Interview #20: Matt Caplin

8/10/09

CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography? 

Matt Caplin: I have three younger sisters and one younger brother. I'm a shy boy. With my sisters playing in the front yard, sun on their skin and soft through their hair, and me in my room, too shy to meet and work with real models... it was a bit of a calling, I guess. Natural progression. I became a photographer of my siblings because it was the most non-threatening path to take. Call me a voyeur, call me a coward. I'm just a shy boy and "artists" don't have to talk. 

 

CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. 

MC: At the moment I am homeless. Also at the moment I am staying at my lover's house in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. I grew up in Townsville, but left 10 years ago for another state. Being back here is nice. It's warm. 

 

CUS: What kind of camera do you enjoy using the most? 

MC: I've always wanted to shoot medium format. I've never actually done it, but it's definitely the kind of camera I enjoy using the most. 

 

CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer? 

MC: Quite possibly my lover, Nirrimi. 

 

CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey often? 

MC: If anything, spontaneity. I rarely think of concepts before shooting - it seems like such a contrived thing to do. Everything disappears so quickly. Time is nothing unless it has some sort of definition to it, some sort of event to anchor it down as memory in our mind. My photographs always stem back to taking photos of my sisters in the front yard - my sister didn't plan, they just were. If they fought, it happened. If they laughed, it happened. Everything they did was so natural and so spontaneous and I think that there, in spontaneity, is where life is most beautiful. 

 

CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?

MC: Children. The emotion they express is so pure and for me, nostalgic. Every frame inspires memories of my childhood, and sometimes it's almost painful photographing them, feeling so emotionally devoid and lost. Where'd my childed self disappear to? 

 

CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?

MC: I can't tell you that! She wouldn't want me to. 

 

CUS: If every photograph should contain one key element, what would it be in your opinion? 

MC: It needs to be wild. Not in the 'twenty-something backpacker going wild on a trip through Europe' sense, but in a natural, uncontrived sense. It is so much more challenging capturing the true, natural essence of a person or event than simply taking a photograph for face value. I know that I haven't succeeded at this yet, but it's definitely an artistic doctrine I'd like to follow throughout my career. 

 

CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?

MC: Myself as a child.

 

CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?

MC: Even without the rise of digital photography everyone can be a photographer. You have a camera, you have life around you: you are a photographer. Photography is (or should be) a physical form of memory - and everyone has memories.

 

CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot? 

MC: I'm not really sure. I'd like to think that my disorganization is a type of concept, in that if I am disorganized and without a concept, then everything I shoot will be natural reaction of both model and myself to each other. It seems more innocent that way.

 

CUS: Where does your inspiration usually come from? 

MC: In regards to making a name for myself in the industry... it would be Nirrimi. If it wasn't for her I wouldn't bother with the industry side of things. She's also an amazing inspiration towards staying true to my beliefs and childhood - after all, she grew up in and lives in Townsville, the place I most relate with my childhood. Nirrimi helps me hold onto my childed self. 

 

CUS: What is your most treasured possession? 

MC: This is a hard one. I don't think I really have any physical treasured possessions. I guess it would be knowing that the people I love, love me. Having that knowledge in my mind helps me snap out of it when I'm feeling empty. 

 

CUS: What’s playing on your iTunes right now? 

MC: Moons and Cattails by Linda Perhacs. I've got a thing for the female folk singers like Mariee Sioux, Marissa Nadler and Alela Diane. Another great song I can't get enough of is 'Poison' by Bert Jansch. Reminds me a little of the Dead Man soundtrack by Neil Young (which I have listened to way too many times). Love the raw, earthy sounds. 

 

CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most? 

MC: Sometimes it can seem very two-dimensional. Other times it can reiterate emotion. 

 

CUS: What are some of your favorite films? 

MC: I watched 'Requiem for a Dream' the other night with Nirrimi... I still can't get over how amazing the editing was! The sequencing, sound, everything - so incredible. I also love Jarmusch's 'Dead Man', with Johnny Depp. He's one of my favorite actors, such a talent. Other favorites are Deerhunter, Pulp Fiction (Christopher Walken is another of my favorite actors), Fierce People, and Alexandra's Project. Rolf de Heer is an inspiring director. 

 

CUS: Tell us a little about your family. 

MC: My mum divorced my dad when I was 6 months old and married my step-dad, her husband today, when I was 4. So I see my step-dad as my dad more so than I do my biological father, and I'm so glad my step-dad and my mum met. He's a hard-working, motivated man and even though I haven't done anything about myself yet, I know his influence is instilled within me and it motivates me every day. My real dad is pretty lazy. I inherited a lot of bad genetics from him, both physical and habitual, and the laziness is definitely one of them. Then there's my mother - she's an amazing woman, and I'm not ashamed to say that I am most definitely a mummy's boy. Everybody who knows me will vouch to this, recalling memories of me not knowing the answer to something or not knowing how to do something, and calling my mum to ask her for help. She knows all! Finally, there are my siblings. I have one brother, Callum, who is 10 (looks a lot like a girl in most of my photos of him); and three sisters: Ashlin, who is 6 (the girl in most of my work), Caitlin, who is 9 (also quite prominent in my work, she's the scowler) and Mia, who is 4 (I haven't taken many photos of her, I moved out of home before I had the chance. I will in Summer!). I'm very proud to be their older brother.

 

CUS: What’s your fondest childhood memory?

MC: Chasing cars down the street in Townsville. I'd be running through the sprinklers on front lawns, thinking I was faster than the car I was chasing but not realizing that they were slowing down to make me feel good. Unless I was actually faster than the cars... 

 

CUS: If you could be anyone for a day who would you be? 

MC: Myself as a child. 

 

CUS: What’s have you always wanted to photograph but have thought was too hard or difficult to execute? 

MC: The beautiful people I see in the streets and shopping centres. I saw a man at the local supermarket the other day, he was about 6ft 8" and had these amazing ears protruding from the side of his small head. The clothes he was wearing and his general appearance led me to think he was a miner, or some sort of heavy duty laborer. He looked so interesting, so beautiful to look at in his peculiarity and awkwardness. Nirrimi and I also saw two twin girls, about 12 years old, with masses of curly hair flowing from their heads. I would have loved to shoot them. We're getting business cards printed soon so we can approach people like that without seeming creepy. 

 

CUS: You’re planning your dream concert; what 5 bands/musicians would perform?

MC: Mariee Sioux, Alela Diane, Marissa Nadler, Bob Dylan and Nirrimi and I. 

 

CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre? 

MC: Oh, it's been so long! I think it was Monsters Vs Aliens. 

 

CUS: Which technology do you think has most benefited our generation? 

MC: Obviously the internet... but it's such a tricky subject. Change is an undeniable factor of life and it is a shame that the pre-internet era (notably the 50s, 60s, and 70s) is over now, but at the same time the internet has given a voice to so many people that otherwise wouldn't have one, and for that it is definitely benefited our generation. 

 

CUS: What do you think the world will be like 50 years from now? 

MC: I hope we look back at ourselves now as we do people from the 90s and earlier - usually with embarrassment, or humor. At the moment everybody is in a revival state of mind, we're trying to replicate the past in fashion, art, and the like; whereas back then people were trying to draw inspiration from the future, creating futuristic pieces of fashion and art. I really hope we one day realize how superficial we have all been both in the past and present (now) and just... live. Breathe. Be natural! 

 

CUS: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on a photo shoot?

MC: Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds.

 

CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?

MC: Paluma, QLD. Beautiful rainforest my family and I used to visit when I was a child. 

 

CUS: What are five things you can’t live without?

MC: Thinking, breathing, being hurt, loving, and my family. 

 

CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?

MC: I write a bit of semi-autobiographical fiction (which I guess most fiction is). Dylan Thomas is my idol. 

 

CUS: What is something that no one knows about you?

MC: Nirrimi aside, no one knows that I can burst clouds with my mind. You probably can too, it's pretty easy. Just focus intently on the cloud and imagine it bursting apart. My record is under a minute.

 

CUS: What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

MC: I broke my wrist once. It's the only bone I've ever broken. I was riding my bike (read: bicycle home from my parents' house, talking on the phone (stupid points = 1), riding down a very steep hill (stupid points = 2), and my hand holding onto the handlebars was beginning to ache, so I then tried to swap the phone over into my handlebar-holding hand (stupid points = 3) while crossing the same hand over onto the opposite handle bar (stupid points = 4), which caused all of my weight to lean onto the left side of my bike (stupid points = 5) as well as turning the handlebars to the left (stupid points = 6), which, with my excessive hill-gained speed... didn't turn out too nice. I have a scar down my ribs from where the road ripped my skin apart. Pretty disgusting stuff. 

 

CUS: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? Do you think that photography will still be a big part of your life?

MC: With Nirrimi and our children, Boy Dylan and Alba Joy, somewhere peaceful. We'll be taking photographs of them, but mainly just loving and living and loving that we're living. 

 

CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow up-and-coming photographers?

MC: Don't fall into the pretentious crap that comes with the photography industry. Develop your own style, produce a great portfolio with the means you have (family, friends, strangers on the streets, www.modelmayhem.com) and you'll have the bargaining power. There are too many people that become an image of what they think they should be - just be yourself! 

 

CUS: What are your plans for the summer? 

MC: Spend time with Nirrimi down at St Kilda beach in Melbourne, maybe learn to roller-skate together. Then we fly out to Perth late November to visit my friends and family before flying out to Bali mid-December with my family. We'll be in Bali for a month, so we've got plenty of time to sunbathe on the beaches and by the pool, get massages, go shopping, bungee jump (maybe), go white water rafting, and explore the Indonesian countryside on a motorbike (now that I'm older my mum can't say no!) 

 

CUS: Our last interviewee, Ellie Niemeyer, wants to know: Is there a certain photograph that never seems to escape your mind, one that you find yourself constantly coming back to? I'd love to see it.

MC: There are a few, but these two by Sally Mann and Bill Henson are the photographs that come to my mind right now: 

http://www.corcoran.org/collection/images/1988.18.2.jpg

http://www.vam.ac.uk/images/image/29115-large.jpg




CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee?

MC: Are you who you thought you'd be five years ago? Who do you feel you'll be five years from now?

Matt Caplin from Queensland, Australia 

flickr.com/photos/mattcaplinphotography

 

Images provided by Matt Caplin. All rights reserved.