In the twenty sixth edition of our special features celebrating our favourite south coast based Instagram users, we catch up with long time friend of Strong Island, Matt Maber (@mattmaber).
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m 45 and have lived in Southsea for over a decade now and lived it the Solent area all my life. I work in design/print and my initial years were in my dad’s ad agency back in the years when small screened black and white Macs we’re taking over from the traditional parallel drawing boards. I was the first in our studio to loose the board and go fully digital.
Can you tell me more about your photographic experience; is this something that you’ve studied or maybe a hobby that you’ve developed?
It’s definitely primarily a hobby, I use it on occasion at work for product shoots or marketing images but mostly for my own amusement and just to capture memories. As with many people nowadays my “studying” has been YouTube based!
I got my first camera for Christmas in my early teens – Miranda MS-1 SLR (Dixon’s own brand re-brand of some other make) and did some black and white developing at school that I really can’t remember most of besides the small dark room. I bought the same model again off eBay last year.
I took it up again probably 8 or so years ago to take some photos of open mic and bands in the then fairly raucous Fawcett Inn and also weekly PAN (Portsmouth at Night) Flickr group meet-up, some great photographers there including renowned Andrew Whyte. I had great fun with PAN with long exposures and burning wire wool and flashes. At this time I went through a couple of Nikon DSLRs. I also tried to pop down to the skate park for events as the BMX on vert ramps particularly is great fun to make photos of up close.
Looking for something new, I ordered the original Fuji X100 on sight as it looked so utilitarian and usable, that little camera has taken me on a journey into appreciating film photography. A few eBay purchases later and also after buying a little Canonet from Japan Camera Hunter (who many who shoot film are probably aware of, it should look him up if not – rumours of a NEW 35mm camera at some point!) I finally landed on my Leica M6. I have since built a small but reasonable collection of cameras (mainly film).
Do you have a favoured camera or device that you use for your Instagram photography?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say, “Why the M6 of course!” – though I’ve just recently bought my first digital camera in quite a few years (discounting iPhones) the FujiFilm X-T3, it’s taking a lot to get used to this machine but it’s very capable and I understand amazing for video too. I think my heart stays with the experience and process of film photography but the X-T3 is allowing my to let go a bit and “snap” more. I usually wait a few months and save up a few rolls of film before sending off for developing and scanning so it’s almost like Christmas every few months. It’s definitely a different experience from the instant gratification of digital where I can WiFi photos to my iPhone. The Fuji’s dials and wheels do a decent job of the tactility of film camera, they definitely work well with me. No right or wrong mind! Just different.
Another favourite has to be Instax film in the form of the SQ6, its square and like a slightly smaller Polaroid (never shake them like a Polaroid as Polaroids should, contrary to popular saying never be shook 😉) and the SQ6 allows things like double exposure and disabling the flash. Instax has the instant gratification of digital with the tactility of film, I highly recommend an Instax Mini to everyone!
I also have a Yashica 124G which is a square medium format film, so in its way perfect for Instagram! It doesn’t get too regular outings, but it’s great to try different film stock at 12 shots per roll.
Exploring the theme of local, the south coast has a wide variety of climatic conditions, buildings and landscapes. Are there any places or environments that are personal to you or that you love to photograph?
Clarence Pier has to be a must, classic British seaside entertainment and to paraphrase Martin Parr – the British seaside is the equivalent of US street for photography. The summer car boot sales are another interesting place. Really though, I’m happy to have a wander and see what may turn up.
Clarence Pier has to be a must, classic British seaside entertainment and to paraphrase Martin Parr – the British seaside is the equivalent of US street for photography.
For you what makes the good picture stand out from the average?
An image with a little something unexpected in it, though that ’”special” shot is usually rare to come by. Also, I’ve been very much inspired by street photographer Jason Reed to look for the interest in every day – quotidian (Adjective: quotidian – Of or occurring every day; daily). There’s definitely interest in what may initially seem mundane. Many of my favourite photographers and their photographs are just photographing their world around them.
Would you say that you take photos more for yourself or for others?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Instagram hearts are always appreciated 😉 Though to quote Garry Winogrand, “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Take photos for yourself, obsessing with others opinions is I think not worthwhile. Also, I now get to print my photos very large at work (Diguru), I’ve got a few 1m square from my Yashica 124G TLR and an A2 from my M6. Printing is the best way to view your images, too often they sit digitally gathering dust.
Are there any other photographers who either influence you or that you would encourage our readers to also check out?
Oh my god! Too many, and so many local creatives to inspire, also a good few have very inspirational YouTube channels, but I’ll try – I warn this will likely be film heavy!
Claire Sambrook is a local legend. PCM (Portsmouth Creative Movement) is a band of quite a few locals, most of which I’m proud to have known for many years no and it’s where I met Kate my now fiancé! The irrepressible My Dog Sighs. Of course your good selves – the be-plaided Strong Island crew. @35mmc – Hamish is the man for all things 35mm and very much with a Leica bent. Matt Day has been around in the film world for a while now and after a very bad illness is getting back into his YouTube.
I’ve recently started chatting with local Charlie Thom, and we caught up at the Strong Island Photography Social. Someone who definitely deserves a shout out.
Matt Stuart ex-skateboarder and great street photographer and Martin Parr, because of course! Jeff Mermelstein has been doing some possibly groundbreaking street work lately, taking photos of people smartphones. Michael Turek’s double exposures, taken on his M3, are sublime. Jason Reed has been a big inspiration but has put down his camera sadly.
And just to list a few because I could go on ever more but I fear I may lose you: Billie Cawte, Dan Rubin, AwesomeCameras, Brian William Green, Fábio Miguel Roque, Jake Ricker (especially his Staying Strapped series), Simon Roberts and I’d also ask that you check out Sunny 16 podcast.