A look, an expression, a twitch, a hair colour, a piercing; anything could attract the lens of this London-based photographer. Rosie Matheson has specialised in portraiture, a never-ending topic in every art expression. She prefers boys because they’re more natural and are not worried about hair and makeup; but to say the truth, it doesn’t matter, because she is able to capture her subjects’ personalities and souls and make the viewer feel mirrored on them.
Rosie, could you please introduce yourself?
I’m a twenty-two-year-old photographer, obsessed by film and always shooting on my medium format camera. I’m based between Brighton and London (United Kingdom).
How and when did you get into photography? And what does it mean to you to be a photographer in 2017, especially in a city like London?
I’ve been surrounded by photography and used to looking at life through a viewfinder from a young age. During my school years, my coursework for my art class would always take a photography focus; I enjoyed taking pictures ten times more than painting. I really took photography seriously when I left Sixth Form College and was let out into the world. I was shooting portraits every day and getting really into film at that time. For me, a big part of photography is that it pushes my introvert self out and makes me connect with and meet many people; it’s helped me to grow as a person over the last few years, and through photography, some of my best friends and favourite memories have been made.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Most of my inspiration comes from everyday life. Seeing moments on the street, peoples’ actions, expressions and characteristics. I have a page of notes on my phone in which I add things as I see them day-to-day. Photographers I’m inspired by are Zed Nelson, Samuel Bradley, Jamie Hawkesworth, Petra Collins, Harley Weir and Tyrone LeBon.
Your work gathers a lot of portraits. Would you define the portrait as your favourite subject? According to you, is it the hallmark that makes you different from others?
Portraits are definitely my favourite aspect of photography. It’s the everlasting challenge of capturing someone’s soul and what they are about in one image, essentially telling their story.
Most of the time, these portraits showcase boys – by the way, your website even features a special section dedicated to them. Why do you prefer shooting male subjects? What do they offer that females don’t?
Boys is an ongoing project of mine that I’m working on. It started in late 2015 with two key portraits: Elliott’s and Phoenix’s. I shoot both males and females but feel boys are easier subjects. They appear more confident, ooze attitude and aren’t bothered about hair and makeup. I like to keep my photos as natural and true to the person as possible so shooting boys just as they are when they turn up to meet me suits my style of working.
Could you talk about your own habits and techniques that make your portraits unique? Moreover, do you have a favourite camera?
My favourite camera to shoot with is my Mamiya RZ67 and my favourite film to use is Kodak Portra 400. I really enjoy shooting with natural light, a shallow depth of field and getting right up in my subjects’ faces to get that intensity.
Doing portraits is one of the most difficult things in photography since you must capture the soul, spirit and personality of the person in front of your camera. What’s the relationship you establish with the people you photograph? How do you make them express their inner selves, and how did you develop the ability to capture them in such an intimate way?
I like to chat with my subject before and during the shoot. It’s important to make people feel comfortable and for them to understand what you’re trying to achieve with the images. I feel like I’m a pretty observant person and also sensitive to how people feel. I’m aware of body language and honestly, I just try to make people feel relaxed – and never as if the shoot is stressful or a big deal. I take my time and really think about how to capture them to reflect who they are. I think my portraits have improved from extreme amounts of practice and never being completely happy with the final result! You should always want to improve on what you’re doing and self-critique your work to understand how to do better the next time around.
Also, you seem to be interested in music as you shot photographs and videos for several young upcoming artists from London. When did you get this interest in photographing music themes? What do you like the most while shooting portraits of musicians or music videos? And is there any artist you’d like to team up with?
Music is a huge part of my life. However, I’m not particularly talented in any of its areas, so collaborating with some of my favourite artists to create something we are both proud of is pretty special. It’s really fun and special to document someone else’s world and experiences. I’ve never been a fan of shooting live music though, I’d always much rather be in the crowd. I’ve made sure this year to step back a little and take a bit of extra time for myself and to grow my own personal projects as those can easily be pushed to one side. In the United Kingdom I love working with friends; Etta Bond, Ady Suleiman and Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn.
Between traditional photography and photography in motion, what is the one you prefer and why? What are the advantages and the drawbacks of each?
I definitely prefer photography. With video, you have to keep someone’s attention/focus whilst following a storyline/narrative for a much longer time. I’m not a huge fan of editing or being on a computer, so shooting photos on my film camera works really well – it’s usually a straightforward process of getting them developed, and sometimes giving the pictures a super quick touch up and then they’re done. I enjoy the simple way of things! However, video does have a lot to offer. I have a couple of video projects I want to get out this year and I’m definitely looking into directing.
Where do you see yourself as a photographer in ten years?
I hope to be known worldwide for my portrait work and as a video director. I would absolutely love to be booked for huge campaigns and jobs shooting on medium format film. That’s the constant struggle: trying to persuade people in the industry stuck in their digital ways that film is a better option. I’m slowly getting there, but yes, that would be my ideal situation!
Are you currently working on a new project that you want to talk us about?
I’m working on my Boys project at the moment, which has a really cool new concept to it. I’m hoping to exhibit and make a zine from it. I’m also looking to direct and put together a short documentary later this year/early next. There are a lot of ideas in this brain of mine and I’m trying my best to process them all and bring them into life. Keep an eye out!