Interview: Molly Matalon
Molly Matalon's new photographs feel like a candy store. She grew up in South Florida with palm trees, pools and sunny days in her surroundings. Her well-known photo story on her Mom shows the lifestyle the landscape in South Florida lends itself for. Her photographs have since, taken a new way into people’s portraits and new perspectives where she travels. Molly is now based in Brooklyn and has launched a book on her more recent photo-project, a set of studio portraits that look like yearbook photos full of character. We caught up with her and talked about lighting, travelling and what’s the secret to make it as a young photographer.
LANGLY: What’s your interest in photographing places through objects?
MOLLY: In the project about my mom and the sunny and colorful pictures, all of those are taken in South Florida. I was interested in the upkeep, artificial, and at times clinical feel that the landscape has.
How staged are your photos of places?
I believe that most if not all pictures are "staged" to some extent. It's hard for me to articulate but it's like when you see something in the world and frame it you're removing it from the world in some sense and because you're saying 'this is exactly what i wanted you to see'. With that being said I think all my pictures are staged.
What do you think these photos tell us about American culture?
I think some of these pictures tell us about idealism in american culture in terms of image and personal appearance. There is a lot of stress on things looking clean and orderly as well as an individual looking up to par to some larger societal standard.
Let’s move onto the portraits. It definitely looks like a yearbook but it seems the characters have really particular personalities, why?
Well I think it has to do with me picking out who to shoot. I like to shoot people I know really well because there is an unsaid interaction where the sitter and i both know what I am trying to get out of the picture but I don't have to direct much. I mean, I will tell someone like "look to the left" or "look where my hand is".
What’s the secret of making a boring yearbook photo into something special?
The secret is that it actually isn't a yearbook picture. No one wants to sit for their yearbook picture in reality.
And, how is it like working in the studio?
It's a challenge for me, I'm not a gear person and I am very sloppy with lighting..somehow I pull it off. It's nice to work in a space that is controlled. A lot of my 'studio' pictures are taken in my room, I move stuff out of the way and set up lights and a backdrop in the most discount way, my stands are barely functional.
What about your new book? What’s it like to open it and go through the pages?
To go through the book is a really fun and upbeat experience I think. It's very colorful and there is a lot of character, it's kind of like looking at paint swatches and also like being in a candy store with all of your best friends.
Yeah, I can definitely see the candy store feeling. How has this feeling changed since moving to New York?
Much of my work is made while traveling. I very rarely carry around a camera and shoot my 'life'. For example, I plan trips to Florida and shoot a lot while I'm there. I’ll bring my camera everywhere and shoot all day long as long as the light is out.
Finding the light in new places has always been my favorite thing, figuring out when it's the best. I love going new places with my friends because we are all photographers and when the light gets right we all freak out and run around with cameras taking pictures. Moving from South Florida to Brooklyn has made me a harder worker, i'm higher strung and more aware of my surroundings. There's not much I like to take pictures of in Brooklyn so if anything, moving to New York has made me want to travel out of the state more.
Finally, you’re quite a young photographer, any advice for new photographers to get their work noticed?
Put your work on the internet, defend your work, learn about the history of the medium you’re working with, take a lot of pictures to make good pictures.