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Even as a child Matt Wilson was delighted with painting, and that fascination was transferred to his photography: using analogue, colour film, he produces a painterly effect, which, in addition to paying homage to the motifs in his images, is also to be understood as a tribute to the old Masters.

LFI: What does “landscape” and the impulse to capture it photographically mean to you?
Matt Wilson:
I don’t necessarily think in terms of landscape, I simply think in terms of emotion and ambiance within imagery. I like to immerse myself within the environment wherever I am, and I react to what it is I see and feel. I don’t necessarily make a distinction between landscape and portrait. For me they are one and the same: a great landscape is a great portrait and, similarly, a great portrait is a great landscape.

What world do you want to show?
I never set out with a preconceived idea of the work I make: I leave home, go on the road and travel. The experience is the work, and the images that are born of these travels are just moments that strike me enough to try and interpret them in some sort of artistic way – visual travel notes if you will. The road less travelled that leads you to some mystical place; a journey of discovery is what I try to convey, for the viewer to be transported to some other space in time.

How do you create the historic-looking, poetic and moody effect?
In the early 90s, when I was learning the technical parameters of photography, there was an abundance of analogue colour film still being produced, and I became obsessed with testing these films, to see which ones had the ability to emulate a painterly effect. There were certain film stocks that had a very specific grain structure that I fell in love with, and so all this technical knowledge I was gaining, coupled with a growing ability in the darkroom and a deep rooted love of painting, seemed to harmonize resulting in an aesthetic that allowed me to photograph as if I were to paint. The moody landscape is just my nod of appreciation to the Masters that continue to inspire awe in their work centuries later.

You worked with the Leica MP. How was your experience with it?
When I started out as an assistant, the Holy Grail amongst all of us was the Leica M6. A couple of friends had them, and it was always – at least amongst us – what we were striving to own. Once I’d saved enough money I went to the camera store and looked at all the Leicas: the MP just felt perfect. Discreet, quiet, light and seemingly indestructible, it ticked all the boxes for me. Because of the way I travel, I hate being bogged down by equipment: one camera, one lens was always my preference, and the MP coupled with the 35mm f/1.4 Asph lens is all I need. The beauty of it for me is that you develop a relationship with your camera: I know that camera inside out, cherish it and still use it as my main camera after 25 years. (Interview: Katja Hübner)

All images on this page: © Matt Wilson
Equipment: Leica MP with Summilux-M 35 f/1.4 Asph
© Marcus Donates

Matt Wilson

Born British (*1969), Matt Wilson could be seen as a successor of the New Color movement, with painterly-like, colour effects being the essential thing that makes his images so seductive. With a studied knowledge of darkroom techniques, the photographer produces every picture by hand himself; and even though each one is an individual – rather than part of a series –, they all reflect one singular vision, where every place he captures seems somehow imbued with personal history.

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