Photographer Matthew Perino always had an affinity with analogue cinema's aesthetics. When going through his works, you can tell how much he loves the blue-washed grunge, the dark contrasts and strong shadows sculpting the elements of his photographs. He will usually pair this with analogue techniques, such as light leaks, color shifts, or double-exposing them. Using the LomoChrome Metropolis, he roamed around Brooklyn and Manhattan with his bicycle to superimpose the street art found in the city with each other. For Matthew, this is his way of making his own imprint in the city, his own way of 'vandalizing'. Get to know more about Matthew and the series through this interview.
Hey Matthew, how long have you been shooting film? How did you get into film?
I started shooting Polaroids as a teenager in the early 2000s when it was still widely available for cheap, and around the same time, I was playing with hand-me-down 35mm cameras from my dad and grandfather. Originally, I was especially into cinema and was making “movies” beginning back in elementary school with VHS camcorders. I started taking film classes in college shooting analogue film. Developing 16mm and super 8 film in the darkroom using experimental hand-processing techniques I became enamored in film itself. I chose to start experimenting with photography as a still version with the same film aesthetics I was discovering with motion pictures on celluloid.
What draws you to analogue photography over digital?
The image quality. It’s a cliché, but film is more romantic than digital. Every organic quality intrinsic with analogue film is now available as a digital emulator, so its obvious everyone agrees that film looks better. Not to say that digital imaging isn’t amazing in particular categories – it offers an insane resolution to document our world. Film can provide surprising, unintentional results with the natural aesthetics it has to offer such as the particular grain or black and white latitude, the light leaks, the color shifts, unconventional processing and special effects such as multiple exposures that I find special in my own work versus using digital. I think it’s fascinating to exploit these qualities and not being precise with technique can be much more interesting than achieving some type of fake alternative with digital software such as making a composite layer in Photoshop or applying and effect via an app.
What's your primary subject when it comes to photography and why?
My content is almost secondary to my subject matter, that being the formalistic conventions of film photography. Primarily, I think about the aesthetic of film and all the special effects you can use to create something unlike how the eye sees. I like to exploit those properties and showcase the beauty of this medium first and foremost. Whatever my content may be, whether a portrait or a street photo, I’m always thinking about formalism. I’m more interested in doing something creative conceptually with film and how that adds to its effect considering the particular subject.
You just used one of the latest additions of our film! Tell us what the whole series is all about.
I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to shoot this new film! I chose to continue an ongoing series of mine that includes shooting NYC landscapes; buildings with graffiti double-exposed over the images. For several years I’ve been bicycling around Brooklyn and Manhattan finding images of street art and architecture to layer over one another. It’s a series about how space can simultaneously belong to you personally; to everyone else and also no one. These spray paint signatures on walls and sidewalks belong to individuals and to the city. Using this ‘special effect’ of double exposing the film, I am in a way also vandalizing the city in a different way. It’s a new type of vandalism, putting graffiti over entire sky-scapes to create an alternate version of street art that would be physically impossible otherwise. The series is called ‘Sign here, please.’
What are your first impressions on the LomoChrome Metropolis and how did it fare with the subject/theme you were going for?
Lomo Metropolis film is sick! The muted pastel color palette is pretty but also somehow pops with the high-contrast quality the film offers. These two characteristics pair well together in an original way, unlike other films I’ve used before. I use various different types of film and regularly cross-process in the lab to achieve color results like these. For a color negative film stock to behave this way is unique. It gives a familiar city an unfamiliar color quality that can be expressive without looking artificially stylized. The colors create a new world and tone that affects how we perceive these images; a kind of fantasy that’s organic in the film itself rather than manipulating a digital image.
On what situations/themes/subjects would you recommend the use of the Metropolis film?
Anything. Load up this film and press the shutter! I couldn’t really imagine making any specific recommendations to other photographers. I’m sure the infinite variations other film shooters will discover can provide better examples. If I had to recommend something for this film I would say to think about color. Something colorful in a dull environment perhaps. Something familiar like your street corner grocery, your train station or your fire escape. See how that reads on this film and then go from there.
Do you plan on using the Metropolis film again?
Yes! I would use this film again. It does have a unique feel to it that resonates with my own work. Next time I would like to use the medium format version, shooting in the studio to play with color schemes and dramatic lighting.
What's the most important element for you when composing an image?
Light. Light is major and the first thing I notice about a photo. Artificial or natural, the quality, shape, color, or texture are always what I always consider first. Light affects the tone of every subject and is obviously the one thing you need to create a photograph. Well, except maybe some emulsion.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Living in New York definitely offers an overdose of stimuli. Just being on the street and noticing graffiti everywhere; vandalized postal boxes, wheat pastings covering those green plywood construction barriers, or large-scale commissioned murals on buildings all give me inspiration. The city and architecture inspire me as well, whether the vantage point is from the street or on a terrace fifty stories above that street. The juxtaposition of historical buildings squashed together with new modern ones is fascinating. It’s past, present and future all in the same frame. NYC has an infinite amount of vantage points to admire and seeing them on film offers new, unique and unseen ones. That draws my inspiration.
What are you up to next?
I’ll still be playing with film and different formats in the same way - Polaroids, 35mm, 120mm, and exploiting the aesthetics that I find beautiful like double exposures, motion blur, pushing film to exaggerate the grain and contrast, using unconventional methods of processing, manipulating expired films with chemicals, etc. I’m still on the street with my bicycle shooting and pretending to be a hotel guest to get access to amazing rooftop views to photograph. In my studio, I’ll be focusing more on portraits, beauty and possibly still life with similar experimental aesthetics and special effects. If you’re curious about my work and want to see more please check out my Instagram -- analoggrammar. You can also check me out online at analoggrammar.xyz.