I've know Matt Leach a couple of years now; I was really impressed with his work and one day asked if he'd mind me coming along to a shoot and seeing how he ran a session - his work is so creative and really stood out to me. His response was one of 'I really dont' think you'll learn much from me, but you are welcome anytime' - he couldn't have been more wrong, as I continue to be impressed with everything he does!
He's so invested in his photography its unreal, he's always Pinterest-ing, looking at work and talking to potential collaborators- and to think he's also go a family and full-time job to juggle, I'm amazed how he gets so much fitted in! His work is well planned, creative and great to look at; although he is pretty modest and says its all down to his team (he does work with some very talented MUA's and models), he does pull it all together to ensure some outstanding results.
Q - How have you been since we last shot? What have you been up to?
A - We shoot together all the time! So the usual mish mash of shoot craziness, mixed in with 'real life work' and my dysfunctional family!
Q - How did you get into the world of photography/modelling/makeup - what was your first shoot?
A - It feels like its been a part of my life forever now but I got a 'big' camera, just under four years ago to try and capture better family photos. I went on a Groupon studio course to learn how to use it better (ironically taught by James Beddoes, who I now share a studio with!). The course was totally the wrong course for me to learn about my camera, but something clicked (excuse the pun) while I was there and I seemed to be ok at it right from the off. I loved my images of this amazing model, admittedly I now know it was all down to the lighting and pose, I had just pressed a button but I still felt really chuffed with this!
I’ve always loved photos and photography. My father was an enthusiastic hobbyist and owned an SLR camera that he would never let me play with, which like any child, made me fascinated by it. My mother always hoarded every photo taken and I loved (and still do) pawing through them, getting nostalgic. I still have all the boxes and boxes of the prints from when my parents passed away and love to get them out to study. Looking back I now realize he was crap at it, I’d love to have a chance to share our now mutual interest with him and teach him a few things, haha!
Why portraiture/beauty, well I love fashion mags and twisted, cool looking images. My mother was a hairdresser and I used to have to go and stay at her shop while she worked. I can remember looking through all these hair magazines of these strange creations, I guess some of this imagery put subliminal messages in my head! I love the reaction I get when I make somebody look amazing and capturing raw emotion. Landscape photography never interested me. I can appreciate a good image but I’m too old and tired to get up early and get a great image. I feel theres no way of getting creative with it. I like to twist things up and add my own interpretation so getting creative with willing subjects is my escapism from my 9-5.
Q - What were your first impressions of the industry and how have they changed over the time you’ve been involved in it?
A - Firstly, being pedantic, I personally can't comment on this, as I am a million miles away from 'the industry'. I'd describe what I do as 'the hobbyist circuit' which are two, totally separate entities. My thoughts on the 'hobbyist circuit' haven't really changed from when I started. It's a strange hobby that seems to attract extremes? The circuit is full of people seem to be either the most genuine people I've ever met or some of the vilest. I've heard horror stories of photographers and models that tarnish the hobby for the rest of us. On the flip side I have met a group of people that are the most genuine people I've come across and I would hope to end up being friends for a long time. What I love about this as well is there seem to be no boundaries when it comes to age, race, class or sexuality. I'm honored to have a group of friends from all walks of life.
Q - How much do you enjoy it?
A - Haha, you know my answer to this! Its a rollercoaster of emotions today I love it, tomorrow I'll hate it! But I'm not sure I could live without it now!
Q - How much preparation do you do before a shoot?
A - Most people will tell you too much! I think I'm well known for being obsessed with mood boards and nagging everyone to make sure we are all on the same page for a shoot! I do sometimes like to just go with simple test shoots occasionally though and have recently started my fifteen minute project to force me into more free thinking!
Q - Biggest challenges you’ve faced on a shoot?
A - There are always challenges on shoots and things rarely finish how we planned! In the TFP(Time for prints) world the first big challenge is making sure everyone turns up. Next is to make sure you have the styling required for the concept. On shoot day the biggest challenge is always light, when you are outside your comfort zone. That and confidence. I'm getting better though!
Q - What have been your highlights?
A - The bright white bits in an image? I'll get my coat!
Seriously, the people I've met and become friends with. Beyond that there are too many to mention, I have just looked at my website to come up with a shoot that stood out and there are too many to mention for different reasons. The highlights are definitely the people Ive met and how we've managed to create some amazing images on such a low budget. I love working with people that, sometimes have hardly ever modeled and creating such professional looking images.
Oh! pizza. Shoot pizza can count as a highlight can't it?
Q - And the downsides?
A - Unreliable people that mess the shoot up for a whole team, I somehow can't get away from feeling responsible for this. On a personal level, its the feeling of plateauing and not being able to take it any further due to being too late in life for me. Photography could never take the place of my regular 9-5 and I have a lot of family commitments, so it'll never be more than a hobby that I love. A side effect of this is people out grow me, I find a new prospect and grow with them to a certain point and then they move on to better teams that offer them more. I totally understand this, as these people are building careers for themselves and need to move to paid work and and bigger budget, published shoots with designers/stylists involved but it leaves me feeling thinking whats the point, until I find the next talent and I start buzzing again.
Q - What advice would you give to someone who was following in your footsteps?
A - Go for it! It’s addictive and there are loads of amazing people involved in the community (Just be wise to the bad ones) Start up by getting an entry level camera and shooting your friends, its not all about expensive equipment its about getting out of auto and learning to control your camera settings (which is a lot more simple than people realize). Once you know these basics its about shooting as much as you possible can. Make it a lifestyle, not just something you do now and then! Once you understand the basics, which you can literally learn in one session with the right teacher, it stops being about the camera and starts being about what you point it at. Learn about light, learn about composition, learn about directing your subjects and twist them into your own creation! It doesn't happen overnight but the more you shoot and find people that inspire you the quicker you improve. Just make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and stay on that side of that track.
Screenshot from the home page of Matt's website over at mattleachphotography.com
Q - What would your dream shoot involve?
A - Somebody with real cool, character and style, Rihanna, Rita Ora maybe, styled by a top designer in a cool exotic location. I'd want to take my regular team with me because firstly, I'd need them to hold my hand to stop me falling apart with nerves and secondly whats the point of a shoot like that if you can't enjoy it with your friends!
Q - Who or what inspires you?
A - Lots of things. Fashion, Music and Movies. Image wise, I research so many the list would be huge.
Rankin, Richard Avedon, Lan Nguyen-Grealis, Mario Testoni, Adam Flowers, Estévez and Belloso.
Q - What do you like to do in your free time?
A - Freetime?
Q - What’s next for you; what are your plans for the future?
A - I like to set myself small photography goals at the beginning of each year to try and keep improving. I haven't really thought too hard yet about my 2016 list but I want to improve my beauty retouching and shoot more beauty. I also love teaching and have done a small amount of mentoring (I guess thats the best word) but would like to expand on that more. I'm not sure in what form yet whether it'll be taking assistants on and teaching that way or whether to run some small workshops? I get asked so much for this and still find it crazy anyone is interested in knowing whats inside my head!
Thanks Matt! Don't forget to check out Matt's site here.