Interview: Matt Day
Not only is Matt Day an amazing photographer, but he is also one of the nicest guys in the game. Matt creates quality YouTube videos sharing reviews, tips, and anything else you could want from an analogue photography channel.
All of us here at Project Upcoming Publishing take huge inspiration from Matt Day- so reaching out to him for an interview was an absolute pleasure.
Sam Cashmore: So, let's start by talking about what I assume you get asked the most- why film and why not digital? We are in the digital age after all...
Matt Day: There's always the "slowing down" argument that people make, but honestly, I just like the cameras more. I have a lot of fun shooting film. Of course, I like the look and the hands-on process. It's what I used when I really started in photography, but it's just a lot more fun for me.
SC: I tend to use that "slowing down" excuse whenever somebody asks me why I use film. But if I'm honest it’s just an easy answer to give.
SC: You've mentioned in a few of your YouTube videos that as well as owning your trusty Leica M6, you also own a Nikon D750 for client work. Do you keep up to date with all the latest digital technology?
MD: Not usually. The D750 is getting outdated (I would imagine). With new cameras being released all of the time, it's hard to keep up. I've had my D750 for at least a few years now and I don't really see an upgrade in my future for a while. It does the job just fine for what I need. Plus, it saves me money every year.
SC: Now that your YouTube channel is getting reasonably big (50k+ subscribers as well as 30k+ followers in Instagram), do you feel any pressure when you’re going out to shoot? Especially if you know that it will be uploaded onto either of those platforms for thousands of people to see?
MD: I wouldn’t consider it pressure, but it’s just really strange. Like I shoot for myself, first and foremost, but I want to share the work obviously. I feel like there’s some accountability there because some people really get hung up on the numbers. So, it’s like “Oh, they have a lot of followers, so they have to be like ridiculously good.” Which isn’t really the case for me. I think seems like it’s definitely up for judgment, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s normal. I just try to make photos that I like and if other people get something out of it, awesome. If not, that’s okay too. I just try to be as genuine as possible and hope that people can relate in some way.
SC: Staying on the topic of having a large following. How does it feel that through both YouTube and Instagram you are single handily inspiring a lot of the younger generation, who may never have picked up an analogue camera before to actually go out and shoot?
MD: That’s the coolest thing about it. I don’t get too hung up on the numbers, but it does trip me out at times thinking about people all over the world that know so much about me and my family because I put it all out there. But when I get messages and emails from kids being like “I just got my first film camera because of your videos” that’s the raddest thing. I’ve gotten so much out of photography and it’s been an escape from so many hard things in my life that if it does the same for someone else, that’s amazing.
SC: A lot of the photographs you share with us, both on Instagram and Youtube, are extremely personal. Is that something you were already comfortable with or, as your audience has grown both drastically and loyally, you've learnt to come to terms with?
MD: I've been sharing my personal life long before I ever had any sort of audience. (Also, please keep in mind that referring to any of my followers or subscribers as my "audience" or "fans" makes me feel like a total egomaniac. That is not how I'm trying to sound. Haha!). But, like I said, I've always been sharing my personal life because to me, it's relatable. It's something for people to grab onto and feel something. I think that's a big reason as to why most of my followers are following me. Because they feel connected, That's important to me.
SC: Now that you have a (rapidly expanding) family, your time isn't always your own. Do you think you'll get back into skate photography anytime soon?
MD: I'm always looking to shoot skateboarding whenever I get the chance, but it's always a random opportunity here and there. Family and work pretty much dictate all of my photography schedule, but shooting my day to day life means I'm always shooting something I love. That helps a lot.
SC: Here’s another camera question for you. I know that your main camera is the Leica M6 but why are you so fond of range finders over a more traditional SLR?
MD: So much of what I shoot is just quick photos of daily life, especially of family. Using an SLR has some advantages, but I’m nowhere near as fast with them as I am with rangefinders. It’s mostly about getting the shot before it’s gone, but I also really like composing with a rangefinder. Everything is in focus, everything matters. It definitely makes you see things differently. It's just personal preference. The simple "click" of the shutter versus the mirror bounce feels less distracting. Maybe it's not, but that's how it feels in my head.
SC: Assuming your M6 was out of the equation, and you could only shoot with one camera from here on out, what would that be?
MD: That's tough but I would probably say the Nikon FM2. It's simple and reliable.
SC: Not another rangefinder?
MD: I honestly haven't used any other 35mm rangefinders enough to love them. The only other ones I've personally used were all working on an aperture priority system and if I've only got one camera, I'd prefer it to be one I know well and one that allows me to be in total control.
SC: Are you completely self-taught in photography or have you had some form of formal education?
MD: All just trial and error. Lots of error. I did eventually take a couple classes at the local college, after I had already been shooting for a long time, so that I could use their darkroom. That was back in 2009.
SC: That’s crazy that you’ve only received minimal education in the subject! There doesn’t seem to be anything that you don’t know.
MD: Oh, trust me, there’s a lot more that I don’t know than what I do know.
SC: So, a couple years back you released your book ‘Friend of Mine’, which is a favorite of mine. Do you have any more similar projects either upcoming or on the go?
MD: Thank you, man! I appreciate that. I’m actually about to start a new project in a couple of weeks. It’s not really similar to a Friend of Mine though. It’s gonna be focussing on death and the things we leave behind. Definitely something that will be hard for me with my dad passing away earlier this year, but that’s why I’m doing this project. It’ll hopefully be something I can learn from and even heal from.
SC: I’m very sorry for your loss! That’s sad to hear. But I’m sure you’ll make something amazing. Sounds like a good idea.
SC: At Project Upcoming we are all about keeping print alive (hence the phrase "Print is Not Dead. Don't Be Fooled"). It’s something that we are extremely passionate about. What is your opinion on printed work vs just having it digitally on a screen in front of you?
MD: I think the convenience of sharing work online is huge and shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s something we should all take advantage of. That being said, holding a print in your hand is something insanely rewarding and can’t be replicated. The archival quality of it is also important. Not only that, but sharing the work in person and passing a print around feels so much better than being huddled around a laptop with your friends.
SC: 100%! I totally agree! I think it’s all too easy to sling a photo online and then that’s it! Nothing at all like holding a large print or book and just analysing the image for a couple of minutes.
SC: Is there ever a time that you do not carry a camera with you?
MD: Actually, for the first time in many years, I went a couple of months this year without carrying a camera everywhere I went. I was going through personal struggles and hit a rut with my work. I just didn’t feel like shooting and I didn’t wanna force it. I felt like I needed to just take some time away from it. Oddly enough, I didn’t feel like I saw photos while I was out and thought “man, I wish I had my camera”. It was like because I didn’t have it with me, I wasn’t even in that mode of thinking. It was really strange but I think it was for the best. As soon as I started feeling up to it again, I grabbed my camera and then it all just started coming back. Sometimes things like that happen. We’re photographers, we’re gonna have times where nothing looks good.
SC: 2 years ago you made a video regarding your favourite film, stating that it was Kodak Tri-X, and Portra 160/400/800 for colour, but soon after you announced that you were switching from Kodak film to Ilford film. Why was that?
MD: I've always loved Tri-X. That was my go-to for years. But then I started thinking about bulk loading my film to save money, so when I looked up prices for 100' of Tri-X, I realised it wasn't any more cost-effective. However, looking at Ilford films, bulk loading cuts the cost in half, so that was huge. I decided to try HP5 out, among a couple of other films, and I quickly realised I liked HP5 even more than Tri-X because of how well it retains shadow detail. I push my film the majority of the time and it still holds detail well so well. It's just an incredibly versatile film. On top of that, Ilford is a company that focuses solely on black and white, that's their whole world. Seems like a good place to be,
SC: Do you always push HP5 to 1600?
MD: I do the majority of time. That's a sweet spot for me. Though in 120, I've pushed it to 6400 and it's insane how clean it looks. That film is the absolute champ of pushing.
SC: In terms of developing- what chemicals do you use and are there any specific reasons why?
MD: Yeah, I always use Ilfotec HC for my developer and TF-4 for my fixer. HC gives me really clean results, especially when pushing, and it lasts a long time since it's such a heavy dilution. And using TF-4 allows you to just use water for stop bath so it just simplifies the whole process a little more. That's been my setup for years.
SC: Have you ever used any chemicals that gave your film a look you didn't desire?
MD: I tried a mono bath developer from New55 awhile back just to test it out. Definitely gave me a look tear I wouldn't want for every photo. It's a little unpredictable.
SC: I saw that you recently dismantled your home darkroom. Did you do a lot of printing from your enlarger before that? Or was it mainly scanning and then digitally printing?
MD: I did a lot of printing years ago in my darkroom, but that was before we had kids. The time I spent in the darkroom was pretty time consuming, so I didn't do too much after our first was born. Since then, it's mainly been scanning and digital prints.
SC: Any tips for new photographers looking to start the darkroom/self development process?
MD: Just take your time with it. Enjoy the process. It's easy to get frustrated when you're starting out because it seems like it's a lot to learn, but give it time. There are tons of great resources online. Take advantage of that.
SC: Well that’s everything. Thank you so much for all of this.
MD: Absolutely, man! It was a pleasure! Thank you for having me.