The phrase “Old school” can’t do justice to New York photographer Matt Schwartz’s methodology. Lugging around an 8×10 Polaroid camera to shoot stylized surf-themed pics (that are pretty easy on the eyes) that could pass as faded stills from unused Endless Summer clips, Schwartz has eschewed the conveniences of the modern camera and smart phone camera apps for an approach that has never let him down. That he does it without commercial motivation may be exactly why he has had so much commercial success.
Matt’s story is hard not to love. When his first attempt at selling his work to an ad agency failed, he went completely DIY and hired his own models and bought his own props to realize his vision. That vision has since caught the eye of Billabong, Levis and Surfrider, to name a few. He has maintained the same process and style without conceding to more commercial demands (cue my always-running speech about personal work). It continues to pay off.
I reached out to Matt to share with you all a bit about his work and his vision.
Your work has long been lauded for its trademark style. What’s the process behind that style?
MS: I take 8×10 Polaroids, pull apart the film and rub the negatives onto watercolor paper. The process is called Polaroid transfer.
Your subjects are predominantly female. What’s the story there?
MS: They are prettier than boys. Ha. I actually shoot women for my fashion/whimsical shoots, but shoot men for most of my surfing images. There needs to be an attraction of some sort (face, hair, clothes, aura, etc.) for me to be inspired to photograph someone.
What are a few of your influences?
MS: I am influenced by the beauty of surfing, ballet, yoga and music. I love traveling around the world to surf towns and immersing myself in everything.
Are there artists whose work you pay extra attention to?
MS: I like Chaz Ray Krider (erotic photography), Leroy Grannis (surf photographer) and a bunch of random illustration (juxtapose). I pay more attention to music than photography or other art forms. I am so immersed in my own work that I need an escape through sound.
How do strike a balance between personal and commercial work?
MS: Currently all of my work produced is for the purpose of creating. Images that need to be taken. Once I fall in love with an image I end up including it in the collection of work being sold. A few companies such as Levis and Anthropologie have purchased work for their stores. I have also worked with some surf companies on commercial work. I am branching out into the commercial world more and more each year, though I am very specific as to who I work with. I have been fortunate with my work where I can say “no” to offers. It’s weird when you get to a point and you can just say no, while someone is offering a lot of money, though at the same time it would cancel out who I was if i did any job.
What makes these different from other Polaroids?
Everything, as each artist is different. I have never pressed the shutter on my camera thinking about selling my work. I shoot because I have to capture beauty. When my work started selling I was playing music in a band. All of images were and have always been taken from the heart. With music there was always pressure to try and get on a small record label or line up shows, etc. There was no goal with my pics. They were just a hobby. I guess that is why they worked.
Check out more of Matt’s work here.