“Less words, more imagery” – Matt Easton – Part 3

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

This time Matt’s answering some of the questions you asked him in our Facebook group
and in addition to that he’s telling us more about the way he managed to become an assistant of some of the most well-known names in the industry.
He’s taking us behind the scenes of his shoots with celebrities and leaking some details we can not get just by looking at the photos.
How to get amazing clients in your portfolio and to build your connections? – is one of the most important questions Matt will share thoughts on.

You can ASK US HERE everything you’d like to know know and we’ll answer in the next episodes!

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Links in this episode:
Mert and Marcus
Spring studios 
Tim Copsey 
Giovani Testino
Peter Dundas
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Matt:
I moved to London where I knew that those photographers were and I knew the studio that they used to work in. And I went and worked for the studio. They only came into the studio once. In the year that I was working there. At a studio called spring Studios in London and I used to paint COEs and take out people’s stale croissants and tidy up everything.A
t the end of the day. It wasn’t a glamorous job at all it was an opportunity it was great fun. You saw so many different things and different people that you learned a lot. But it was at that studio that I met Mert and Marcus and I knew that I was good enough to deserve an opportunity.
And I got on very, very well with the producer of their shoot at the time. They were going from a four day shoot with French folk to three days shoot for Roberto Cavalli book. And the producer said I need an extra pair of hands on this set. Are you available?
So I went into the bit of production work. And after the three day Cavalli shoots they were moving straight into a four day Amani shoot. And the first assistant at the time came up to the producer and said, We need an extra pair of hands. This concept is evolved and things have got the scale has grown.
The producer said there is no budget, but you can take math. She gave me that wink. She knew exactly what she was doing. And she was the one that opened the door into that world. And then it was all down to me.
Once somebody opens the door only you can close it behind you. So I just worked my ass off there are ups and downs, it wasn’t easy. I made them notice me.
I worked harder than anybody else. And I forced myself into that position. And it was the best time of my life.

Virginia:
I sense that you’re a very very hard working person.

Matt:
Yeah, I think there’s so many photographers, nobody now wants to be a banker. You know, nobody now wants to be a doctor or footballer, everybody now wants to be something creative. A singer, a movie star photographer. It’s such as saturated market. So I think you’ve really got to have that determination and work ethic, if you’re going to be noticed from the others.

Virginia:
Was there one key thing that you think can help the assistants out there?

Matt:
It’s very tricky because you’re there to second guess the photographer. So your job is to there to kind of realize what the photographer is doing. And guess what they are going to want next, need next, and kind of half have that prepared.
But again, I think as an assistant, you’ve got to be prepared for anything that photographer wants and be humble and be trustworthy and work hard.
And if you can do that you got every ingredient in there to be a great assistant. It might just take a little bit of time going through the tedious process on how your relationship starts with that photographer.
It’s like dating you go on a three or four dates and have three or four trial sessions, or three or four jobs where the photographers looking for a new assistant.
You never know, if you’re going to marry somebody on after one day. It takes four or five dates to persevere.
And also as well when I when I was working with Mert and Marcus before I got in there, and I had other options from other photographers, I would drop the other photographers the last minute, I shouldn’t really admit to that. But it was Mert and Marcus for who I wanted to work with. So I put all my eggs in one basket and made sure that they couldn’t see past me that I was their only option and that I was their best option.

Virginia:
And is there something that an assistant should never ever do?

Matt:
Two things that I hate one having a mobile phone on the set where set’s a closed set. So there should be no mobile phones. You don’t want anybody taking pictures of the light that you’re using the model what she’s wearing the way the model looks, you don’t want that to go up and Instagram before the images have been retouched post production approved by the client. So having a mobile phone on set is a big No, no for me.
And then you want to end assistance to in the nicest way possible. Respect the hierarchy of their place. They are there for the photographer, they’re there to assist if the assistant is they’re trying to chat up a model or overstepping the boundary. It’s a big No, no, because I think that shows a lack of respect from his or her side on how he sees his job, or his responsibilities of the day.

Virginia:
And what’s the most valuable lesson you learned from your use of assisting?

Matt:
Be prepared, anything can change. If you know you’re shooting outside, check the weather forecast. So if it’s going to rain, let production know, let producers know that the photographer knows, if nothing changes, then be prepared.
Get umbrellas, it’s always thinking two or three steps ahead. If you’re on a sunny location, you’re going to need somewhere to change the film to make sure there’s no sound governance, the cameras and the computers. It’s basically planning for the worst case scenario and making sure it doesn’t happen.

Virginia:
It’s amazing learning curve to be an assistant.

Matt:
Yeah, I love that. I absolutely loved it.

Virginia:
But right now you’re on your own and you are doing some amazing stuff!

Matt:
It’s a big change. I love having control of my own life again. But it’s having that responsibility and having that pressure as an individual photographer. It’s really rewarding when you know that everybody’s happy with your images.
And the model looks great. And the model likes the images and the client likes the images and it’s just learning to deal with that kind of that change of pressure. I love being a photographer. It’s the best job in the world.

Virginia:
Nice! I’m sure that there is a lot of pressure because you also shoot a lot of people that everybody can recognize. For example – Rita Ora.

Matt:
Yeah, I like shooting celebrities. I like recognizing somebody, it gives me a buzz I’ve met Rita a few times before. And it was this project came up.

Virginia:
So you knew each other before that?

Matt:
We had been in the same sort of social groups, and we’d have very similar friends. And as soon as she walked on set, it felt like there was a connection and we knew each other just because we were like, ah you’re friends with this guy, and this guy, and we were here together and it instantly felt familiar.
And it’s just nice to have that kind of connection. And she had worked for Clash magazine before and love the shoot. I know Clash magazine well, so we had all the right ingredients for it to be an amazing shoot. And it was such a fun shoot. Really, really enjoyed it.

Virginia:
Tell us more about it! What about the idea behind it?

Matt:
The Creative Director, an old friend of mine, Rob called me up and said, we’re doing a futuristic theme for our next edition. We want to break the internet and we want Rita Ora I’m like, amazing. Let’s do it. And we went through some references. And yeah, I was so open for it.
It was one of those things where we had lots of meetings beforehand about the direction about the nudity, about the attitude about the styling, because we didn’t have a lot of time. We shot this a week before it went to print. Rita was only available for a small period of time. I think we did the whole shoot in about four hours.
It was really was one of those shoots where you have to be prepared. Rita came out an hour late, I think, or maybe two hours late, which you always have to account for. But we managed to get everything can. She was an absolute trooper, her work ethic, her energy, her trust and belief in the project was amazing. And she loved the images.

Virginia:
I think that’s the most important part.

Matt:
I gave her son Prince everything at the end. Oh, that’s so nice. Yeah, I’m sure we will be working together a future project we had a great energy we keep in contact, which is nice.

Virginia:
I would love to see that!

Matt:
Yeah, she’s great. She got such a beautiful face, skin tone is amazing. Her confidence in her own skin, her body and her trust that she was so easy to take pictures of.

Virginia :
Actually, when you said skin tone. I have a question!
In our Facebook group called The Fashion Photography Podcast again. And the question is from Tim Copsey, who is saying that there is high proportion of monochrome images on your website, which is great, do you feel that this is a positive thing when you’re pitching your work to clients?

Matt:
One of the first agents I went to see after sharing my book or is one of the best agents. His name’s Giovanni Testino – Mert and Marcus’s agent. He represents some of the world’s best photographers. And what he said to me was, he said that clients want to know your direction, you need to show an obvious color and an obvious black and white world.
So he said, you need to decide if you want your black and whites to be like black and white, or if you want there to be a little bit of soft and silver monotone in the blacks, rather than pushing the contrast to really harsh point. And it made me think I totally agree.
And it’s like if you look at all the Stephen clients, black and whites, they’re all the very same live in the same world. If you look at Mert and Marcus’s black and whites. Again, they all live in the same world, you should be able to tell a photographer’s picture by the picture, you should look at the magazine and be able to say, I know who shot that because I know that color. That’s because people have a uniform for their own images. So I need to have a uniform for my image.
And I looked at the images that I wanted to make. I lit the girl within the voice that I want to have within the industry. And I wanted something that was a little bit softer, a little bit more emotional than what I would assume really harsh contrast the black and white image. So I went down the monochrome world and I enjoyed playing with pushing a bit of silver into the mid tones. And I felt like that just made my pitches a little bit softer, and a little bit more relatable, then something that is so harshly contrast in black and white.
It took a lot of time and playing and testing. But I like monotone.

Virginia:
And probably your clients love it too.

Matt:
Yeah, my clients love that kind of softness, because I think it is more relatable. And I think every client now wants something that is more relatable.

Virginia:
Have you ever had a client who’s like sounds like “Your work is too monochrome for me!”?

Matt:
No, not because I think there’s so many photographers out there, client knows the photographer or knows the direction that they want before they approach an agency or approach of photographer. And also a client isn’t the expert, we are the experts. And they’re employing us. So if you’ve got a nice way of communicating why you do things in a certain way the client is employing you to do your thing. In this they feel really strongly about it. They should understand and trust you. You’re the expert.

Virginia:
Completely agree. You mentioned your circle of friends. And I was wondering do you have any advice is for the people that are trying to…Build up their teams?

Matt:
It takes time. And you need more than one good stylist friend. Because you want to work with people that genuinely believe in your static in your voice. And in your vision. I’ve got lots of amazing stylist friends that we don’t work together because our characters and our goals and what we want to say are very different. So we just make sure that we’re just friends and I love their work and they love my work. But our aesthetic is very different. You have to make sure that you’re working with people that are on the same page and believe in the same vision as you do.
So therefore, you’ve got to make sure that you’re in a city or a town or a place where there is a hub of young youth that you can tap into to make sure that you can surround yourself with stylists that you don’t work with. But also stylists that you do work with as well.

Virginia:
That’s a great advice. Thank you so much for it. And also for the people that are trying to make their photography a little bit different.
Because for example, right now they’re at the moment when they have a certain style, but everything seemed too calm, too easy for them.
What would you tell to them in order to bring a little bit of difference to their style?

Matt:
I think you’ve got to constantly push the boundaries. And I think the only way of doing that is finding the space that you could have as a small studio space and test. Play around. Don’t be scared to fail. Some of my best camera tricks came from failing came from mistakes that I didn’t realize. And I loved it.
And then I explored that mistake and understood how to use that mistake as a positive. You constantly got to be working and testing and shooting. Don’t just wait for clients. I have my clients and I have my magazines.
But on a day off when I’m in the studio, I will shoot some flowers or I would be testing or are we doing something creative, which inspires me to change the way that maybe I think about something called gives me an opportunity to shoot things in a different way.

Virginia:
That’s very interesting. So even in your free time you’re shooting.

Matt:
Yeah, I am. I just started shooting a series of flowers. I’d come back you know, on set. There’s always flowers, production gifts, flowers for the models for the clients to make the studio space look nice. Just started collecting all these old flowers and letting them die.
And it’s just personal work that kills time and keeps you inspired and makes you feel like you are in control of what you take. Because even now in editorial is there’s so many people they’re saying, Oh, you can’t do it like this or you can’t do it like that. You’ve just gotta shoot what you want to shoot.

Virginia:
Yes, flowers are so not restrictive. And at the same time – they’re so beautiful.

Matt:
Yeah, exactly!

Virginia:
I feel like every artist who is having a little bit of free time and wondering what to shoot is shooting flowers.
And I love the result every time! You cannot get flowers looking bad.
Where can we see this project or it’s not out yet?

Matt:
I was going to post a flower later on my Instagram, which is just Matt Easton.
Somebody said to me at Christmas, they wanted to see me inspired. This project came from them. It’s an ongoing project. And I don’t know when it’ll be over. But they inspired me to take the series of flowers.

Virginia:
Well, we’re going to see that project on your Instagram. I cannot wait!
What’s the last project that got you excited?

Matt:
I get excited by everything, come really easy. So I did a job on last week in New York for eyewear campaign with a really big celebrity and that was amazing. But I’ve got some cool editorials coming out and I’m really excited about those. I feel privileged and there’s nothing that I’m not excited about. I’m shooting for Charlotte Tilbury beauty tomorrow. I love working for Charlotte and her brand. It’s always a fun day. I’m excited by every day that I’m shooting.

Virginia:
And we’re excited to have you here!
So… do you have a final advice for the people that also want to shoot with clients like that? What are the steps?

Matt:
I was very lucky I met Charlotte when I was with Mert and Marcus. So tomorrow I’m shooting with Charlotte. And then I’m off to Milan and to shoot Peter Dundas’s new fashion label -Thunder. I’ve worked with him two or three times before.
And then I go back to New York. And I’ve got some jobs with Macy’s before I go to LA for some editorial projects. And all of those connections come from putting yourself in an environment where you can meet people, those people can inspire you.
They like you. They want to help you. And so many people in this industry want to help young talent. So it’s about putting yourself in that environment. And it’s not as easy as said is done, especially if you’re in smaller towns. And your network isn’t that big. You I think go into somewhere like Paris, Milan, London, New York. And the best way that I would do it is reach out to the photography studios. Like for example, in London, you’ve got three or four big photography studios, Big Sky, Spring studios, The Loft, Direct Photographic, they all want the young hungry people to come and work in their studios.
And you only do it for a period of time. And people used to do it for a year of their life. Within that year. They meet photographers, they meet clients, they meet art directors, they go on to assist those. And that’s your doorway.
That’s your magic key to open that door. All of these photography studios would gladly take people on I think that’s the best way to do it is to put yourself in a location where you know you’re going to have that exposure to help you walk on your own path

Virginia:
Matt, this was a great advice!

Matt:
Of course, nobody should be scared. I think that’s the bottom line. Nobody has the power to tell you – what you’re doing is wrong. It is all subjectual or so if somebody doesn’t like it, it means there’s somebody out there will will like it.
If you go to a gallery you might like something but your mother or father might dislike it. Everyone has an opinion. So don’t let people’s opinions affect what you do or your ambition or your determination. Just let it make you more determined.

Virginia:
I love those words, Matt! I love the interview too, thank you so much!

Matt:
Thank you! I really appreciate it! It was lovely speaking to you and if anybody wants to reach out my email is on my website. I’m available.

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