Matt Power: interview with a photographer over the water
Every sea photo of Matt Power leaves us dreaming as she sweats the tropical heat and carries all the atmosphere of a life to the rhythm of the swell entries. Finalist of Prix Energy by Red Bull Photography 2021, Matt tells us about his vision of the profession, his attachment to Indonesian turquoise waters and shares some tips along the way.
You live on an evocative playground, why did you choose South East Asia?
I currently live in Indonesia and more precisely in Bali, where I am based full time. I was drawn to Southeast Asia years ago in my late teens. I have always had a keen curiosity for unknown cultures and unseen landscapes, this is what initially animated my desire to come here. For the past 5 years, I've traveled across Southeast Asia with my camera in hand, focusing on surfing and adventure. There are so many amazing waves in this corner of the world and it feels like a lifetime can be spent exploring them. Just before the pandemic hit, I landed in Indonesia where I had planned to stay for about 6 months. Then, the world started to close its borders, so I decided to settle in Bali. In my opinion, this decision gave me a base that I really needed after years on the road. Being based in Bali is great as it is very easy to travel around Indonesia from here and also to access different parts of Asia.
You are one of the finalists for the Energy by Red Bull Photography Award 2021. What does this opportunity mean to you?
To have been a finalist in the Red Bull contest was a real honour. I have followed the competition for years and have always admired winning photographers like Chris Burkard and Ben Thouard. Being recognized on the same platform continues to amaze me. It's definitely one of the highlights of my career so far. It was amazing to follow the development of the competition through the evaluation phases and now to see my image on tour with the exhibition, it's crazy! My main goal as a photographer is for people to see my work in large formats. The competition really encouraged me to keep improving my photography and I hope I will have another chance in the future.
You said somewhere that it took you a long time to capture this underwater photo. What are the ingredients of a perfect photo?
I feel like my best shots come froma mixture of the manifestation of a deep wish and an imagined concept, accompanied by a slice of magic and a luck factor with the natural elements. I had a vision in mind for a while, particularly for this photo of the sea, with the golden light and the strong silhouette as the main subject. For a perfect shot like this to happen, you have to be patient with the elements (surf forecast, light, etc.) and keep an eye on the conditions, that they line up in a perfect moment. I have made quite a few attempts at sea imagery, so perseverance is also essential. In short, I believe thatit's about having the determination and the perseverance necessary to transform an impossible concept into reality.
Since we are on the subject, let's talk about technique. You practice digital photography and film photography, how do you differentiate them?
All of my main work is digital. Jlearned photography with a film camera, which I think really helps you understand the fundamentals of photography and how to use a camera to capture the image you have in mind. However, I switched to a digital camera for all the benefits it brings, especially in the surf for extremely fast focusing and not being limited to a certain number of frames. I sometimes shoot with film on dry land, as it allows me to slow down and get back to the raw essence of creating a good image.
You also touch the video. From photography to video, is there a logical sequence for you?
I have a slight love-hate relationship with filmmaking. I see myself first and foremost as a photographer, rather than a videographer. I started doing a few short films at the request of my clients, and it's been fun and challenging to follow that path. In my opinion, the two are very different. This is not necessarily a logical progression. I will always continue to prioritize photography, but I always like to have a few small video projects and ideas to play around with on the side.
Can you tell us a bit more about your future projects?
I am currently happy to be based in Bali and have no plans to change anything at this time. I would like to continue exploring different waves in Indonesia and to venture more into Southeast Asia now that travel is easier again. What is certain is that a photo book is in the works in the next few years and I am always looking to organize exhibitions or experiment with new print work.
What do you recommend to those who want to start surf photography?
My first advice is to start with basic equipment, because you really don't need the latest camera or body to get into surf photography. Next, start by familiarizing yourself with your local surf spot, learning about the conditions and learning how to stay safe in the water. Get up close with local surfers and learn where to position yourself to get the shot you're looking for. You also always have to know your limits., if you think the water conditions are too difficult, it is not worth the risk to go there for a simple photo of the sea.