Matthew Brandt, le jeu des fluides

Pour sa série 'Lakes and réservoirs', Matthew Brandt photographie des lacs et des réservoirs situés sur le territoire américain, et plonge ensuite ses tirages dans l'eau récoltée dans le lac ou réservoir photographié. L'opération qui peut durer des semaines ou des mois donne naissance à des objets étranges, qui effacent la limite entre la photographie et le sujet photographié. En 2012, son travail a fait l'objet d'une grande exposition à la Yossi Milo Gallery à New York. La même année, il a été nommé comme l'un des jeunes talents les plus prometteurs par le New York Times. (Interview en anglais.)

Sylvan Lake © Matthiew Brandt

Last year, Matthiew Brandt won international acclaim for his work 'Lakes and reservoirs' in which color photographs are soaked in the specific lake or reservoir that they depict. The artist who now lives in Los Angeles, California, studied art at the Cooper Union School of Art, New York, and then obtained a Master of Fine Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2008. In 2012, Forbes put him on the 'Top 30 under 30 in art & design' list. He speaks with about experimental photography, and about the influence that painting has had on his work. : How did you come to embark on this artistic journey ?

I grew up into photography, as my father is an advertising photographer. I have been loading film backs and adjusting strobe lights since I was about nine years old. Though at the time, working on photography with my dad in the studio was viewed more like household chores. I didn’t actually take photography seriously as an art form until after leaving home for college, when I began embracing it more and more. : Using natural elements such as lake water, body fluids, food condiments, etc has become your signature. Where does your fascination with the relationship between photography and the real world come from ?

I'm not sure exactly… but ideas around the uncanny have always interested me in terms of its feeling of de-familiarizing something that is already familiar. And to me these everyday associated materials that are so close to us always have an opportunity to become strangers again. This material interest in combination with my fascination in historical photographic processes led me to how I am working today.

Frosting © Matthiew Brandt

Yuba Lake © Matthiew Brandt

Lake Casitas © Matthiew Brandt

Lake Casitas © Matthiew Brandt

Indian Tom Lake © Matthiew Brandt

Lost Lake © Matthiew Brandt

Kool Aid © Matthiew Brandt : Your Waters and Reservoires series was made by soaking color photographs in the specific lake or reservoir water that they represent. How did this project start and how exactly did you do this ?

In ‘Lakes and Reservoirs’, a color photograph is made of a Lake or Reservoir. This print is then soaked in the lake or reservoir water that I have collected. After a period of time, the water breaks down the color photograph. I was fascinated by color photography, particularly the chromeogenic (C-print) process. It was amazing to me to learn about the genius that is inherent in this technology. Also at the time I was making salted paper prints where I was collecting fluids from a subject and using his/her fluid to chemically develop their own image. For instance I printed a picture of my friend Will and used his tears as the ‘salt’ component in the salted paper printing process for his portrait.

This interest in a subject’s collaborative involvement of their image production, and fascination with color photography led me to 'Lakes and Reservoirs'. The main difference is that the subject’s fluid degrades its own image rather than helps photographically clarify it. : Some of the photographs almost feel like paintings. Would you say that this form of art has an important influence on your work ?

Yes, definitely. I mentioned before that I didn’t take photography seriously when I was younger. At the time I was mainly painting and drawing. I always had my sketchbook with me drawing everything around me and a canvas at home propped up next to my bed in progress. This is something that I still haven’t let go of completely. When I began seriously using photography I gave away my paint set to a friend. This is something that was perhaps necessary, but I still wish that I hadn’t done that. : As an experimental photographer, what other forms of artistic expressions are you interested in developing ? 

Something that is always important is the installation of the works. So understanding space is very important to pull this off. As I do more installations, the more I want to push these ‘installation’ concepts.

Bees © Matthiew Brandt

Bees © Matthiew Brandt

Bees © Matthiew Brandt : Your Honeybees series depicts the shattered bodies of bees. What is the message that you were trying to convey ?

It isn’t so much a specific message that I want to convey, but rather a feeling. The same feeling that I felt when I walked upon hundreds of scattered bees along the Santa Monica beach. : Are large format prints an important tool in conveying this feeling ?

Yes and no. It really depends on the subject at hand. I love to relish in the capabilities of photographic crispness. But sometimes the crispness becomes too much of a subject in and of itself, and it is necessary to muddle things up a bit.

Interview by Roxana Traista


Big Bear Lake © Matthiew Brandt

Bubble Gum © Matthiew Brandt

Debra Lake © Matthiew Brandt