MATTE magazine is a photography journal I started in 2010 as way to shed light on good work by emerging photographers. Each issue features the work of one artist, and I shoot a portrait of him or her for the issue's cover. Of the 20 issues I have published to date, ten have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art library, and six were included in the 2013 Triennial exhibition at the International Center of Photography. As the new photo editor of VICE, I'm excited to share my discoveries with a wider audience.
Issue 21 of MATTE features NYC-based photographer Molly Matalon's photographs of her mother. Molly is from South Florida, a place where moms drive around in sports cars eating bagels with the inside scooped out. Sometimes, they are in better shape than their daughters. For Molly and her mom, the interaction between photographer and subject has become indistinguishable from the relationship between daughter and mother. Always a willing subject, Molly's mom presents herself to the camera without a trace of hesitation. This is a woman who went to Disney World with two black eyes immediately after having her eyelids lifted. Over the course of our collaboration on this issue of MATTE, I've gained insight into this unique relationship through Molly's photographs, as well as by talking to Molly herself.
MATTE: When did you start photographing your mom?
Molly Matalon: I started photographing her in a serious way around 2011.
How does she feel about being photographed?
For the most part my mom loves being photographed. She loves being center stage even if it's just for a brief moment. Sometimes she gets frustrated because, when I see something that would make a good photo, I'll tell her to hold onto what she's doing so I can make a picture of it. By the time I have my camera set up, she's like, "Come on, Molly!" Maybe everyone thinks that when getting a picture taken, but my mom is the woman who always says something. Her personality is just how it looks in the pictures.
How do you feel about photographing her?
I feel pretty good about it. It's been a way for me to discuss a more broad set of ideas using a vey personal subject. The work is very much about the present day, what mothers look like in 2014, how they act, and how they are perceived by society.
What role does photographing your mother play in your relationship?
Photography helps to fill both of our needs for each other: my mom needs to feel a certain level of importance in my life, and the distance the camera affords helps me understand her better. She is definitely my muse.
Selected spreads from MATTE magazine No. 21: Molly Matalon
How have the photos changed over time?
I've noticed that the pictures I'm making have gotten a lot less angsty. There's more of my mother's voice poking through in the images than just my voice. I still have a lot of control ultimately, but I've loosened up. I think that's important. Every time I go to Florida to take pictures, I have a small theme in my head that gives me some kind of guideline as to what I should concentrate on. For example, when I was in Florida two weeks ago, I told myself I was going to take "fun" pictures of my mom.
How has photographing your mother changed your relationship?
Taking these pictures of my mom has helped me to realize that she is a real person and not just an idea or figure from my childhood. I think about how she interacts in both public and private spaces without me. Although the pictures are of her, they are also about me. Through photography, I am able to look at her with a more objective eye.
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