Matthew Tammaro has an intimidating CV. To give you an idea, his list of associated publications include NEON, Nylon, Vogue and Esquire. Most recently he’s worked with Disney darling Demi Lovato. Regardless of his brief, in every image, he consistently captures the grainy nostalgia and aching of film stills. Think Badlands meets Virgin Suicides to attend The Breakfast Club. Originally from Canada, he now lives in the city of angels. But he still remains in touch with his roots, contributing to a beautiful collaboration blog with fellow Toronto artist Chelsee Ivan.
He has a natural affinity with the environment and female subjects, which he explores particularly well in his shoot for Lord & Taylor swimwear. He talked childhood, the interweb, the classics and landscapes with The Daily Spread.
The Daily Spread: Could you tell me a little about your background and childhood. When did you first pick up a camera?
Matthew: I grew up outside of Toronto in a country town. I’m an only child, and being from the country, I didn’t get to spend hours roaming subdivisions with too many kids my age. And the time I did spend with my close friends we were mostly hanging out in fields and forests. These years were really formative, and I most definitely have nostalgia for that, especially when I’m back in my hometown. I’m not quite sure when I picked up a camera – most likely high school – but my dad is a cinematographer, so it really was just a natural thing for me to try out. I always painted growing up, and pursued that for a bit in university. But photography satiated a want to make work that touched on that sentiment and nostalgia of the beauty that I was used to while growing up.
Your works have that sun-drenched look of L.A. Has your method or perspective on photography changed since your move from Toronto?
Natural light has always been a huge thing for me, whether shooting indoors or out, so I don’t know if that aspect has changed, but once I made the decision to move, I started incorporating a lot more colour in my work. LA is great though – the whole city is like this giant art directed set: you have these dramatic and diverse landscapes, colourful cities, all doused in perfect light. So as someone who does a lot of environmental and location work, it really couldn’t get much better. But it’s still really new to me, which is a bit hard. I’m not familiar with my feelings towards and within these locations, which plays a really big part in the conceptualisation of my shoots.
Do you prefer to capture vulnerability or strength in a subject? What draws you to the female form?
I don’t know if I ever think of vulnerability or strength when I’m shooting – I’m sure one or the other, or both, comes out somehow, but I’m not familiar with which it is, and it doesn’t interest me too much. The female form and subject is very interesting to me because, similarly to what I was saying about landscapes, it feels sentimental and nostalgic. I also really like the idea of reusing the classic motifs of art history, applying new aesthetics, and a new understanding of those symbols. It’s really a concern about our perception and enjoyment of something visual, and where I am interested has to do with ideas of beauty.
Which photographer has had the greatest impact on your work?
I can’t single out one. If I had to say one thing, or force, that has had an impact, it’s the internet. Being able to see thousands of pictures instantaneously is mind blowing. I also think, even though I’m not too well versed in cinema, movies have had a huge affect on my understanding of formal elements like composition and colour.
If you had a cocktail named after you, what would be in it?
(Laughs) Something savoury, like a Caesar – do you have those in Australia? (No.) It’s pretty much a Bloody Mary with Clamato, extra spicy pickled green beans. Or a scotch. Neat.
For more from Matthew, carve the address to his website into your bedside table in braille, so you can still read it in the dark.