Focus Interview: Daniel Craig (Matsu Photography)
One of WA's most exciting young lensman, Koi Child's tour photographer and all-round legend.
Daniel Craig (Matsu)
Self-taught freelance photographer/filmmaker.
Where are you? What are your immediate surroundings?
I'm in my home within my home, my office. I'm surrounded by coffee, computers, camera gear, and random bits and pieces from different shoots. There's a large window to my left that looks into my neighbours window. Sometimes we awkwardly catch each other looking across. It's great. Also bumping Soundcloud jams (Herzeloyde is beast). Second half of writing this is done while on a plane from Perth to Brisbane. Looking at some mad salt lakes somewhere in the middle.
What have you been doing/working on recently?
I really like to keep busy. I think I'm at my most comfortable working on visuals one way or another. Finished a few music videos for homies Koi Child, Rob Delirious, Strangelove and Elk Road. Also have some more music videos in the pipeline. Been rolling Jack Rabbit Slim's every Saturday for some mad live music photography, which I'm really enjoying. Also sneaking in a photoshoot or event here and there. I actually feel a little lost when not shooting, editing or planning. It's a bit of a problem.
And the craziest thing is I have a book titled Dust coming out in November, published by Fremantle Press and getting national distribution… Still pinch myself with this one. Spent two weeks living and shooting on a cattle station North of Port Hedland. Fool's errand turned into a book.
Also either in or just been to BigSound in Brisbane with Koi Child.
Please describe a typical day:
Hmmm a typical day. I actually start the day with the exact same breakfast most days - a bowl of muesli. The thing is breakfast may be at 7am or 2pm. I really struggle to keep any kind of consistency in my work hours. After some eats it's coffee and then Soundcloud. I spend about 30-60 minutes most days just looking for new jams. I'm really inspired by music and love finding fresh and different jams to spread across my ears. Then straight into editing until my misses pulls me away. It's not unusual for me to be up until 5-6am. Once I get a vibe going and an idea in mind I'm gone.
Shoot days are a little different. Normally don’t sleep well before big or challenging shoots. I spend hours just going over the ideas, lighting and production. Both excited and extremely nervous. Often end up on really strange research topics or watching old Russian films. Shapeshifting reptile aliens invading the music industry is a thing, Germany may take on 800,000+ immigrants this year and Solaris is a wild film...night scenes were filmed monochrome and shot during the afternoon.
How would you describe your work? And who (or what) are your biggest creative influences?
My work is me. It's a reflection of my views, passions and experiences. It's how I best communicate with the world and how I can best be involved. Composition, colour, light, movement etc are the language I can best tell stories with. I love experimenting and trying new things. I feel with that I can develop a broader visual vocabulary and producer better work. Also just love the buzz of a challenging shoot.
Creative influences is a massive area. I spend hours everyday looking at photos, videos, painting, films, art and graphic design. It really ignites a fire in me and also cools any illusions I have in regards to my own ability. Perth artists/musicians are my number one inspiration. To be involved in those circles and produce great WA content keeps me going. I would name names but it would take me pages.
Outside of that I draw influences from a lot of places. I'm quite spiritually inclined and have been for a long time. Used to do Kung Fu and study Buddhism before moving 12 years ago to Falun Gong. My spirituality keeps me focused on improving myself and my art form. Questions like how can I take a better photo? How does my personality effect my photos? What am I thinking as I take photos? Why do I colour grade and how?
Photo and video wise. My current biggest influences are Australia filmmaker Jeff Darling, Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and 18th century painter Albert Bierstadt. Now my favourite artist at the moment, my GOAT, is photographer Erik Johansson. I think he is truly the best digital photographer out there.
Music. Absolutely massive influence since I can remember. My father is a musician and my mother was a dancer. It's a great source of motivation and inspires me to create.
You shoot quite a lot of video as well as still images? Do you have a preference for either? Do have to approach one and the other in a different way?
Yeah I'm starting to fall into video a lot more. I think it's a response to the rapid growth in stills in general and a desire to have a unique voice and continue exploring. Also I love lighting and video lighting is a real art form in itself. Photography you can get away with a lot because of Photoshop but video is a bigger challenge. I have to bend my approach for video. I very much see the world as photos. So considering camera movements is something I can forgot to plan for. Lighting is far less forgiving in video, more gear is needed and the bigger you go the bigger the team needed. With photos though it can be as simple as you and a camera.
But in saying that. I think it's really beneficial to pursue both.
Three favourite spots on the web to browse?
Can actually answer this quickly hahaha:
Lens Culture - Feel inspired.
Behance - Feel like I'm not good enough.
Vimeo - Love.
What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?
Learned a lesson in both humility and persistence recently. Went into a music video with a crazy tight turn around time for a large client. A new found confidence had me ready to take on the challenge but very quickly in things went pear shaped. Weather, actors, heavy work load and little sleep had me stressed and thinking I've screwed this and it's for a huge client, ego gone. Had deep chats with my Director of Photography, re-planned a lot of the original script and got back into a positive space. We finished the project and ended up really impressing the client. Really learnt to try keep positive regardless of how I think a project is going, how to be flexible but at the same time how to plan better in the future.
Smaller lessons I have learnt though:
- Driving 10hrs a day is taxing…stopped at a road house where it was nearly $2 a litre :S.
- Don’t set off flares in the middle of the Perth CBD. Police will come and detain you.
What in your opinion makes a beautiful image? What elements need to exist in a moment for the image to be successful?
Lighting. Composition. Colour. That's my base and everything is built from it. It's my minimum. From there I think beauty exists in the interactions and in the spaces between those three things. How the photographer uses or doesn't use them. I love intent and thoughtfulness in images. It helps me see the inner working of the artist and I think that's where the true beauty is. Lighting, composition and colour are the front door to an endless world.
For me the moment comes from being connected with those three things. If you are always looking for lighting, composition and colour around you there is a good chance you will find great moments. But I don't think it's just that simple. I think you also need to be able to empathise with what it means to be human, find beauty in all things and remove the fear of "Should I take that shot?" Just take it otherwise you might build a distrust between you and your camera.
What do you enjoy most about your hometown?
Music scene. Can’t get enough of the local music scene. So much creative energy being dedicated here and it's inspiring. Perth is a great place to cut your teeth. Doesn't take much to get involved in local creative scenes and people are always willing to open doors. There's not a large community or established industry for creatives but I think it's a good thing for new peeps. I always think Perth breeds hungry artists both figuratively and literally. Just gotta shake off them first world comfort shackles and get stuck in. Also taking photos/making videos with the homies. Just a tragic.
Do you listen to music when you are shooting?
Yeah this is good question. Not always and I really couldn't tell you why. Sometimes I want vibes and ambient chills to lighten the mood or I want it dead quite so I can communicate with crew or models. I'm also quite the insecure person and the music helps me centre my thoughts.
Three of your friends we should check out?
Tanya Volta (Photographer/Filmmaker), DVS (Director/Screenwriter) and Nathan Tempra (Beatmaker/Drummer/Lad).
What have you got planned for the rest of the year and what do you want to achieve in the near future?
Just keep improving really. Keep experimenting and keep challenging myself. Take some photos, shoot some videos and see how far I can go. Would love to throw my hand at more fashion work. So any aspiring models hit me up. Would love to colab. Also the festival season is coming up and that's always mad exciting. Love shooting big stages. Nothing like the energy of heaving pit.
Lastly I'm holding my fingers together pretty tight with my book - hope it sells a few copies and people can get something out of it. Peace!