Story 132: Matt Peers

What is your backstory?

I’m a film photographer based in Birmingham, UK. For me, photography has been a story of lost time and opportunities. When I was 11, I got a 110-camera kit for Christmas and I remember being consistently complimented for having a 'good eye' by the grown ups when they saw my pictures. Naively, I thought that it was just a skill that I could pick up and put down when I wanted. My interest would pique when I went on holiday, but then wane again till the next trip.

In the days pre digital and social media, a work colleague even purchased some of my holiday pictures, but it still didn't occur to me take it further. Then, in my mid 30s two significant events happened: becoming a parent and studying for a degree in Psychology. Becoming a parent meant that I had my camera with me all the time; allowing me to practice and to get to grips with the more technical side of photography. It was the degree course, however, that really opened my mind as to how photography can explore the big questions - in particular the relationship between the individual and their environment.

What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I shoot exclusively with film and have done for the last 5 years. I’ve ended up with quite a few different medium format and 35mm cameras, including, a Mamiya 7II, Pentax 67II, Leica M4 and my beloved Rolleiflex 2.8f. The intention was to buy, try and sell on cameras, but it hasn’t quite worked out like that…In the last year I have upgraded my, over the kitchen sink film development to a fully-fledged darkroom where I am slowly developing my printing skills.

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

The great thing about shooting film is that you are making decisions about the look of your images when you choose your film stock. For black and white film I’m almost exclusively HP5 or FP4 and for colour I still prefer Fuji Pro 400 to Portra if I can get it. It’s something about those reds and greens that gets me every time!

Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

For my street portraiture series, I spend very little time taking the images – on average just 2-3 frames per person. I’m mindful many people I stop on the streets do not have much time to spare, so working quickly is key. I’ve resisted trying to find out more to accompany the images as we bring with us our own meanings and projections as viewers, it’s more interesting to hear what others see. I do, however, really enjoy the process of seeing something in a person I want to photograph and hustling to get it.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Study, study, study! Learn about what has come before and the artists who created them. Learn about yourself; what kind images inspire you and why. Connect with and consume photography in a physical form, whether that is collecting books, prints, zines or attending shows and galleries. This continued photographic nourishment will feed your work and your soul.


Matt Peers


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