From London to Manchester to Glasgow, Matthew Arthur Williams is not only moving up the country, but he's also leaping and bounding into his photography career. After attending Kingston Art and Design College in London and studying a BA in Photography at Manchester Metropolitan, and with his many hopes of travelling the world, Williams is heading in one direction - up. PETRIe's Lifestyle Editor, Charlotte Sutherland-Hawes talks to the man behind the camera.
Charlotte Sutherland-Hawes: Who is Matthew Arthur Williams?
Matthew Arthur Williams: I was born in London in 1989 and have gradually ventured further North by studying in Manchester, returning to London in 2012 for two years to work within arts administration, and then living and working as an artist in Glasgow since 2014.
CSH: Why photography, and how did you come to be a photographer?
MAW: It was always something I was interested in from an early age but it wasn't until 2007 that I sought to make a career out of it by doing a two-year foundation [course] in Photography at Kingston College. I moved to Manchester to complete my BA in Photography and setting up base there made the city feel like my second home.
CSH: What type of photographer do you see yourself as?
MAW: I take pictures, they tend to fit into many categories and so I’m reluctant to corner myself into a type. I play around with both analogue and digital, so I couldn’t say I was biased to one. However, I’ve always mainly shot with film because it makes things true to form for me.
CSH: Is there anyone who you count as a big influence on your work?
MAW: I think everything influences what I chose to do or photograph. I find inspiration and influence through photographers, artists, writers, close friends, peers, musicians, and strong people with strong hearts and characters. Artists such as Rineke Dijkstra, Hellen Van Meene, Eija Liisa Ahtila, Jh Engstrom, Elina Brotherus, Wolfgang Tillmans, Esko Männikkö, Collier Schorr, Moyra Davey, Steven Shearer, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Joni Mitchell.
CSH: How do you categorise your work?
MAW: I suppose my work sits in the uncertain land of reality and opportunity, regardless of what the intention is behind the photograph.
CSH: People or places?
MAW: I'm into both. They overlap each other endlessly.
CSH: How did you come to shoot New York City and why with such a voyeuristic intent?
MAW: I was there, and I knew I wanted to be recording and documenting the feelings, the places and the people. My work as a whole seems to toy around with that voyeuristic approach, particularly noticeable in other series of work such as Transient Works [2012 to 2013]. There is always a voyeuristic approach in photographing people in various landscapes; it ties in with this need to catch the fleeting moment that doesn’t belong to you, you can only watch and record.
CSH: NYC is one of the most photographed cities in the world, how do you feel your images differ to what we've already seen out there?
MAW: The photographs in this series are very much loaded images of nothing. Within the general cityscape, there is usually something else to pinpoint, which is the reason I took the photograph. It can be as simple as architectural beauty, shadows and light, or an awkward juxtaposition between people. I also love to collect memories to look over at a later date and produce a narrative of being in a certain place. The series is personal and relates to that specific time in my life - whom I was with and why I was there.
CSH: Was there something specific you wanted to portray, capture or convey about NYC?
MAW: I have connections with New York, which date back further than this series, and a connection with my extended family who live in New Rochelle, NY. I wanted to capture this beautiful story, this family connection, which dates back before my time that has produced a loving and an unbreakable bond.
CSH: If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?
MAW: I would really like to work in caring, or being a paramedic like my mother.
CSH: What role, if any, do you think social media plays in photography now?
MAW: I mean - Instagram is a great tool. The ability to connect with other photographers and people whom equally have a passion to capture images. Photography is long from the days of an elitist ideal. It just means we have to be aware and on our toes to keep up with technology and with a changing climate and continue to work with it.
CSH: What’s next for Matthew Arthur Williams?
MAW: Glasgow is my current home. I have some time to spend here yet, where I'll continue to make work. I hope for some residency opportunities in the continent over the next year or two and perhaps take on a MA in Europe in the next five years.
Words: Charlotte Sutherland-Hawes
Photography: Matthew Arthur Williams