INTERVIEW: Matt Walter - Music Photographer
The music industry needs more people like Brisbane photographer Matt Walter. Someone doing what they love and attempting to help those around them. Last week I was fortunate enough to steal some of his time to ask him a few questions.
How did you get involved in photography and at what point did you realise it was what you wanted to do?
“I started with photography as a hobby in 2010 or so. It wasn’t until 2012 I started to feel comfortable wanting to do it on a more serious basis, but still it was largely a hobby. I just wanted to actually entertain committing to it. From around 2015 onwards I took it really seriously. But I still have fun with it and put photography before business. Probably why I’m far from rich haha”
Why do you continue to do photography, what keeps you motivated?
“Music photography is so important to me because you’re never done. There’s always a new photo to take, a new moment to capture… Whatever it is, it remains undocumented. I see some improvement in my work each show, and I hope others can see it, too. But if they don’t, that’s ok because I take photos for the band and for me. If anyone else likes them, great! As soon as I care too much about other people that consume my work, I overthink. Overthinking is the enemy of motivation, I think. You spend all your time thinking about something that really doesn’t matter, and you run out of time to actually go and do it.”
How do you decide who you work with? Do you only work with bands who you listen to and like?
“This is a great question, and I’m surprised I don’t get asked it more often. There’s a language between the artist and the photographer that can be learnt to a certain degree, but it’s kinda like a vibe. I do have to like the artist, both musically and as a person, but most importantly I need to understand their music. Every time you see an artist perform, there are subtle changes to the music that influence how the artist moves. For example, Luke Boerdam from Violent Soho annunciates from one side of his mouth but also faces his guitar in the opposite direction. So you’re left with this conflict of, do you get the mouth screaming the lyric, or do you display more of the guitar? Does the guitar make sense in the moment, or is it a vocal moment? Will the photo even read as a vocal moment when you look back on it? Similarly, Chris from WAAX flings his guitar most times during one of their songs, but not in others. He often lifts his leg when he does it and twists his body, so you have to factor in your angle a little bit more to have the thrash translate enough. Knowing bands on that deeper level or in a way that is understood with patterns is awesome, but sometimes you love a band and their music so much but just can’t seem to find those common threads. Sometimes I feel there are bands that I want to work with so much, and always offer my work to, but I feel deep down there’s a better photographer out there for them. I want the best work for every band, and honestly, no one can be the perfect fit for every band no matter how much you want to be.”
What is your favourite song at the moment?
“My favourite song at the moment is “Quick To Judge” by Apart From This. I’ve always thought Apart From This were such an amazing band and was so bummed they didn’t continue on. But! Now we have the band LOSER, which includes Tim from Apart From This, Craig from The Bennies and Chris from The Smith Street Band. Their first EP was such a banger, and I’m sure their record is going to be amazing.”
What is your ultimate goal for your career? If photography could take you anywhere, where would it be?
“I don’t have any goals for my career. Things can change so quickly and I’m so afraid of disappointment. There’s a lot of ‘no’ in the industry, and a lot of opportunity. Things can change. If I anticipate too much, I’d be too distracted on what’s happening right now. If I’m keeping it vague and loose trying to answer your actual question, I would say I hope it will allow me to document some amazing bands that don’t even exist yet, capturing memories they will hold onto long after their band that doesn’t even exist yet is done.”
Thanks for your time!
“Thanks for speaking with me, man!”
If you want to hear more of Matt’s thoughts, you can check out his photography podcast Filter, a short form podcast providing advice for photographers. Answering questions and providing a summary of Matt’s personal experiences in an interesting and informative format.