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Interview: Mateusz Wiglinzki

Mateusz Wiglinzki / Alamy Stock Photo

He’s a photographer who shoots in both analogue and digital, and who loves to “misuse” his camera and film. Mateusz Wiglinzki explains how he developed his unique approach to photography.

Photographer Mateusz Wiglinzki has a simple philosophy: “Think before you shoot.” For Mateusz, planning is everything, “Producing images just for the sake of it is not my favourite way of working,” he says, “Of course, I might randomly take pictures of interesting scenes or moments, as in street photography, but even then, I am already searching for something and putting myself in a state of awareness. Usually my work is thought-out. I spend a lot of time thinking and planning what and how I am going to shoot in my projects.”

Mateusz was born and raised in Berlin, and in 2011, he moved to Vienna to study theatre, film and media studies at the University of Vienna. In 2016, he completed a Master of Arts degree. Mateusz got interested in photography at school, although there was never a long-term plan to become a photographer. “I had a school friend who owned a nice vintage Nikon camera. I was fascinated by the analogue image style the camera produced and bought myself a Canon AE1 on eBay.”

 

M154X8 Ramen in Tokyo
Mateusz Wiglinzki / Alamy Stock Photo

 

“The Canon camera helped me to learn how to photograph,” adds Mateusz, “Shooting in analogue is an expensive hobby, so I learned to cherish every frame and think about what I intended to shoot before I hit the shutter button. That was a very good practice for me.”

When Mateusz was a student, he got the opportunity to work as a photographer’s assistant. “I could watch and learn how professionals work. At the same time, people started complimenting me about my photography.”

Even so, Mateusz had no plans to take-up professional photography, “I didn’t have a portfolio of work or any plan. Then, I had an idea for a photographic series, Stadtgesichter [street faces], which I shot and submitted to the Photo::Vienna exhibition in 2016. I was really surprised that they chose me for the group show. Suddenly, I was being exhibited with many talented photographers. From that point, the first job offers came in and I realised I should put more effort and energy into my photography.”

 

Mateusz Wiglinzki

 

Mateusz shoots with both analogue and digital equipment. He uses a Canon AE1 with 50mm 1.4f and 28mm 2.8f lenses, and a Canon 5D Mark III with a 24mm-70mm 2.8f lens. “There are certain genres of work that seem better suited for analogue or digital photography. I shoot in digital for professional work, simply because it gives more security and also provides direct feedback on your camera monitor. So why bother using analogue and risking failure?”

“On the other hand, I recently discovered experimental photography and realised that the chemical processes involved offer endless possibilities to manipulate film in ways that could not be recreated digitally. I like the haptic quality of film: I can work with my hands, touch it, feel it and sculpt it in some sort of way. I think this is a very nice alternative to sitting in front of your computer!”

Mateusz likes to work with as little gear as possible and believes that mental preparation is the key rather than kit you use to shoot an image, “Meaning is more important than gear, because it helps me to focus on the most important aspects of my work. A technically weak, but meaningful photograph can work, but a technically brilliant but meaningless image will be always be mediocre.”

 

M1550M Brief moments in the the national art center of Tokyo
Mateusz Wiglinzki / Alamy Stock Photo

 

Mediocre is certainly not a word you could use to describe Mateusz’s photography, which includes arresting streets shots, portraits, travel, abstract and experimental images. Mateusz is also a film director and this has equipped him with a rich visual imagination and a keen eye for detail, which is reflected in his photographs.

His portraits are particularly striking, so how does he achieve these results?  “I tend to get to the heart of the matter. I try not to capture the people the way they would like to be seen but rather as they truly are. It is about the revelation of truthful aspects of the subject.”

Mateusz once said that he loved to “misuse” his camera and film, and experiment with them, so what prompted him to experiment? “I’ve always had a thing for artwork that is hard to grasp instantly. It means that it has captured your attention, while simultaneously it is hard to comprehend what is going on at first sight. This makes you look at the work repeatedly. There are gaps, which you start to fill in with your own knowledge and experiences, and you start to understand or feel what it is about. It is a beautiful process of comprehension. In some sense, this makes every work unique, because it also partially evolves in the spectator’s mind.”

“For the past year, I have put more effort into experimental and abstract photography. Lately, I’ve realized why: the banal representation of physical reality simply started to bore me. Nowadays, our world is full of images and maybe there is not much to add anymore, with the exception of documentary photography.”

 

M1K9PG optical refraction
Mateusz Wiglinzki / Alamy Stock Photo

 

“However I am still discovering different techniques for myself. At the moment it is mostly ‘film souping’. Basically, I expose a film roll as normal and then transform the film with a self-made chemical recipe before developing it. The results are usually dramatic. I am keeping record of everything in a journal and am evaluating and deciding on the direction I want to go further. It will take a lot of time until I have figured out my favourite procedure, but I am optimistic about this field.”

Mateusz believes that it’s not just equipment that differentiates a professional photographer from the crowd. “What makes a professional photographer – is it their gear? I’ve heard of professionals shooting weddings with an iPhone. For me, a professional is not only someone who is doing a job for money, but it’s also an attitude, which is even more important. Phones, cameras and digital photography are omnipresent and within everyone’s reach. We are flooded with images and post-production apps. Of course, none of this will ever completely replace the work and experience of a professional.”

Mateusz says aspiring photographers should, “Go out and shoot as much as you can. Find out what moves you, incorporate it in your work and find your language to express it in your unique way.” Even a cursory look at Mateusz’s images reveals that he certainly follows his own advice.

 

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