Q&A: Matthew Jessie


What is it that interests you about photography? My interests in photography are constantly changing, but recently I’ve been exploring this idea of using the medium to interact with the unfolding of events in reality that are out of my control and make pictures from these interactions with as much spontaneity as the events themselves. Photographs, in the most basic sense, are literally visual recordings of the passage of time and whether that’s five hundredth of a second or a twenty minute exposure I’m interested in practicing the medium in a way that utilizes its abilities to reflect these passages and our shared attachments to light and time. Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? The last few years I’ve been trying to right many of the wrongs of my younger days. I drink a gallon of water everyday, don’t eat meat, exercise regularly, pursue my passions and generally just make a conscious effort towards being healthy. What’s funny is that the sense of purpose I found in photography guided me to make such positive changes. Like, I literally want to live as long as I can because I want to make art for as long as I can. There is always something new to discover and through making art that involves societal issues I’ve become much more humble as a person and concerned with the differences of realities experienced in our severely polarized culture. So I guess I would consider practicing photography to be the life philosophy I have been living by the past few years. That, and just trying to stay as mindful as possible. What is the worst thing about city life? Traffic with a capital T and just being so disconnected from the natural world, but balance is key. City life can be great when the conditions are right. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? Just as certain frequencies of light and sound aren’t perceivable to us as human beings I would like to think that similarly there are energies that may be experienced under extremely particular circumstances? Maybe?

What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? This sort of relates to the previous question, but without going into details I would definitely have to cite a certain witnessing of what I’d consider to be anti-gravity technology as a child. The image is as clear in my mind as it was when it happened and if I ever develop my skills as a painter I plan on attempting to depict what I saw. If only I’d had my Hulk Hogan signature 110 camera with me at the time… Describe a personal hell. I’ll describe two. Not being able to manifest musical ideas on my bass guitar due to physical deficiencies and losing an image I have high hopes for due to technical issues. What is the next book you want to read? Does It Matter: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality by Alan Watts. Most used camera? Wista Technical 45sp. On what occasion do you lie? Only when necessary to make a photograph… Are impulses more important than consequences? It depends on what the impulse is towards, but for me in terms of picture making reacting on impulses are far more important than their potential consequences. It has a lot to do with intent though. For example, If I am trespassing to make a picture I usually feel as if I can explain my way out of most consequences because I understand and can explain what I am doing, have credentials to back it up, and am always respectful to landowners and their property. There are always ones who won’t listen to reason, but as they say it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission. At least in a lot of situations.

‘Its Hills and Valleys’ is an ongoing series of large format photographs, which portray realities of the region of East Tennessee alternate to the history of representation that has defined it for generations. Through observational images the contemporary state of a land most understood by its stereotypes is depicted from the perspective and understanding of a native. Portraits, landscapes, objects, and other cultural elements describe, through photographs, the ups and downs of such an enigmatic sub-region of Appalachia.

— Matthew Jessie.

See more of Matthew’s work at: matthewjessie.photography