A Female Gaze…
You may not know Rosie Matheson by name, but you’ve definitely seen her work before. Rosie is infamous for her delicately crafted portraits of people; finding the best of up and coming models as well as shooting a range of more well well known characters like Etta Bond and Big Narstie. Her talent puts her up there as one of the very best young photographers coming out of the UK. For this piece we asked Olivia Jankowska, another hugely talented photographer, to talk to Rosie about her influences, work and the new influx of female-orientated publications beginning to make waves in the industry.
What first sparked your interest in Photography?
I would say it was mainly the influence of my parents’ friend, photographer, Zed Nelson. He was always around as I was growing up and documenting life around me. He photographed my parents wedding and all family birthdays/occasions and I can remember being so excited to look back on those photos once he got them back from the developers. From around the age of eight or so I was messing around with my parents 35mm camera and it pretty much became an obsession for me from that moment on!
Was pursuing photography as a career a decision or a natural shift from a hobby to a job?
Kind of a bit of both. After leaving sixth form college, photography was what I wanted to do full time but it happened naturally through continuing it as a hobby instead of going to university. I had a place at a university in London to do a BA in Photography but deep down I really didn’t want to go. I had always hated school especially with being told what to read about, draw, learn about, so the idea of going to university wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. Instead I took a year out and just started to shoot a lot, intern and just really learn about what I enjoyed shooting. It’s always about what’s in your portfolio with photography so I just worked on that and tried to advance my skills by actually doing it everyday. Over the next few years it naturally progressed into a profession, which is pretty lucky really.
What is one thing that you would like people to know about yourself, that they may not know now?
It’s not one thing but…
Even though I always seem to be in London, I actually live in Brighton. I’m a bit of an introvert and as ironic as it is, I hate having my photo taken haha!
Is there anyone or anything that has influenced you to be the photographer that you are right now?
Photographers that have heavily inspired/influenced my practice: Zed Nelson, Daido Moriyama, Stephen Shore, William Klein, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve McCurry and Pieter Hugo.
My family for taking me to endless art and photography exhibitions whilst I was growing up and giving me a good, well-rounded, liberal viewpoint on the world and the support and freedom to pursue what I love.
Elliot and Christian
Tell me a bit about your recently exhibited series ‘Boys’, what has inspired your project?
Back in 2014 I got my first medium format camera and photographed an old friend of mine called Jimmy Q – the response to the photo was unreal and that’s kind of where my love of portraiture began.
I started this project ‘Boys’ subconsciously in late 2015 when I began shooting portraits of young males at quite a fast pace. I’d always enjoyed shooting boys, it’s just their carefree “it is what it is” nature, where they’re rough and ready and don’t really require or desire any hair/make-up/styling. My photography and photographic interests have always leaned towards a more documentary style and I feel like shooting boys matches that well as it’s really just about photographing them as they are. It’s also about playing with the idea of confidence and attitude boys seem to carry yet trying to find the more vulnerable and sensitive side within. Each portrait is uncontrived with the aim to give off something about each person/to give them a voice, through how they look and what you think they are feeling.
What made you select the “boys” that you’ve included photos of in your series?
I wanted a range of different looks and characters. I picked people that I found attractive and that also had a certain look in their eye, there was something intriguing about them. Not all of them are models and most only do it on the side. I wasn’t looking for the traditional model type at all, if anything quite the opposite. Most were picked as I felt a lot could be read about them through the emotion in their faces. I guess a lot of them have very male features, stuff like slit eyebrows, shaved heads but then their features are also very beautiful and feminine, I think it’s the combination of those two elements.
I didn’t select them overnight, they were carefully curated and a lot of them I had been in contact with for over a year and it was just a matter of timing. I also wanted to represent the diversity of males and just to capture people with that sparkle in their eye.
It’s always refreshing to see men being captured via feminine gaze, do you feel like your work unveils a different type of beauty from what others might see?
I hope so! Each person’s view of the world is completely different and so I’d like to think people find beauty and someth
interesting in the way I document the world around me. I think a lot of it is how you connect with the subject too. It’s probably different to how a man would capture another man as I would assume the subject would be pretty macho whereas as a girl I feel maybe it’s easier to connect to their softer side.
What has your experience as a photographer been like so far? How do you feel about the industry currently?
It’s definitely a crazy industry and you have to keep your head screwed on. I’m not a big fan of the social scene or online scene, I prefer to keep my head down, work on some projects and stay away from it all haha. I feel like there’s different elements to the industry – there’s the people that are everywhere and at every event but perhaps not creating anything with longevity whereas there are people who have been in the industry for years and you never see them anywhere, instead they stay quiet and work real hard. The industry is a mad mix of both extremes and it’s just about what works best for you. It’s been an interesting ride so far and luckily it just keeps getting better and better. Every shoot I do, I learn something new and grow in confidence. I know what I want from a shoot now and slowly feel like I’m making my mark however there’s still an extremely long way to go but I’m looking forward to it and that’s what matters. I think it’s good to learn what you like doing and are good at and to feel comfortable in saying no to jobs. It’s definitely up and down (as anything is) and you have to just learn to go with it and work really hard. I feel like the industry is very digital-obsessed right now too with a lot of throw away content which kind of goes against my passion but if you learn how to use it to your advantage and don’t have to directly get involved with the parts you don’t agree with/believe in then that’s the way forward!
Do you think female artists get as much recognition as male artists in the creative industry?
My experience so far has only been positive in this sense. I think if you make yourself heard then you will be heard especially in the creative world. Girls are running things right now in the photography world especially! If you’re good at what you do and work hard, you’ll be recognised. However it can be a different kind of recognition from time to time, as if a shock or surprise that it’s a girl however I think with the positive use of social media, girls are being heard and things are slowly changing.
What are your thoughts about feminism becoming a part of cultural conversation and movement in a way it’s never been before. With all girl publications such as SukeBan or Gal-Dem magazine which are currently having a big impact on young people this year?
I think it’s great! I’m a firm believer in everyone being treated equally and this is another step towards gender equality. You have to make a strong point and really bring things to peoples attention and so all girl collectives creating amazing pieces of work with a message within does exactly this. I’m a fan for sure.
Women are constantly put into competition with another, can you sense competition amongst other female photographers in London?
I try and keep myself as far removed from “the scene” as possible. I spend about 60% of the time in Brighton at home, working away, in solitude mostly, so I keep myself away from that environment a lot of the time. I think on a whole though girls are pretty supportive of each other, there’s no one I see in a sense of competition. I think that’s where it goes wrong for people, you just need to strongly believe in and work on what you’re doing and respect what someone else is doing at the same time.
Lastly – if you weren’t a photographer now, what would you be doing?
Probably working with Orangutans! I adore animals and would love to actively do something important that contributes to preserving and saving wildlife/the world.