Matthew Maber shoots color and black and white, digital and film, here’s a back and forth with him along with some images.
Matthew, please tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Matthew Maber, I’m a street photographer, My day job is as a graphic designer and technical Mac fella in our small family design agency.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
Initially I had seen some amazing night-time long-exposure light painting photos in our local Portsmouth At Night Flickr group and wanted to catch up with these guys and try that out, see what the secret to magic was behind the images. A few have since become very good friends and moved on and expanded in their own photography.
Then my interests expanded to our Southsea Skatepark, shooting the amazing BMX and skateboard there with a wide-angle lens literally a few inches from their back wheel. Ive also shot a few club night dance music events and portraits for friends or friends of friends.
Like many street photographers it seems, I started wandering the street taking photos of architecture and becoming increasingly bored of that and braver, starting to actually shoot people.
I bought a Fuji X100 the day it was released because I loved how tactile it is and then sold my Nikon DSLRs and lenses to friends.
The X100 has been a gateway drug to film. As it stands street photography is nice thing to do for downtime outside of work and to get some fresh air.
Where in the world are you located?
I like in Southsea, UK
What is your primary interest in the streets?
I have no grand plan, Im still “finding my voice” I think. I have a few vague themes I keep an eye out on when wandering and am trying to narrow down, but I think Im still in the single image phase. I would like to think Im getting a little better but I may be kidding myself.
I look for not necessarily ‘interesting’ people as that can be a somewhat easy trick, but lately scenes which pique my interest due to the composition or the mundanity to me of my locality which others may well be interested in. What is boring every-day to someone in LA or Tokyo is not the norm for me so I am interested in it.
In your opinion what makes a good colour street photograph?
I think that would be a good reason to be in colour – as in something in the image which makes it being in colour worthwhile or that it would lose without the colour. Digital shooters have it easy with just flipping to black and white at will, with film unless you’re going to cheat and change to black and white after its amore conscious decision with the scene. I am currently struggling somewhat to decide which I prefer between colour or black and white.
Ive gone though what I imagine must be most street photographers “shoot it ALL in high contrast black and white” phase and am now predominantly shooting colour using cheap Poundland £1 a roll Agfa (rebranded Fuji I believe) and usually dropping the black and white film in for winter as certainly here in the UK I feel the black and white is good for Winter but the often too short Summers we get are worthy of full colour.
Im not sure I answered that question but maybe black and white is good for the emotion and colour is good for the mood, though this isn’t mutually exclusive of course. I still have the odd black and white shot I get back that I’m very pleased with, it seems harder to get the black and whits “right” in my humble opinion.
You shoot both film & digital, please give us your comments on each one of them in the streets
Well as I said, the X100 was a gateway drug to film – I love how its all very direct and through that I came by a Yashica Minister III very cheaply on ebay and then feeling the need for something better the “budget Leica” Canonets, firstly 28 which I found restrictive as its realistically full auto, then a QL 17 which I bought from Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter.
Needing more control which I should have done first, I found a reasonably priced Leica M6 and the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 which of course being 35mm is actually the X100’s equivalent focal length so thats useful to jump between them. I think the M6, X100 and Canonet 17 are my final cameras for the foreseeable future.
After that waffling, as for actually using them the main difference would of course be speed. The X100 can be set to auto making quick shots that much easier than film, though in all honesty I generally use my X100 in A or S priority and manually focus by zone.
That said, whilst the M6 forces you to manually change and check exposure the practical use is not much different for me. Also being forced to go manual with the M6 has been quite enlightening and whilst I did already somewhat understand the basics of exposure and am self taught, being forced has I think given me a greater appreciation for some details of exposure and possibly more importantly not to worry too much with film.
I have now found I can usually guess the exposure and just check in camera which is somewhat reassuring. The wait and then Christmas day-like surprise of getting film back from the process/scanners has been a definite draw for me – it slows me down and makes the photo taking more of a process and something to be experienced.
Any tips for folks who want to start shooting film?
Id say if you can, set your digital camera to manual for a while to see how it feels, but preferably buy a cheap 35mm off ebay or a charity shop. Film is cheap enough to come by and processing isn’t really that bad – if it all fails and you find yourself impatient for the instant gratification of digital then you have a nice ornament.
Well Ive yet to be attacked or shouted at on the streets like many others Im sure, Ive had odd and confused looks. The times Ive approached people to ask it’s been fine but I don’t generally take portraits so thats very rare.
Any closing comments?
Thanks for inviting me and asking me questions. I hope people like my photos and will see me grow as a photographer.
I’d encourage people to take part in the Free Art Friday movement. Just search for the #freeartfriday or #faf tag on Twitter and Instagram and the Free Art Friday page on Facebook.
Ive managed to drop a few framed pieces but it’s open to any art form you can share really and its a nice feeling seeing your piece taken to a new home or just hoping it doesn’t end up an a street cleaner’s dust cart. Check out this video here: