“Less words, more imagery” – Matt Easton – Part 2

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In this episode of the Fashion Photography Podcast
we meet Matt Easton (instagram: matteaston)

Matt will share with us some advises on handling tough clients.
Comparing yourself to other people – is he doing it, is it healthy for you?
Another part of our conversation is charity organizations and what are the things
that we need to be alert about when we are starting such relationship.
Every time we talk about shooting naked women we always discuss the comfort of the model,
but never – the comfort of the photographer… this time we talk about both!

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Links in this episode: 

Lara Stone
Cat McNeil
Irina Shayk
Unitas
Mert and Marcus
Annie Leibovitz
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Virginia Y:
That’s true. I know so many photographers are going on this different direction whey’re also showing themselves as influencers.

Matt Easton 
Yes, exactly! That comes down to the client. When you’ve got photographers like Mario Testino, Paul Martin Marcus, or David Sims or Steven Klein – these big fashion photographers – they’ve become influencers because of the nature of their work.
Since the social media – Instagram, Facebook, people want to follow these photographers to see what work they’re doing because they’re constantly redefining the boundaries of fashion and inspiring the youth of today just by doing what they’re doing. They’re becoming influencers on social media by the amount of followers they’ve got. I’d buy photography book, because I want to see the way a photographer will like something but I also would buy a photography book because I want to see into the life of that photographer. I want to see him, sitting by the Chateau Marmont, in LA with his wife and see in world, because that’s an attractive thing as well to feel like you get to know somebody.

Virginia Y 
I think you’re right. People want to know the people that are working with. Especially nowadays, which is very weird, because usually the name is very important, especially nowadays. But at the same time, I feel like we are getting closer to this moment where we’re just interested in the person next to us...This is so fascinating for me!

Matt Easton
It’s like a double edged sword. Is it good, and it’s sad, you know, it’s amazing to have that insight into somebody’s life or to look at locations through Instagram to look at models work through Instagram. It’s the way that photographers light things for Instagram. But I think if you’re not careful, it’s something that can also be quite dangerous as well. Because you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people. You’re constantly judging what you’re doing by somebody else. And Instagram shouldn’t validate who you are as an artist to a person because you post something on Instagram, it blows up over 24 hours, and the next 24 hours everyone’s forgotten about it. So it’s a great exposure platform. But also it shouldn’t dictate how you feel about yourself or about your work.

Virginia Y
And that’s an interesting thought and I think it’s also very important one!

Do you compare yourself to other people?

Matt Easton 
It’s tricky not to compare yourself to anybody in any day of life that’s always been there. With social media it’s just been in heightened because it’s in front of your face on a daily basis 24/7.
I look at people’s work and I’m like: “Ahhhh! I wish I’ve done that hair and makeup!” or “Wow, that picture is amazing” or “Oh, how did he get that job?” You do compare yourself. But it’s nothing I take it too seriously. Because if you’re passionate, you’re talented, you know what you want to do. And you’re determined – you’ll get there. Sometimes the slow tortoise can win the race as well. So I don’t think there’s any rush. I think it’s just about sticking to what you do. Believe in what you do, and be passionate about what you do, so that other people can be passionate about it as well.

Virginia Y 
Do you ever have moments when you feel like this is just so not working?

Matt Easton 
Yeah, like all the time! I think everyone does, right?

Virginia Y  
Yeah, everyone does. But at certain point, people are like, “Oh, my God, he’s so ahead of me!”.

Matt Easton 
There’s somebody that thinks that about me and I’m thinking that about somebody else as well. The tricky thing as an artist is that you are only ever as good as the last picture you took. That’s why we’re control freaks. That’s why we are constantly workaholics because we’re constantly trying to inspire ourselves, think about the next project. And I think the reality is, sometimes you just gotta stop and realize that we’re very, very lucky. We’re very appreciative of where we are in our own careers. If you can make a living from doing what you love- to me, then you are winning anyway.
It doesn’t matter how successful you are… So at the end of the day, it all comes down to your own happiness. And if you can live a life by doing something that you enjoy, then I think you’re winning.

Virginia Y
Do you think that in the near future, people will be able to make a living from photography?

Matt Easton
I think photography will always be there.
It is changing so much… And photography will always be there, movies will always be there. Now, people are wanting less words and more imagery, the way that technology is going – people are swiping and using their fingers to look at images more than their eyes to read something. So I think imagery will always be there. I just don’t know in what capacity. I hope magazines are always there, but even if it goes into… holograms or 3d or teleports… whatever. However crazy you let your imagination run with it, there’s still going to be artists. They’re creating images to make those things happened anyway. So that always be a place for our work.

Virginia Y 
Less words and more imagery. It’s kind of hard to do it in the podcast.
So let’s talk a little bit about your imagery. Let’s talk, for example, about the photo shoot that you did for your cover for W magazine.

Matt Easton 
Laura’s a good friend of mine, I’m having lunch with her in a few hours. She’s a very, very good friend of mine. This campagin was made for the breast cancer awareness and sponsored by Tiffany’s the jewelry. They want to bring awareness and strength and empower women’s bodies. But also making them aware of the realities out there and what is need to be looking out for. And Laura was a great candidate, she’s got an amazing figure, she’s got an amazing confidence an amazing boobs! So if you’re shooting a story based around boobs and breast cancer… it was great to do it with one of my best friends that I’m extremely comfortable with and I’ve known for a very long time.
Her body is amazing and she was the number one model for five or six years worldwide and she rose to her career when sex really was the forefront of advertising and she is renowned have face is very sexual face… Her lips and her teeth and everything about her and from the time in her career where where she really excelled was that a very sexual place as well so she’s very confident, very comfortable and it’s easy to get quite intuitive with Laura

Virginia Y
We talked a lot about the comfort of the model when we’re shooting naked people, but we never talk about the comfort of the photographer!

Matt Easton 
Oh… I’m not a diva. I’ll make sure I’m comfortable some way or another.
You can only ever be stressed if you’re not prepared, so if you’re prepared and you’ve got everything you need and you know what you’re doing then there is no stress and if you’re not stressed then you’re comfortable.

Virginia Y
So the very first time you shot a naked woman you were just comfortable with it?

Matt Easton
I think the first time I’ve shot a series of naked women – it’s on my website – it’s a series of really big supermodels – Irina Shayk,Cat McNeil, Jamie’s in there…. We got approached by a charity called Unitas and they work in preventing and stopping the kidnapping and sex slavery of young Eastern European girls. They wanted to do a photoshoot which was based around nude, vulnerable models, empowering their bodies, and let them bringing awareness to the fact that – It’s their body, It’s their choice. So we shot this series of portraits all in one day. The girls would come in, there would be little conversation, I would make sure they were comfortable, but before you knew it, we’ve got the shot and they were back out the door. And that series of work sold for $50,000 and all procedures went to the charity, which is really amazing. And it’s the charity that I’m quite close to, and want to continue working with. And we’ve been speaking about exhibitions and other ways of raising money for the charity.

Virginia Y
That’s so awesome! Actually, it’s one of the topics that I wanted to brought up during the interview. Is there something that you want to tell to the photographers that want to be part of a charity, but they don’t know how to go about it?

Matt Easton 
It’s also quite sad as well, that there’s a lot of charities out that make profit as well. So you’ve got to do your research, you got to know where the money’s going to, you’ve got to be passionate about the charity, for example, this project I had with the documentation from the charity and the procedures of where the money went to, the amount of…. I had the facts. So I knew the amount of girls and children that they had helped previously compared to the year before and I could present all of this data to the model agents. So they knew that they will put in their girls into a safe environment that was actually going to do good. Because there are charities out there that see opportunities for things to be done in a different way. And it’s always good to give back to charities, I think you just got to make sure that the charity is something that is important to you, and you can relate to. Or you, you have a reason why you want to help that charity. And then you need to just make sure that you’ve got documentation on the structure of the charity to help you get the specific type of models you want or to just to copy around that as well. You don’t ever want to be shooting for a charity without knowing where the image is going.

Virginia Y
Absolutely! And in this particular case, you were shooting in the same place were you’re used to right?

Matt Easton 
Yeah, it was my studio in New York, we’ve got lots of friends who are models and lots of model agents. And it was a case of running around everybody over a two day period and seeing how many girls we could get at the right time. And it was amazing. It was one of my favorite projects I’ve done because it was so easy… There was no client there. It was fun. I have good relationships with all of those girls. It was comfortable. And the images I believe are some of my favorite when you can do something like that and raise money for charity as well we’re all very privileged. We’re not saving the world. We want to be photographers. We are photographers, we’re image makers and artists and I think if you can give back to people that are less fortunate, doing something that you love – it’s a no brainer for me. There should be more photographers getting involved in charities.

Virginia Y 
I completely agree. Even I’m looking for a charity at the moment that I can support as a photographer, but it’s not an easy process. As you said there are many charities are not legit.

Matt Easton 
Yeah, I always knew that I wanted to work for charities. There are charities that I went looking for, but sometimes they come to you as well. Just don’t make a quick decision on it. I think it’s something you will know instantly when there’s an opportunity that fits and feels right.

Virginia Y
I really trust my gut. And it sounds like he did the same. It’s very funny that you mentioned that there was no clients. So it’s been a great photo shoot!

Matt Easton
Yeah, clients are complicated. When a client is there, the pressure of the whole office on their back, it’s down to them. So I get it. But clients make things harder by being on set. But it’s their job. And as long as you’ve got good communication, it’s fine.

Virginia Y
Do you have any advice is on handling tough clients?

Matt Easton 
It’s knowing your ability, having clear communication, I can do anything the client wants me to do. I just need clear communication to make sure that I’m not wasting my time or the model’s time. And if you’re wasting the models time, the model will let you know because you’ll be able to see it in their posture in their face and their energy. So it’s all down to clear communication from the start.
The way that I would usually do is to shoot a couple of pictures, show the client, make sure they’re happy with the direction then I kindly ask the client to vacate. And then I like to clear the room and make sure it’s just me and the model and the stylist and just shoot as much as we can and make sure we know that we’ve got the image before bringing the client back in.

Virginia Y 
It is extremely important to know at the very beginning what you’re doing. Yeah, for example, last week, I had a case with a client when we started shooting and I was like, “Okay, is that the direction that we’re going for”? And she answered “Oh, I’m not quite sure my seller is not here and she’s giving me directions usually”. So we had to send the photos to the seller first. They were super happy at the end, but that was stressful…

Matt Easton
When you’re in a scenario like that you almost want to stop and say, right, I’ll let you guys have a quick discussion.

Virginia Y 
Exactly what I did.

Matt Easton 
Yeah, if there’s no clarity, then you can’t produce what they want to you’re just kind of wasting everybody’s time.

Virginia Y
Clients are not easy. Not always. But there are some amazing clients. It’s very important for me that you are constantly saying “You need to be prepared”. I definitely think that the fact that you’re so aware of your light is giving you the chance and freedom to have the time to talk to your model and be clear with your client and your crew, am I right?

Matt Easton 
Totally. The most important thing for me in the morning is to know what you’re doing. Because I think there’s a lot of times that this is underestimated. And I think that time in the morning with a model is getting her hair and makeup as a photographer – I want to be talking to the model, talking to the client and making sure that they feel comfortable around me making sure that they know that they can ask me for anything, or they can talk about a direction at anytime and while you’re doing that, your assistant is setting up the lights. And that’s something that you need to think about the night before and was be available for variable change because things do change and you might want to mix things up. But you need a starting point and it’s important when you’re there in the morning, your assistant to know how to set up your cameras, to know how to set up the lights that you want, to set up the computers and the digital station – so you can spend your time talking to a model and sitting there having a cup of tea with her while she’s having her hair or hair makeup done, talking to the clients and looking over the reference board. So you have to know where you want to start or a starting point for your assistants to help assist all about preparing beforehand.

Virginia Y 
You were working as an assistant for quite a long time. And now you’re having assistants. I’m wondering what was the thing that you were demanding from your assistants when hiring them?

Matt Easton 
I believe you can teach anybody anything. So what I require is someone that has a basis of knowledge that is hungry.
I enjoy teaching somebody but I don’t enjoy teaching somebody the same thing twice.
It’s somebody that is hungry and has the ability to learn and listen, if you want to learn something and somebody tells you it – that’s enough for you to go away, understand it and remember it. So I don’t really like wasting time and telling people things more than once But the other thing that is really important to me is to be someone that’s humble and respectful. Because if you’re spending a lot of time with them, you got to like them as a person, regardless of their qualities as an assistant. You have to like them and trust them as a person. That’s what I look for the most.

Virginia Y 
The very first time I went to assist continuously, just one photographer, I remember she came to me and said, “I’m going to show you everything in the studio. I’m going to show it once. If needed I’m going to show it to you twice, but if I have to show it to you third time I’m just going to point the door. I assisted there for three years. And then I had to explain where is everything.

Matt Easton 
Yeah, exactly! And that’s the thing – as an assistant you are given that amount of trust to that photographer’s life and you get to a point where that photographer relies on you so much that they end up asking you where the things are, where their car keys are, where their lights are, where their checkbook so what time their mother is arriving… There’s so many things that come with that relationship is quite funny.

Virginia Y 
I know that everyone that is listening to the show right now, but have also took a look at your website knows who you’ve been assisting, but let’s share it here for the people that are first listening to the podcast?

Matt Easton 
I spent seven years assisting Mert and Marcus. But before then, I was working with people, like Annie Leibovitz, or Miguel Rodrigo and I loved assisting. But I really wanted to learn and give my life to photography. To learn as much as I could do in the shortest period of time, because there’s a difference between freelance assistant and full time assistant. When you’re Freelancer assistant, you see lots of different photographers and lots of different ways of working, but you don’t necessarily get to know the client or see how the photographer deals with work in post production or selects, you just see the nine hours on set and I had an opportunity to assist Mert and Marcus, that was one of the best experiences of my life. I’m still in very good contact with them, and they’re very supportive. And in that seven years, we had days where we were shooting 30 days a month in different cities, flying on different red eye flights, different clients, learning from the best styling the best hair, the best makeup, I’ve seen the best models, the best celebrities in the world, and things are really being done to such a high standard, the it was the best training and the best education I could have possibly had for my own career.

Virginia Y
Well, I’m very, very sure that everybody wants to now how that just happened to you?

 

And you will find out! Next Wednesday when we’ll publish the last part of out interview with Matt Easton

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