Documentary photographer Matt Hoyland talks us through his outstanding photographic series - Inspired Country - and the inspiration behind his work
The 'banal' is a prominent feature across your work, and you make it look fascinating. What is it about everyday scenes that excite you as a photographer?
It’s a tricky one to describe…I am a lover of all photography really, but what motivates and excites me to point a camera at something is a bit of a mystery, or it can sometimes appear that way.
I very much respond to my surroundings. I do see it as a form of expression, an outlet for my emotions and feelings. I photograph life, and things that I am dealing with, experiencing. It is something that has and does personally help me. I appreciate that it can be sometimes quite hard to understand; the reasons why I have chosen this subject, or that.
Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to be moved by a photograph of a sunset. But its personal, there is something deeper motivating me. Photography can deal with grief, loneliness, depression. It is to me a practice of introspection and personal growth.
"Photography can deal with grief, loneliness, depression. It is to me a practice of introspection and personal growth."
I grew up on a farm in rural Nottinghamshire, in the middle of nowhere, very removed from urban life, so I think my moves in life into suburban and urban areas often makes me look at things a bit differently, perhaps critically? Or maybe I’m just fascinated by scenes that were very much absent in my early year environment.
Where did you get your inspiration for creating this series?
I have long been inspired by documentary photographers such as Paul Graham, for an example. I often cite his book A1: The Great North Road as something that really spoke to me. It was that realisation that something as banal and mundane as a road, albeit a great one, can be a subject for a photography project as he photographed and documented, the people, buildings and landscapes from London to Edinburgh.
I am also a massive fan of Gregory Crewdson, whose pictures can often be stand- alone images (similar to mine) with a large sense of narrative, and often this is left for the viewer to create. Obviously, I do not have the budget of his, neither do I stage anything, but I do look for that cinematic moment and when people do appear in my photographs, then that can provoke that underlining storyline.
Other artists who have inspired my work include, the painter George Shaw with his banal hyper real paintings of suburban scenes. Surrealist painter Paul Nash, artist and filmmaker Duane Hopkins and directors Shane Meadows and Wong Kar Wai… to name a few.
I also find social media and Instagram really useful for finding new photographers and viewing work of a similar nature.
What are your favourite conditions to shoot in? And what is your favourite subject?
I tend to go out and photograph at night where the lights and signs stand out so much more. I guess that magic hour for me is at dusk, not quite dark. I also like to go out when the ground is damp. Again it allows the light to reflect and glow, giving the shot so much more atmosphere. This could be the light from shops, bars or car headlights for example.
Misty conditions are also my favourite, this can add so much atmosphere in the day light. All this to adds so much to the scene.
"I guess that magic hour for me is at dusk, not quite dark. I also like to go out when the ground is damp."
What was your process to get these shots? Did you plan what you wanted to shoot in advance, or were the photos more opportunistic?
I would say that 75% of my photographs are opportunistic, I tend to leave the house with my camera with no specific image in mind to capture. If I see something that’s great, if I don’t then it’s not the end of the world. I don’t put pressure on myself to create as I find this hinders the process.
The other 25% of the time, I have been somewhere and seen something that I want to photograph and not had my camera on me, or the image didn’t come out how I wanted, or I needed a different time of day etc. Not everything works first time, I do allow myself to fail as long as I try again.
"I don’t put pressure on myself to create as I find this hinders the process."
Were there any difficulties or obstacles in creating this series?
Not really – I think because my process, and subject matter is quite fluid and opportunistic then I rarely find any difficulties. Sometimes, lighting is an issue, at night, and if I see something that I need to capture there and then, if I do not have a tripod on me then it can become hard to photograph and I just have to let it go.
How did you choose which images appeared in the final edit?
It is really a case of whether or not I feel the photographs works, or if it is true to the scene that I saw when I was capturing it. There are quite a few times where I see a picture with my eyes but somehow it does not capture how I see it, and therefore does not look how I envisaged. Learning to edit these photos out is important and not to become too attached to any image or idea of an image.
"There are quite a few times where I see a picture with my eyes but somehow it does not capture how I see it, and therefore does not look how I envisaged. Learning to edit these photos out is important..."
What is your favourite photo?
I don’t know if I do have a favourite photo I have taken. I think it’s just the ones that I capture completely out the blue, where I was not expecting to get something or perhaps something so banal, but it just works. ‘English Caravan’ or ‘For good value’ is a great example of this.
There's a very natural aesthetic running through your photos. Did you do much in post-production to refine the look?
The natural aesthetic is very deliberate. I think it comes down to my love for documentary photography, where I want the scenes to remain pretty true to the what the eye could see, that also emphasises the banal theme. I see too many photographs now a days where t photographs are over edited in post-prod where I feel it just don’t do the image justice. Sometimes less is more and I very much believe in that.
I do shoot on raw, and I tweak the shadows and highlights, colour balance etc but nothing too much.
Have you any future plans to expand this series?
It's been some years now since I did exhibit my work. It is definitely something I would like to get back to, but I am also very busy with my career (in the photo industry). I think I will keep shooting more and more for a few more years and then start looking to put my work into various series and themes.
See more from Matt's Imagine Country Series below and in his stunning Picfair Store.
See more in Matt's Picfair Store.