Introducing… Matt Strong “IDST”

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Hello Matt, how are you?

I am good thanks mate, it’s been a busy few months but also a very productive few months.

How long have you been involved in photography?

Well I kind of fell into it from quite a young age. My mum and dad were keen amateur photographers & they encourged me to take pictures when on holiday – I still have my first camera and it still works. I got more serious about it all when I got to art college back in 92-93 where I went down the traditional route of devloping my own images in the dark room, building pin hole cameras and learning about shutter speed and and all that but it really took off at university. I became more and more exprimental and my images became graphic art in their own right, I used the photos I was taking for my design projects and I just never stopped doing so.

What are your main influences for capturing images?

Cinema & Music are my biggest influences in terms of style – I won’t bore you with all that now but also the street. The real world. What is out there. I love the fact that when I close my flat door with a camera of some sort in my bag – anything could happen & I can capture it forever. It’s quite a restless process though. I can go days without really seeing anything, then suddenly I turn a corner and i’m like – woah thats cool. it could be anything.

What do you look for in order to compose your images?

That’s a good question. When I first started it was a tiring passion that became a labour of love. It wasn’t really until the internet became a thing and I began to share all my photos via Flickr that I saw themes emerging. Back in the day Flickr was tiny but it was one of the first to have a social aspect to it – The like feature for example and a comment box for feedback. I began to sort through scan and organize all my photos into albums online for anyone to see, it was this process that I began to see what caught my eye the most. The buzz of uploading an image of my hometown and getting a like from someone in mexico. It seems the norm now, but you have to realise this was way before instagram and facebook. It was an awesome time. I have a shot list in my mind for things to shoot, but what is a big feature of my work is light & darkness and how people interact with that.

What has been your favourite image to capture?

Gosh man, I don’t know. so hard to narrow it down to one.
I have a few that have become classics and are popular but I don’t know maybe London in the rain.. or something from new york.. or maybe one of my son. He is my greatest creation.

Tell us about the exhibition “If Destroyed Still True”.

Sure. This is something that has been in mind for ages, I mean years. i.d.s.t. for me is a project that is has been growing for a while and has become a bit of a motto. On one hand it’s a deeply personal statement about my state of mind, and on the other hand it’s a metophor for my work.
I first experinced mental illness in 2002. I think looking back over my life before that breakdown – I was at breaking point for quite some time before it all came to a head, and then suddenly I was in crisis and talking to doctors about my mind. It shook me and my family to its core. Fast forwarding the video tape of my life and replaying it from christmas 2016 – I was a mess. I was replasing and it all came crashing down in the new year 2016. I was off sick from work, and it got very very dark. I became well again and i was turning 40 last year. I just thought I need to share my story. I need to show people that you can get through things, and it really is ok to be open about it. I looked for funding, contacted a few people and to cut a long story short – 20 images are now hanging in a gallery in a beautiful part of London and I have a book too. It’s a retrospective of my work and all proceeds from the sale of the prints and book are going directly to Maudsley Charity, Calm and Sane. This is just the start for i.d.s.t. – but I am keeping part 2 secret for now. Watch this space. It’s been a truly humbling few months. I am excited.

You have taken photos all over the world, what is the story behind your favourite photo?

Yeah, you have to see the world Del. you have to see how others live, see their passions, taste their food, listen to their stories. It’s what makes the world tick. The cultures. I think though the photo that is a key photo of mine is the kew gardens image. Its abstract, its not perfect, its a happy accident, its me. It was taken shortly after I first fell ill with Scizoprenia I was scared to go out alone. So my parents took me to Kew and i took this photo. They have been amazing with my recovery and relapses over the years and I am deeply sorry for what I have put them through. 

You are passionate about hip hop and drum and bass. What is your favourite drum and bass album and your favourite festival?

Yeah hip hop! – N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton” – what an album. I had it on tape. A friend of my sister gave it to me. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. For a kid of about 16 listening to lyrics about drive by shootings, 187 on cops, drinking, drugs, women, it blew me and my mates away. I only knew MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice. That stuff was for kids. this was raw we connected with it growing up in a dirty inner city town in Essex. That and Ice Cube’s “Amerikkka’s most wanted”. I mean – WOW. Then Dre dropped “The Chronic” and we were all like, “What is this funky stuff???”
The rave scene was huge. All over the uk. Around the m25 raves were happening. It was easy to hear the music at home or in the local record shop but not so easy to go out. I was too young so pirate radio was the only way. It’s something about that DIY grass roots homegrown music that has stuck with me. It’s very London. It’s very unique to the UK. Fave album – gotta be an LTJ Bukem album that bloke is a genius. Proper deep. Goosebumps. Timeless tunes. Best rave? I don’t know mate. can’t remember. Loved The End though, that place was nuts.