. After I found out Einstein was Dyslexic and also quite a few photographers at the time there was no holding me back. I had a dream of one day becoming a photographer. I left School with average grades and started out shooting events and weddings with 35mm film. This was short lived due to starting a family so the photography was hit and miss over the years. I am now a professional photographer shooting events and Street photography, as well as teaching photographers on training courses and workshops in Street photography.
I moved to the North West of England about 9 years ago to be with my girlfriend Jane, at first it was quite hard to adjust but now I find that Liverpool inspires me to take more and more images. The North West is also in a great position in the UK for me to travel up and down the country to teach courses and talk at events.
Tell us when you started photography and how many photos you take in a week/month:
I have been taking pictures for as long as I can remember starting off with very basic film cameras at about 8 years old. I still shoot film and shoot about a roll of 36 exposure film a week. If I am shooting an event, I will shoot about 1000 to 1500 images a day at the event, but I am not a machine gun shooter. When I shoot Street I might shoot about 10 to 50 images in a day.
I have always been a people watcher, it’s in my nature to want to know what is going on out there on the Street and I feel at home out in the Streets of our cities. I think Street is very important even to this day of digital. There have been so many amazing Street photographers in our pasts and if it had not been for them documenting the Streets of the world we would not be able to look back at our history. What I love about Street is that you never quite know what you are going to get. Things happen all the time in fractions of a second that will never happen again and only the person who is there that day with a camera can get that shot. No one can recreate or set up some of the amazing Street moments and that makes Street photography unique. I think Street was more personal up to a few years ago, but it’s now found its way in to my work in the form of courses and workshops. I used to say I would never be able to teach, but it’s surprising what you can do when you put your mind to it.
I still shoot landscapes in my spare time for more personal work, I shoot in RAW so my landscapes can be black and white or colour if required but I prefer black and white. In 2013 I did a Year of Black and White Project and decided when I finished I would always shoot black and white. I do now and then show a few of my images on social media in colour just for fun, but not very often.
I used to shoot for stock when I went out I would come home and submit the images, but stock is not as lucrative as it used to be so now I just shoot for myself or clients and send a percentage to stock agencies.
Tell us about your camera, lenses, your preferred settings and editing preferences:
I use the Fujifilm X Series Cameras and lenses, I am proud to say I was asked to be a Fujifilm Official X Photographer and have been so for a while now. I use the X-T1 for my event work and the XPro1 for my Street work and will be adding the X100T for Street very soon. I use the amazing 35mm f/1.4 Fuji lens on my XPro1 for Street most of the time and if I want to go wider I go with the 18mm. I use all the fast lenses in the Fuji range on my X-T1 and will be adding the 90mm f/2 to my collection very soon and hope to use it in my Street work next year.
I don’t have any favourite settings I go with the flow for the given situation but for the Street photography I shoot auto ISO setting the minimum speed to 125/sec and max ISO to 6400 and shoot on aperture priority and wide open most of the time.
I use the latest version of Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro, I like to keep the integrity of the original image so my editing is minimal. I do have Photoshop with Lightroom as part of CC but only use Photoshop for specific client work.
I am a candid Street photographer; I am always on the lookout for that candid moment or the reaction if they spot you. If they do spot me I try and get the reaction shot but just before they smile! Not always that easy. I try to promote unobtrusive Street photography and always have a smile on hand when needed. I have never been confronted on the Street and I attribute this to my style. I always try to explain to the students on my courses that people are getting fed up with pushy Street photographers so they must be respectful or there will be a public outrage and Street photography might get banned. I can’t see it ever happening in the UK but by promoting a polite, candid style I hope to do my part. I have some very good camera techniques for acquiring images in difficult situations, shooting from the hip or even using the wifi iPhone app if I have to.
I do and it’s not a Street shot! The photo (see below) means a lot to me and Jane. It was taken in Scotland and is of Loch Shiel and Glenn Finnan. Jane and I paddled a canoe about 7 miles down Loch Shiel to a little Island. We set camp for the night and as the sun went down I proposed to Jane, she accepted and this image was for us to remember that day.
I am a Formatt Hitech featured Artist and an Official Fujifilm X Photographer and in both cases I was asked by the companies and was very proud to say yes. I have been asked to speak at lots of events and shows all over the UK and have a book out called A Year of Black and White. I will be talking at The Photography Show at NEC Birmingham this year on the Street stage on the Saturday and Sunday.
Do you focus more on theoretical (creative) aspects or on applied (technical) ones in your photography workshops? Most aspiring photographers are usually in a hurry and don’t care to learn from masters. What would be your key advice to them?
I teach the creative theoretical side of Street incorporating camera technique in to the lessons as much as I can, I am not a very technical shooter so prefer not to bog my students down with technical info. I spend about an hour before we go out on the Street going through various aspects of Street then the rest of the day is out there where the action happens.
We all have busy lives and there are lots of courses in photography out there these days, but some of the best photographers in the world started of being taken under the wing of one of the masters. I would say find a photographer find inspiring and that you admire and swallow your pride and ego and take a course with them. You would be surprised what you can pick up and learn in a day. Photographic equipment is very expensive in comparison to a day’s course with a top photographer.
Contemporary photography can be repetitive, true. I find it interesting and just as it starts to annoy me I then start to find it amusing, but we can all learn from each other’s styles. I am a little lost in Street at the moment and have project for 2015 to help me decide what direction I want to take in Street. The project will be completely different to what I am trying to achieve but this will force me to spend more time on the Street looking at my surroundings. I am so busy I hardly have time to look around me anymore at who is doing what on the Streets. I know I am getting talked about but don’t have a clue where I sit as a Street photographer. My style is for ever changing and evolving and I assess it through my projects and talking to trusted friends, I am not one for awards or competitions as I don’t want to box myself in to how a set of judges feel about my work. I want my work to evolve by being out on the Street and feeling the changes in the environment I shoot in.
I have never been that ambitious as a small boy I just wanted to be a photographer and I am one. I don’t want to be rich and famous I just want to be able to blend in on the Streets and take as many photographers as I can, creating new content out on the Streets and outdoors is what drives me forward and excites me. My inspiration comes from the people on the Streets and every one with a camera that shot people in the Streets in the past. Not just the greats but everyone with a camera played their part in documenting our great cities and people.
I do have a favourite Street photographer at the moment and she is not one of the greats yet, but I love her images and evolving style her name is Ami Strachan and she is an Edinburgh Street photographer.
Finally, tell us how you stay motivated when shooting everyday can really become a very dull and routine job:
I keep myself motivated though my year long projects, every year I start a new project on the 1st of January and finish it on the 31st of December. My projects challenge me some times to distraction. My 2015 project is Available Light Street, sounds simple but it’s all about movement and there will be a lot of long exposures and filters used to create blur. I have not seen too many long exposure Street shots; LE is used more for Landscape and Architecture so I thought I would try shooting people. It won’t be easy and setting up and having a tripod is going to be challenging but that’s what my projects are all about. They take me out of my comfort zone and keep me motivated, even if they do drive me mad at times.