Last week my friend Matthew Stone had the opening of his solo show Body Language at Copenhagen’s V1 Gallery. I’ve been taking part in Matthew’s weirdo, naked, ritualistic photoshoots for nearly five years now, so it made sense to tag along. Most of the time Matthew exhibits really big, studio-shot color images. This time he included some of his black and white photography as well. Here’s an interview I did with him while we were in Denmark.
Hey Matthew. I’ve noticed that increasingly your photographs are of just bodies, and less faces. Why is that?
The images are becoming more abstract. When you see a face, straight away you know what you’re looking at.
Why do you want the images to be abstract?
People are abstract, thinking is abstract, relationships are abstract, but bodies aren’t. They separate us from one another. I want to push the body towards those abstract spaces and bridge the gaps between us. It might sound literal to say this, but I think that actually placing bodies against each other makes them closer in multiple ways.
What’s the relationship between the color and the black and white images in the show?
I started shooting 35mm black and white to challenge my own established working method. All of the photographs I made prior were quite controlled and shot in the studio, so I inverted that way of working with a fully automatic camera.
How much of your work do you feel is staged?
Not as much as it looks like. I do rely in part on the people I photograph to define the image. I like to think that I stage situations that allow for intense activity to unfold naturally. I push people into strange and intimate situations, but what happens between them is real.
Yeah, more recently it’s definitely felt like that. I mean, you don’t dictate what happens, but those situations wouldn’t occur without you. Can you describe what you want to happen and then what actually does?
I try to help people enter a psychological space that is separate from ordinary reality. I think that creative minds in particular are wired with the possibility for a type of thinking that is fluid and ultimately beyond individuality. Different artists and mystics have used various methods to get into these states. Most people who are born with these abilities nowadays just take drugs to get out of themselves and to ignore the responsibility that comes with it. But that’s not the only way or even the best. I feel comfortable directing elements of the images as long as it helps to metaphorically explain what is really happening inside of people while we make them.
You speak in riddles.
I can’t help it. Every time I make a statement the other side of the argument presents itself as being equally valid. I’m not trying to be obscure–I just think that we are complex beings and our day-to-day interactions often ignore this, which leads to unnecessary suffering.