Growing up in North Wales, Matt Henry is an established Brighton based photographer who’s work has achieved success in various galleries throughout Europe, Asia and North America. And rightly so; when I was first introduced to his work through a friend, I recall being struck with how much narrative he manages to encapsulate in a single image. A graduate in BA Politics from The University of Nottingham and an MA in Photography at The University of Brighton, Matt’s work insightfully reflects and combines topics that captured his imagination and continue to do so. Mid-century America remains the dominant theme in Matt’s pieces, as the artist proclaims himself what keeps him engaged with the era comes from as much as his own intuition as his research. Describing his own work as playing with ‘fragments of American photography, cinema and literature to explore underlying ideological concerns’, Matt’s composition and use of colour entertain your eyes with intended detail that only excites you more the longer you gaze at each piece.
Matt’s series The Trip wonderfully showcases the photographers ability to invoke narrative and a developed storyline through consecutive static images. The story follows couples Hank and Betty, and Stacey and Troy, as they check into a roadside desert motel-come-diner, unaware that the owner ‘Acid’ James is hell-bent on testing his latest psychedelic concoctions on his unsuspecting guests. Fortunately for both couples, James’s long-time hippie friends Arlo and Alice are on hand to help guide these simple Southern folk through their first hallucinatory experience. As social and generational barriers melt in the presence of this supercharged LSD cocktail, the guests finally get the mind-altering taste of the sixties that had otherwise passed them by.
This ambitious project was four months in pre-production, and was shot over two days at a standing movie set in the Californian desert, an ideal backdrop for characterising a sixties Americana fantasy. Each scene was storyboarded using pre-shoot location photography and the actors provided with character back stories and shot-by-shot direction. Not having the budget film-makers have at their disposal, Matt organised the whole thing from the UK – from costume to casting, the project was arranged entirely by himself.
Matt’s work crystallises how photographic image can incorporate the same level of narrative (at times even more advance) as the moving image. A still allows for elaboration on composition, colour, shape, and form in a way that cannot be achieved with 24 frames per second. This is certainly accomplished throughout The Trip; luring you into a colourful seduction, Matt’s images give you the opportunity to appreciate artistic detail that may not otherwise be attained in a moving image. Matt describes this as ‘involving’ the viewer in the story; the ambiguities of the still igniting the imagination, leaving the viewer to construct their own personal narrative. Interpretation at its best.
I caught up with Matt to get a further insight into his work:
You seem to be a very busy man, can you give us a little insight to any projects you may have in the pipeline at the moment?
Yes! I’m working on a black comedy series about a gang of killer GoGo girls from the 1960s who kidnap and murder advertising executives. I’ve shot the bulk of it, and have a couple of mise en scenes and some still lifes to shoot to finish. It will be the second part of a three part book centered on kick-ass ladies. The first I shot in Palm Springs, California (Twin Palms). The third I’ll be shooting over the Summer, destination to be confirmed. It will be my second book and think I’m more excited about this one than the first.
We can’t wait to see it! Can you suggest to our readers any artists that have inspired you throughout your work?
My focus is America in the 1960s so I tend to relish the photographers from this period, as much for the objects and subjects they captured as for their superb talent. So Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Bill Owens, Jacob Holdt, Danny Lyons, to name but a few.
Any artists you think we should keep our eyes open for at the moment?
I’m not very good at keeping track of trends in general really, so know little about my peers in the photographic world. Most of my research tends to come from watching film and television; both period and contemporary. I’m wading through the original 1950s/60s version of the Twilight Zone at the moment on US Netflix, and it’s just incredible. Drawing a lot of inspiration here. Very excited about the imminent release of Twin Peaks too.