Master of the portraits, a conversation with photographer Rosie Matheson
Name: Rosie Matheson
Nickname(s): Oh there’s many...lets go with Ro
Current location: Brighton/London
Last place you traveled: Paris
Can you cook?: To an extent...
Great song of all time: I’m mad indecisive and my fav song changes all the time, right now I’m listening to: ‘OooWee’ - Rapsody and Anderson .Paak
Last thing you tweeted:Enjoying doing my own thing
1. You’re at a bodega. What are your go-to snacks?
Sensations Thai Sweet Chilli Chips, falafel wrap, a couple cans of beer and water.
2. Film is already expensive but medium format film is definitely more of an investment. Cameras are pricier and larger film means less frames/shots per roll. What made you take the risk?
The quality. I feel when I look at photographs shot on 120 film, the clarity is almost like looking at something in real life. I always shoot Kodak Portra as the colours are incredible, they’re as true to life as possible without much saturation or grain. Film is the first thing I used, it’s what I know and it feels right. Film has more substance to it as it actually exists compared to digital which isn’t even real/there’s nothing physical. For me, it’s really nice to have limited frames per roll and to shoot only what you need/desire, it makes every photo more valuable and means the majority of shots will be used rather than wasted. With everything I do, it’s always about the work and film produces the best work for me.
3. Your portrait work is absolutely stunning. As a photographer, I have to give my subjects a little heads up before I get close or zoom in. How do you set up the environment so your subjects are comfortable and do any of them get weirded out when you get up close and personal?
I usually shoot with a fixed lens, so any super tight portraits you see, I was definitely all up in their face. I don’t really ever feel that intrusive, usually I chat to my subject about what I’m trying to achieve etc... so there’s a mutual understanding/trust and we can both make it happen. I’m a pretty chilled person and not overly loud, I just like to make people feel comfortable. I also think with shooting film there’s more of a human connection as it’s about the photographer and subject(s) working together rather than constantly going back to review the camera.
4. You have a very diverse palette to your photos that shows on your Instagram feed but it seems you shoot more portraits of dudes. Is this your niche/focus?
I’m working on a personal project called ‘Boys’ which is my main focus and what I’m trying to push most out into the world, hence the amount of male portraits on the gram haha.
5. Were your parents supportive of your choice to become an artist?
Luckily, yes! They’re extremely supportive, without them and their time, I doubt I’d be where I am now. They both knew I would never go to university and never made it a problem, instead, they let me do my own thing. Forever grateful.
6. I’ve been following your journey for about the last year or so and you’ve grown immensely. How did art become such a large part of your life?
Looking back, I’ve been surrounded by art from such a young age. My granny was an art teacher and my parents’ close friend Zed Nelson is an incredible photographer. Art is what I’ve enjoyed most from a young age and was always an option for me. I was always a quiet kid so I think the release/expression through art really connected and worked for me. It gave me a chance to get to places/people/situations I wouldn’t have without.
7. Consistency is key and you definitely nail it. What’s your process like when you are physically taking the photos and after they are processed?
Very focused. I usually know exactly what I want and I’m very “in the zone” whilst making it happen. I don’t like to get too stressed either, nothing is worth putting such a strain on your mind/body. I travel pretty lightly, sometimes I use a tripod but most of the time it’s just my Mamiya, a box of film and my light meter.
I don’t really edit my photos much as the dev and scan quality are a super high standard and good to go as soon as I receive them (shoutout Labyrinth Photographic!)
8. You have quite the resume including some collaborations with Zayn, Anderson Paak, Little Simz, and Nike. Do you feel pressure to keep taking it to the next level?
I try to avoid feeling the pressure but I’m always aware and thinking of what I’m doing next, I’m definitely motivated. With the internet, it can make you feel like you constantly need to be churning out work and uploading tonnes of photos to prove you’re busy and “out here” but I’m kind of going against that and taking my time working on projects and shoots that have a lot of meaning and effort put in to them. I want my photos to stand the test of time and not just be relevant today.
9. Strangest thing you’ve ever pulled inspiration from?
I usually get most of my shoot inspiration from the life/the streets. Just observing people’s characteristics and how they behave with others/on their own really interests me. One of my recent street inspirations came from sitting in a cafe with my friend Reuben and watching a young guy on his motorbike outside. I’ll be using a few elements I picked out from observing him in a shoot real soon. I like there to be an emotional connection between my work and an audience, all I really wish to achieve is to make someone feel something.
10. Alive or dead: who are some artists you’d love to collaborate with?
Alive: Ibeyi, Kendrick Lamar, Nas
Dead: Amy Winehouse, Elvis Presley, Basquiat
11. First time you saw your work published (either print, billboard, poster, etc.) How did you feel?
There’s nothing better than having work in print, for people to really observe and take it in, it’s just that little bit more real.
12. What can film give that digital can’t?
13. When you get a roll back and you’re not in love or your developer messes up your film (like with Coasts Band), what do you do?
Oooh wow that’s a throwback, good research haha! It rarely happens these days now I use a brilliant developer, so they are never to blame! I guess if something goes wrong, you just work out what happened and learn from it. Film is a little temperamental which I like, you never know exactly what you’re going to get.
14. How many hours a week do you think you spend on art?
A lot of it depends on how inspired I’m feeling and it’s hard to say exactly as it changes every week but what’s easy to say is it’s on my mind 24/7!