Featured #14: Matthew James Ortiz
Intro. Art has been my greatest passion for as long as I can remember. Growing up, regardless of where my other interests led me, I always came back to art. I have been fortunate enough to come from a supportive family of creative men and women. Watching them as an adolescent made creating my own work feel very natural and intuitive. That has been very influential as far as my style and approach to image making are concerned.
The craziest thing you ever did as a photographer? I go on a lot of photo adventures with friends and other artists and have gone to great lengths for photographs. I recently hiked to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah with all my photo gear on my back. It’s a 5-mile hike that takes about 5 hours to complete. The last half-mile is incredibly narrow with anchored support chains to hang onto while crossing more dangerous parts of the trail. The final peak is 5,785 feet. It was a scary but worthwhile experience! Another time that stands out in my mind is when I explored the Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard in Staten Island a few years ago. It’s a tough spot to get to and a dangerous one if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Beware of guard dogs, rusty nails, and deteriorating surfaces. No regrets, though!
Are you working on any special projects? I’m working on a few different projects. I have been expanding my most recent body of work, At Last, Everlasting. I started the project in 2012 and have been developing it ever since. The photograph of the bar soap entitled “Su Olor, 2013” is just one new image from that series. I’m also sharing some in progress work shot on my Rolleicord. I’m using this new body of work to photograph what I see wherever I go. I wasn’t able to do this when I was shooting primarily on my 4x5. It’s allowing me more freedom to work intuitively in the field and I’m enjoying the results so far.
Your story with photography. I began taking photographs at the age of 13 and became completely entranced by the medium. Over the subsequent years, my love of photography has grown into a full-on obsession. I love the balance between technical proficiency and intuitive artistic expression. I primarily use a Wista 45DXiii field view camera. Anyone who has used a view camera understands the undeniably technical process. I really enjoy making work in this way to create images that appear somewhat effortless, where the viewer forgets about the camera however masterful the photographer. I think that’s the mark of a good photographer. Abelardo Morell, Carrie Will, Richard Renaldi, and Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison are a few photographers who’s work functions in this way. Their work has influenced me for years.
What do you want to achieve? My main goal as a photographer is to reach people, to make them feel. I think that’s the greatest power of photography and art as a whole.
Contents of your bag. My camera bag is always packed to the brim. Its contents include my Wista 45DXiii, Rolleicord, MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod, Lumu Light Meter, magnifying loupe, dark cloth, film changing bag, film holders, Kodak Portra 4x5 and 120 film, sketchbook, and a few other useful items depending on the nature of the shoot. It can be a little cumbersome to travel with at times but keeps me prepared for a variety of scenarios.
If you could give one piece of advice to fellow photographers, what would it be? Trust yourself, don’t be afraid to fail, and never stop shooting. Anything you’re truly interested in is worth exploring. All good artists fail. It’s part of the process. But take those failed experiments as stepping-stones to creating truly memorable work.