Q&A: Matthew Dunne — Patterson’s Curse

12.11.18

Have you recently been living by any life philosophy?
 It’s ok to repeat things, I’ll get there. Vulnerability is a strength. Trying to please the crowd is a trap, do right by myself. Don’t be a dickhead. Etc. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? That we let so much of the progress of the 20th century – reducing inequality in particular – slip away from us. That we allowed the ultra rich to convince us they cared and that they were not immoral, hoarding hundreds of billions to themselves. 
Are you aware of any conspiracies? The attention economy. 
What is it that interests you about photography? It makes me feel – viscerally – excitement, anticipation, appreciation and love and it is always more layered than it seems. 
What is the worst thing about city life? Walking past some suited up 20 somethings talking about how they deserve 6 figures, then immediately walking past someone with Cerebral Palsy trying to sell a Big Issue so they can eat. Laugh? Scream? Cry? Who the fuck knows. 
What part of the planet would you like to explore? The suburbs. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? I don’t think any of it is plausible. 
If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? Jay Weatherhill. It’s good to see someone principled, forward thinking, gutsy and bold in Australian politics – a rare combination of qualities. 
Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Botany. 
What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? Riding home from work one day, I turned a corner and saw a crow eating a pigeon. It turned its head quizzically with an eye-stalk dangling from its mouth uncaring as I whizzed by. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Mentoring first year teachers.

Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. Awoiska’s photo of a massive hill/mountain with just this one lightning bolt of white jagged from the top. It’s everything to me: brooding, dark, impressive, expressionistic, real, doctored. It could only be a photograph and every time I see it I respond. It never reveals its secrets and yet its so blatant. It is the standard set. How often do you take other people’s advice? I ask for it often, but probably take it rarely. I’m trying just to please myself recently, and I think that comes with a degree of accepted selfishness. Describe a personal hell. That feeling on your shins/calves after a day of wearing socks, damp towels, dickheads and a party where I know no one and the music is too loud to talk over. All at once. Which living person do you most admire? When I started teaching I moved to Mildura – 600km from where I grew up. I was lucky enough to meet someone who has always had my back and put in a huge amount of effort to help me grow up. I admire her tenacity, her patience, her kindness, her desire to put in effort with people without any assured payback. She is the most recent in a series of adults who helped me realise the person I wanted to become and the one I can talk about most accurately and fairly. I think about things she said or did daily. In a way, she can only be anonymous because I’d be embarrassed to tell her that she changed my life for the better. On what occasion do you lie? When students ask me if I have a favourite. I always say no, but I definitely have a group of kids who I’m constantly impressed by and really enjoy working with. What was the last crime you witnessed? Neglect. What is the best way to educate yourself? Ask why. Write in a journal. Be honest with yourself to an extent that is obsessive and unflinching. 
What is the next book you want to read? I’ve got this book called Rosewater waiting for me at the library. I can’t even remember what it’s about, I just liked the blurb at the bookstore but didn’t feel like buying it.

Ultimate camera? Olmypus OM4 with a flash I understand. Most used camera? Olympus OM4. What object do you want? Early 90s Stingray with crazy birdseye maple neck. What object do you need? A place to escape the noise. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? Unlimited information completely free of fidelity, morality or objectivity. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? 8/10. 
Describe a cheap thrill. Watching my parents see rainfall in a drought year. Their pleasure is a mixture of relief, joy, anticipation of the growth in their garden, the feeling that maybe the environment will be ok, that it was worth fighting for, that the days and nights of water saving, schlepping buckets from shower to garden and telling everyone to use less paid off after all. They are as close to giddy as they ever get and totally thankful in those moments, constantly exclaiming ‘rain’ over and over again like a mantra or a prayer. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. My childhood. Are impulses more important than consequences? Yes. 
Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to be able to talk to people about my art without feeling like a fuckwit. 
What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Eat dinner. Go to my school’s production of ‘A Little Mermaid’. Email my real estate agent telling them we’re moving out. Sleep. Skype Barney. Hug my girlfriend hello and goodbye. Trundle off to work. Teach some kids that Maya Angelou was a badass. Teach some others that WW1 didn’t have any justifiable cause. Boulder.

Patterson’s Curse is a weed that is widespread in Australia and thrives in the Australian climate. Attempts to control the weed are often unsuccessful and eradication in the long term is not feasible at this stage, it will need to be dealt with in another way.

Matthew Dunne is an Australian photographer, educator and writer. You can see more of his work at — mattdunnephoto.com / thisonthat.org