Current Feature: Matthew Pillsbury
Q: How did you first come to experiment with long exposures? Did you know right away that this was something you wanted to pursue further?
MP: I started taking long exposures in grad school for my Screen Lives series, which was partly inspired by Sugimoto's movie theatre photographs. I realized immediately that the long exposure method enabled me to tell stories within my images, which was not possible with standard exposure times. In the same way that very short exposures reveal truths about our world that we cannot see, my use of long exposures allows me to reveal our every day world in surprising ways.
Q: Are there certain times of the day or types of light that you prefer to photograph with?
MP: I used to only photograph in the dark, using exposures that ran over an hour or more in some cases, but as my work has progressed I have been photographing more and more during daylight hours. Nearly all of Sanctuary was shot during the day using a variety of neutral density filters to lengthen exposures a bit more. In the end, what interests me most is the dialogue between people, their activity and the environment they inhabit.
Q: How do you plan ahead for a shoot? Can you take me through your process in producing photos?
MP: It really depends. Some shoots are commissioned, some are assignments, some are fine art ideas, some are a combination of all of these routes to a completed image. Permission is needed for many of my shoots that aren't in public areas and that can require a bit of groundwork beforehand. Those images tend to be conceived ahead of time with a clear approach to making them. Other times, I find myself like a street photographer on the prowl for something interesting. Some of those images come together very quickly.
Q: As a child of Americans that was raised in France, do you think your unique childhood affected your sense of place and identity? How has this influenced your work?
MP: Absolutely. For instance, Screen Lives wouldn't have happened if I would have been allowed to watch television as a child. Because I wasn't, there wasn't a TV in the house at all. When I went to Yale, I obsessed over watching television, and gleefully watched Melrose Place and other trashy TV shows of the early 1990s with friends, and still do to this day. Screen Lives came about because of my own obsession with screens, which is my parent's doing. I also grew up looking at a lot of art, having been dragged into churches and museums as a child. I am grateful today for the cultural education my parents gave me. I also think that growing up bilingual and bicultural makes me more attuned to cultural differences. I think it’s given me a way to examine our world in a more alert and critical way.
Q: Technological determinism is rampant today— a lot of people are quick to blame the technology rather than human nature for our addiction to television and phone screens. Can you tell us about your personal relationship with technology?
MP: My current relationship to technology has evolved much like everyone else's. I now use smart phones and iPads much more than televisions to gather information and watch shows. It's definitely increased and my work reflects the constant presence of these devices and screens everywhere in our lives. Many people want to know if I think of these shifts positively or critically, but I don’t think is entirely relevant. Like most people, I see good things and bad things that have come about as this technology has entered our lives. The genie is out and there’s no going back. However, I think art plays a very important part in holding a mirror up to our lives and allowing us the space with which to consider these changes. I think the awareness and ensuing conversation are what is most important.
To read the full article from our Issue Humanity, visit here