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Interview with Matthew Joseph

From Music to Commercial Work – Interview with PhotoX 2017 winner

Matthew Joseph, River People – Louis, 2017

London-based Matthew Joseph is an award-winning photographer whose commercial work sees him shooting across the advertising, editorial and corporate industries for brands, creative agencies, publications and selected NGOs.

Emigrating to the world of photography from the music industry, a bold and cinematic approach to his subjects and their environment strives to evoke emotion, whilst retaining an honest authenticity that he hopes will provoke a reaction, thought or discussion. Obsessed with light and capturing moments from a young age, it’s people, faces, journeys and stories that dominate Matthew’s work as he gladly follows it around the world.

Having won the RICS Infrastructure photographer of the year 2016, he was recently awarded 1st place at the 2017 Art Gemini Prize PhotoX competition. The winning image was taken from his portrait series ‘River People’, which made it to a prestigious solo exhibition in Westminster, London. His work received national press coverage on TV, radio and in the newspapers, as well as being recommended by Time Out. Matthew’s latest project ‘aGenda’ made him a finalist in the 2017 AOP awards. and was first exhibited in August 2017, on London’s famous South Bank before visiting two other venues across the capital. Matthew is proud to have been selected by Lürzers Archive as one of the Top 200 Ad Photographers worldwide for the 2017/18 annual.

1. How long have you been a photographer?  I read that you moved from the music industry into photography.

I have been a photographer since I realised life was better behind the lens instead of having to be in family holiday photos. This was aged 11 and I soon commandeered by Dad’s manual SLR – it was then my early teenage years where I cut my teeth learning my mistakes, technical approach and people skills – all shot on film.

Since that same age, I had always had an equal interest in music as I did with photography. Post A-levels I decided to take on music at degree level, but photography never went away and in my first year there, I won a business bursary from Barclays through my uni and set up my first business – music photography (it had to be related to music). I went on to work as a musician, producer and writer and spent most of my time travelling around the UK and Europe playing in bands with my own projects, playing for other artists and everything in between which makes up the life of a session musician.

2. Your camera and creative eye takes you all over the world, what do you love most about what the travel gives you as a photographer?

I love travelling and the world is becoming a smaller place every year – there’s no excuse not to travel any more. Being a photographer ultimately gives me an excuse to travel and being paid to do so is even more of a bonus. When I travel, I don’t tend to stay in one place for very long – I can’t sit still very easily – but when I am in a new place, I completely immerse myself in that locality, the culture, the people – immediately. I don’t mess around! Travel keeps your eyes wide open as a photographer, it keeps your mind open too and there are always fresh inspirations to draw from new cultures. I absolutely love seeing new faces, new clothes/styles, new architecture and most of all … new light. It sounds strange but different parts of the world give different qualities of light to do with their location and local weather etc. That’s really key for me. I first noticed it in Iceland, then began to pick up on it more and more as I travelled. The winter sunshine in NYC is unlike any other sunshine I’ve seen. The smog and humidity of India gives a completely different diffused light – producing different colours and influencing the way you see things.

3. Congratulations on winning the inaugural 1st Prize in the PhotoX competition. Can you tell us more the winning image?

Thank you! River People was a really important series for me as it was a time where I really developed my style of environmental portraiture. It came about through a client – they’re responsible for building a huge new super sewer throughout London, it’s a massive project which is impacting a lot of Londoners, but it’s not the most sexy of projects. That’s where I come in – not the sexy part, but to help bring a human face to the whole thing. I suppose it was my job to help connect Londoners with their river so that they could appreciate the work that needed to be done to protect it. People’s faces and stories are always the way to achieve such things! So I always wanted the audience to be positively surprised as to the variety of people/vocations/jobs/hobbies that relied on the River Thames. The reaction was just that, which was perfect. There’s also a chance that the project is about to be restarted – there are plenty more characters for me to meet!

4. How do you balance commercial work and your own personal practice?

It’s always a tough one – especially as I’ve always enjoyed my commercial work. It’s a chicken and egg scenario, as you need the commercial work to afford you the time and funds to pursue your personal work, but your personal work often leads to the commercial work (or at least backs it up somewhat). It’s confusing when I actually enjoy both – this is partly because I’m as much a fan of business as I am of being a creative. Some years are overkill – I tried to fit way too much into 2017! The focus going forward will probably be fewer personal projects but the projects I do take on will be bigger and more in-depth. That scares me a little!

5. What are you working on now?

I have spent the last year shooting a project on the impact of Uber around the world. I have been to six great cities and met the local taxi drivers who are all being impacted by Uber’s arrival – it’s a portrait series which has been truly fascinating and a lot of hard work. I can’t wait to get it out there, it’s coming very soon! I also have shot a new studio portrait series called ‘Changing Face of Music’ which I am really wanting to get out there as it’s the first project I’ve done which looks into the music side of my journey.

To find out more about Matthew and his work, see his website 

Welcome to the PhotoX Awards 2018

Produced by ArtGeminiPrize – The PhotoX Awards aims to discover and showcase international contemporary photography by artists worldwide.

CATEGORIES | “Energy” “Wilderness” “Humanity”

Choose from three categories for your chance to win over £3,000 worth of prizes and your work shown and sold in two curated exhibitions in London.

PhotoX Awards 2018 is now closed.

Shortlist Announcement Monday 28 May – Save the date

David Kilpatrick announced as PhotoX Prize Judge

He set up Icon Publications Ltd in 1987 with his wife Shirley to publish photographic magazines and has done so ever since. Icon currently publishes Cameracraft and Master Photography (f2 Freelance Photographer merged with Cameracraft which replaces it as the title). Look for it in the newsagents, subscribe through Icon Publications home page, or read editions of both magazines free on ISSUU.

We catch up with him to find out more about his background.

My teenage photographic interest was in photojournalism, but I was told when I left school that training as a photographer never led to a management career. I didn’t think my university place to read English would lead to one either, so I joined The Star evening newspaper in Sheffield as a trainee journalist. At 23 I had qualified and progressed to writing and sub-editing on the features desk, which allowed me to work with the staff photographers and designers. I was not allowed to use a camera, of course, but in my own time I started to be published widely and was Associate Editor of Photo Technique – I earned more from sending my pictures to editors and agencies than I did from my job, so I decided to leave and go freelance, and one of my first contracts was as editor of The Photographer.

A few years later a neighbour who was chief photographer of a commercial studio told me it was closing down and he had a chance to buy the business, so we formed a partnership and did so. That’s when I had to learn large format photography, colour processing and studio lighting – no more available light or a press flashgun and 35mm for everything. I qualified with the IIP in 1979. The business was successful and a year later my partner bought me out, with enough cash in hand to buy a Nottinghamshire farmhouse and convert the range of barns into studio, offices and darkroom. This in turn was busy and profitable for eight years, employing young staff who have all gone on to have lifetime success in their own businesses. In 1988 we sold up, moved to Scotland, and used the capital freed up to equip one of the first digital bureaux with scanning, colour separation imagesetting, early digital photography and websites. We produced magazines, books, leaflets and catalogues and specialised in the technical side of a new workflow. Shirley gained her MSc in Colour Science for research we sponsored into visual colour matching between inkjet, dye sublimation and thermal wax printing systems.

My early advisors were wrong – my ‘best photographer’ friend at The Star left to found a major photo lab, and my studio partner eventually became Managing Director of one of the UK’s largest modem and satellite communications companies. Photographers can progress to a management career! I never have. I started Icon Publications Ltd, and invested in technology, because I love being in control of creative and technical processes.

Prof. Brian Griffin announced as PhotoX Prize Judge

Prof. Brian Griffin D.Univ. (BCU) Hon. FRPS.

Brian Griffin is one of the most unconventional, renowned and influential creative portrait photographers working in Britain today, his work is featured in many museum collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, National Portrait Gallery London, Art Museum Reykjavik Iceland, Arts Council London and Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany.

Brian was born in Birmingham on the 13th April 1948 but lived in the industrial Black Country until he went to Manchester Polytechnic (1969 – 72) to study photography. He moved to London in 1972 to work as a freelance photographer getting his first commission for Management Today in November 1972 and exhibited in the “Young British Photographers” in 1975.

A much-revered photographer, Brian received the “Freedom of the city of Arles, France” in 1987 and went on to publish the seminal book “Work” in 1988 with a one-man show at the National Portrait Gallery; the book went on to be awarded the Best Photography book in the World at the Barcelona Primavera Fotografica 1991. A stunning collection of arresting monochrome portraits of workers showing each in a different light, from middle management to those in construction. In 1989 the Guardian newspaper proclaimed him to be “The Photographer Of The Decade”. Also “Life” magazine used the photograph “A Broken Frame” on its front cover of a special supplement “The Greatest Photographs Of The 80’s”. From 1991 until 2002 Brian worked as a film director making TV Commercials, Music Videos and Short Films.

In 2007, Brian produced a book and exhibition for the Royal opening of St. Pancras Station London and High Speed 1. In 2009 Brian became the patron of the Derby Festival of Photography and continues to be the Festival’s patron. For the London Olympics, he launched the photography project “Road To 2012” which was shown at the National Portrait Gallery. In 2010 he had a major retrospective of my portraiture “Face to Face” in Birmingham. In September 2013 Brian received the “Centenary Medal” from the Royal Photographic Society in recognition of a lifetime achievement in photography.

Brian was commissioned and exhibited at “Marseille Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture”, also for “Reference Works” the photography project to celebrate with a book and exhibition the building and opening of the New Birmingham Library. This was followed by a retrospective of his corporate photography in Bologna, Italy, during October 2013. Then in 2014, he received an Honorary Doctorate by Birmingham City University for his lifetime contribution to the City of Birmingham.

October 2017 will see the publication of “Gig” a book on the history of his music photography.


Dr Michael Pritchard announced as PhotoX Prize Judge

We’re delighted to announce Dr Michael Pritchard (UK): has joined the judging panel for new photography award PhotoX, launching January 2017. Chief Executive of The Royal Photographic Society, Dr Pritchard is a photographic historian and was a photography specialist at Christie’s, with a PhD in history of photography. Michael has been a selector on a number of international competitions, including the HIPA Awards, Travel Photography of the Year, Spider Awards, Terry O’Neill Award, and several student photography competitions. He lectures internationally and publishes regularly on photography.

ArtGemini 2016 featured on Eastern Art Report Online

Eastern Art Report was founded in 1989 as an international magazine focused on the arts of Asia and Africa and the arts practiced by the people of Asian and African origin in North America, Europe and elsewhere. Increasingly, Australia, New Zealand the Pacific region are covered in articles and news.

In September 2016, Eastern Art Report featured ‘Art Gemini 2016 celebrates fine new painting, photography, sculpture’ article in ARTISTS, Awards and Prizes, Critical Choice

Read the full article here.

PhotoX is pleased to partner with Pixelrights

pixelPhotoX is pleased to partner with Pixelrights. All PhotoX entrants are entitled to 20% off any Pixelrights websites.  

Pixelrights is a portfolio website builder for photographers with an innovative platform for image protection. Its unprecedented image format, the SmartFrame, provides image protection unseen before in the photography and image making world. When your images are on a Pixelrights website, they become attached to your account like a kite on a string, allowing to you keep track of where they are and how they are used. It’s easy to set up – in just a few minutes, you can have a beautifully presented professional looking portfolio website. Use this link to get 20% off membership!