Monday, 1 November 2010

Matthew Kanbergs

Matthew Kanbergs
Brooklyn, New York

You're currently exhibiting your first solo photography exhibition. How does that feel?

It's very rewarding to see high-quality, well-framed prints of my work in an exhibition. I was asked to do the show a couple of days after I came back from Europe and only had about two weeks to put it all together. Luckily, I was able to dedicate all of my time to the show and am pleased with the result. I'm looking forward to future opportunities where I will have more time to focus on the exhibition. 

The name of the exhibition is "We Were There". What's the concept behind the collection/series?

All of the photographs I chose for the exhibition reminded me of the same feeling. Each image captures this vague memory that without being put on film, would have been forgotten altogether. The photos were all shot in locations that share a similar anonymous quality, with people that are not fully revealed. When I was choosing the photographs, I felt that the images captured something that wasn't singular, there was a dialogue taking place, which is how I formed the title "We were there...".

What is it that provokes and excites you to engage in photography?

I get a lot of satisfaction from shooting photography. I enjoy always having a camera with me to capture whatever I want. Sometimes I'll grab my XA with eight pictures left on the roll and head out for a whole day knowing I can only shoot eight photos, just waiting for the right time. Since I only shoot film, I don't worry about taking multiple shots of the same thing – but I'm always shooting with different cameras and film, so I get a wide-variety of photos on each roll, some things I probably would have forgotten about. It's a very convenient medium, but one where I feel that dedication really helps you to develop as an artist. 

In your joint project "Propeller Brooklyn" you work together with Natalie Okupniak, who, on her website, defines herself as a writer in the first place. What would you say is most rewarding in a cooperative project between photography, traditional art and writing such as yours? 

It's nice to not have such a narrow focus all of the time. Propeller Brooklyn is working to be a platform of sorts. It started out just being about fiction and has since transformed into something else completely. I'm dedicating basically all of my time to creating something out of Propeller, but it doesn't feel like a job to me, since Propeller can be a piece of flash fiction, a photograph, a print, or some pickled vegetables – we haven't really set any boundaries for it. If I've got writer's block, then I shoot some photos, if I'm out of film then I can work on a print – it's just about creating something, anything really, and it's pretty fulfilling.

Is there something that you yourself enjoy especially within the process of writing?

Writing is unlike anything else. It's perhaps the single most difficult thing in my life. It's very intimate, even though I really try not to put much of myself into what I write. I've also got a problem where when I use my computer I tend to open up about ten different windows and get easily sidetracked, so I mostly write on an old Royal De Luxe typewriter. Even though it's difficult for me to focus on writing as much as I'd like to be, I'm still always writing fiction in my mind, and putting down little notes, so that when I actually bring myself to create something again, I'll at least have some material for it. The thing is, I probably enjoy a finished piece of writing more than anything else I've put time into creating, mostly because of how difficult it is to create in the first place, and then to get published.  

On "Propeller Brooklyn"s website you state that each photograph you take is "anonymous" in its time and place. What do you mean by this? And aren't there always some (hidden) clues?

Of course there are clues, I don't especially try to hide the location or the people in the photos. It's just how I enjoy shooting. I'm working on putting together a book of what I captured in Amsterdam, but a lot of what I shot isn't how you'd normally imagine the city. I didn't just shoot the canals and coffee shops, or gutters and bums either, I just took pictures of what I felt made the place for me. When I shoot I'm constantly thinking of how it fits into a series or collection, and I find myself capturing similar shapes and environments or actions – but I generally don't find myself taking pictures of monuments or other immediately recognizable places, I shoot what would otherwise be ordinary occurrences, things that just take place in my life. 

Do you think that a certain amount of idealism is necessary to be an artist, or more correctly maybe, to live the life of an artist?

I think you definitely have to be an idealist. I can't speak for other artists, but when I start to think about the reality of things, it's hard for me to really consider pursuing art seriously. But somehow I've been able to dedicate the last four months to making something out of Propeller, and haven't had to have a proper job. I just don't think about it, I don't question it, I just keep on working on my art in all forms, and I keep convincing myself that it's all going to come together somehow. 

What do you do to clear your head from everyday life, work, projects and thoughts?

I really enjoy cooking and drinking.  

You live in Brooklyn, but travel a lot. Is there any place you have visited and considered to move to?

I'd love to move to Amsterdam. It's where I see myself really living. I'm from California; I came to Brooklyn a little over a year ago before ever visiting New York. Growing up in California was amazing; I had a car and could go south to the desert or north to the mountains in just a few hours. But Amsterdam felt like the first place where I wouldn't really mind spending the rest of my life. New York can be just a bit too busy. I lived in London and loved it, but it's got a lot of the same problems that New York has. The San Francisco Bay Area is great, there's nothing like the Pacific Ocean and the west coast. It's very explorable. But Amsterdam felt livable; the quality of life there is unbeatable. 

What do you consider more important within your own photographic work: flexibility or constancy?

Definitely flexibility. I've acquired an insane amount of cameras, each one unique in some way. You have to adapt to the situation, the equipment, and external forces. I'm always trying to capture what interests me, and if I stuck to one thing then I wouldn't be happy with the outcome most of the time. When I was in Europe I shot a wedding and did it all with an Olympus XA, a Canon F1-N and a Bronica ETR-Si, with a bunch of different types of film. I shot it just like I'd shoot anything else, within limits – but I was flexible and didn't think too much about it, I just took pictures of how I thought they'd like to remember their wedding.   

Finally, which artist has inspired you most lately?

I found this amazing bookshop in Amsterdam, with a bunch of art books and whatnot in it. For ten euro I picked up a copy of "What We Want" by Francesco Jodice. It's inspiring because it doesn't feel unreachable. I know that the publishing world is all out of order and that sooner or later everything is supposedly going to be viewed on a screen, but I really appreciate the quality of paper and the act of printing something and having art be tangible. That's what I really want out of Propeller Brooklyn, I want to be able to print things that I feel should be printed. It's easy to just click through photos or skim some writing real quick on the internet, but holding a piece of art is something else entirely. I think people will start to get it again soon.

Writing photography. Take a look at his work!

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