matteo gueli: the duality of sound and image
INTERVIEW BY LAUREN ARMAO
How/when did you first get started taking photographs?
I started taking photos on family road trips when I was a kid, and eventually decided to get myself a DSLR when I was 15 just for fun. My early photography days were simple: I began by photographing classmates on weekends. I would take embarrassingly corny photos of people laying in leaves with selective colour (not my proudest days) which slowly evolved into more planned-out and meaningful images.
How would you describe your style as a photographer? What do you strive for when capturing images?
I would describe my style as emotional: I use photography to express what I’m feeling. My photos are mostly quite posed and planned, but not to the point where it looks overly thought-out. I definitely want all of my photos to have a sense of intimacy. I feel like a lot of my photos convey a similar mood: almost a feeling of looking at something that isn't your business, but not wanting to look away. It’s like observing someone else’s life through a window.
Your “Pure Heroine” inspired photo series was phenomenal - how did you go about creating the photoshoot concepts for the songs you chose?
Thank you! The whole process was pretty natural. I’ve been listening to Pure Heroine by Lorde for almost 5 years, so I knew the whole album inside and out. I used the mood and sound of each song to influence every photo: for example, the blaring synths in Tennis Court made me think of harsh lighting, whereas the very spacey and dark Buzzcut Season reminded me of late night bus rides and the green-tinted lights I was so familiar with. I also used people that I spend the last few years being close to as my models. I found that it was easy to be comfortable around them, and it made each of the images even more special to me.
The image I struggled with the most was A World Alone. I wanted it to be a self-portrait, because the album is so important to me growing up and that track in particular was my long-time favourite. It was also the last image of the series, so I wanted it to be memorable. I shot it 4 different times with 4 different people. I had completed the entire series, but that photo was still not feeling right. After the 3rd (uneventful) shoot, I was driving home in the worst mood ever, knowing that the project deadline was coming up and that I wasn’t going to have an image I was satisfied with. Out of nowhere, a massive blanket of fog covered the street I was driving on: it looked like something out of a movie. I instantly called up my friend who lived nearby, told her that I’d be there in two minutes and took one single photo outside a high school nearby. It ended being one of my favourites from the series!
How do you think art across different mediums - whether it be music, photography, design, etc - influence each other?
I can’t imagine what my work would look like without music. Almost every image I take is inspired by a song. Music inspires photography, photography inspires cinema, cinema inspires music: every art form is used to convey ideas, which can also be conveyed by other art forms. What I appreciate about inspiration from different platforms is that it’s more a blank slate: each of the photos from the Pure Heroine series were based on my own perception of the songs, not based already-existent imagery tied to them. I’m sure that if another photographer did the same thing, the results would be vastly different. Crossing over mediums allows different artists to all look at the same thing, get inspired, and all come up with something completely unique.
How do you find inspiration for your art without imitating those you’re inspired by?
My solution to that is looking for inspiration in music. I often find that looking at the work of other photographers makes me want to emulate them rather than get inspired by them, which is why I find it better to use sounds or writing as inspiration.
Besides photography, what else are you passionate about?
I have headphones on 90% of the day, so I’m definitely a music person. I’m also a huge geography and history nerd. I love reading about why places exist and where they came from. I’m especially fond of small towns: I love driving through them, I find them oddly inspiring. There’s something so strange to me about why someone would want to live somewhere so tiny and far-out, but I also find it quite inspiring (it all comes back to photography, even with my other hobbies).
What are your plans for 2019?
I’m finishing up my commercial photography program at Dawson College in May, and after that who knows? I might keep going and get some artistic training. Other than that, I’m driving from Montreal to Utah at the end of May, to work on a series I have planned about small towns and loneliness. I also really want to publish a photo book by the end of the year, exploring the idea of growing up in suburbs a bit deeper. I’m also working on a sequel to my Pure Heroine series, based on Melodrama, which will be completed by May!
Who’s on your playlist at the moment?
I mean, Lorde is always on my playlist. I’ve been having a huge Björk phase lately, that woman is an absolute genius. I’m also really fond of the new tracks Lana Del Rey has released recently. I also love Mitski, The 1975’s new album, Kacey Musgraves, and Janelle Monáe. Finally, I CANNOT stop listening to Night Time, My Time by Sky Ferreira. That album is basically perfect, and I’m so incredibly excited to finally hear her sophomore album this year.