Friday, October 23, 2015

Finding the Story to Fit the Place

“Serendipity is what this is all about.”
Jordan Matter

Prior to becoming a photographer the New Yorker, Jordan Matter was an actor with a photographic hobby. Now his day job is as a publicity photographer specializing in head shots for aspiring and established actors.

As he says on his website “One day I was at a friend’s house, looking through her headshots. Not one photograph said the slightest thing about her. They were very generic, very studio and very boring. When she told what she had paid, I almost choked on my Starbucks. Outrageous! I’ve been the victim of that a few times myself. The next day I grabbed my camera, took her up to the roof and fired off two quick rolls before the sun set. That was it. I was hooked, whether I knew it or not.”

It was a hook that saw Matter realize that success lay in creating a collaborative relationship with his client that will allow the serendipitous moments to occur.

As he explains in the video A Day in my Life “You just allow the environment to inspire you to an idea, as cheesy as that sounds. So you look around, you see what’s available to you, what kind of story you want to tell and find a way to tell the story.”

It is this approach to his craft that Matter carries over to his private projects of which two, Uncovered and Dances Among Us, have been published as books with the latter making it onto the New York Times Bestselling Books list in 2012.

In both instances Matter has in whole or in part used the streets and public places of New York as the backdrop for his subjects’ performances.

With Uncovered Matter photographed a wide variety of topless women in various public locations around the city. He was inspired by the overreaction to Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction.

As one of Matter’s models, Margret Kaiser told the New York Daily News “It was really wild and really fun… Other people didn’t know what we were doing. It was really playful.”

To which Matter added “A lot of people walk right by and don’t even notice,” which he said was the initial point of the exercise. That it became a liberating experience for the participants was an added bonus.

For Dances Among Us Matter has photographed ballet dancers strutting their stuff not only in New York but in other places both rural and urban. Inspired by watching his three year old son playing Matter wanted to recreate that wonder and the excitement of the world and after seeing an dance performance he realized he had found his collaborators.

As he says in his artist’s statement for the project “Dancers are storytellers. Their trained to capture passion with their bodies. They often create a fantasy world or offer us a deeper look into familiar settings. They bring to life what we feel but what most of us, lacking their artistry and athleticism, are unable to express physically. I spent three years shooting dancers around the country and I was humbled by their enthusiasm for their craft.”

The exhibition Dancers Among Us: Photographs by Jordan Matter is currently on show at New York’s Hudson River Museum until the 17th of January next year.

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