For the last installment of our Top 10 Interview with a Photographer series, we bantered with Matthew Sherwood, a photojournalist based in Canada. He shared with us stories of shooting as a news stringer and photography in general.
What got you interested in photography and photojournalism in the first place?
Photography was really just a hobby while I was completing my undergraduate degree in psychology and art history. When I was in my final year I didn’t know what I wanted to do, then it just kind of clicked. I had thought about a career in photojournalism before, but it didn’t seriously think it was possible until I was at a crossroads where I had to make a decision. I made the right one. I am interested in the human condition, people’s lives and circumstances, and that is what I enjoy about photojournalism. It is all about people.
As a photojournalist do you think that your approach to photography and your subject is influenced by the story, or would you say that the story is lead in a cretin direction by the images you take?
While working at a newspaper, the story is usually in the works before the photo. You want to tell as much about the story as you can in a single photo. You have to use your own judgment on assignments though. Things change, stories evolve. You should always bring back options to the newsroom.
Does your experience behind the camera or method change whether you are on assignment or shooting for your personal collection?
I always try to make the best picture I can. When I work on personal projects I am just as focused as when I am working for a client. When I am shooting my own life, my friends, family, though, I tend to take a more relaxed approach though. Obviously not have a deadline or a client to please takes the pressure off, but it is that pressure that I like about the job too. It also depends on what kind of publication you are shooting for. You have to know your client. What would run in a glossy magazine is not the same as a newspaper with a pretty full page and spacial restrictions. When I shoot for myself, I do not have to worry about what is “publishable” and can shoot exactly how I want.
What is the most memorable experience you have had as a photojournalist either at work or on a project?
There is no single moment. There are long term projects that I have done for myself and for the Telegraph-Journal that have impacted me. We did a series profiling all of the Native reserves in the province (New Brunswick). Visiting different people and seeing many of the different social problems and social successes was interesting. Similarily, work that I have done in Toronto with transgendered prostitutes (unpublished) was also very meaningful. Day to day assignments can have just as much impact.
For your work I imagine you shoot work mostly with digital. What is the draw for you then to shoot analogue as well and do the occasions you use film have something in common?
For work I shoot only digital. I like shooting analogue because the results are unexpected with the cameras I use and you can’t look at the back of the camera as soon as you’re done and decide if you like it. Film has permanence to it that digital photography often does not. Most digitial photographs will never make it to a print medium, they just sit on a computer or hard drive. I usually use my father’s old Canon AE-1, which is old and damaged and therefore leaks light. The results are great in colour and b/w. The photos also look aged, like they could have been taken twenty years ago. I really like the timeless feel to them.
What analogue equipment do you use (camera and film)?
My father’s old Canon AE-1 with black and white and colour film. I also use a Diana and saturated 120 film.
Other than your camera, what is the most important element to your work and the ability to be a good journalist?
Be able to deal with people and listen to people. Be able to control a situation when you need to and be able to become invisible and let it unfold when you have to. Ask questions. Be accurate. Don’t assume. Never pass up a photo you see.
Where do you find the inspiration for the stories you cover? Are the issues that attract you most globally relevant issues or more community based?
I get inspiration from looking at other photographers work. I am also inspired by the people in my life and some of the people that I meet while working as a photojournalist.
What is your dream assignment?
I have no single dream assignment. I just want to shoot as much as I can for as long as I can. I want to keep meeting people, keep traveling, keep learning, and keep growing as a photographer.
What projects are you working on at the moment that we should keep an eye out for?
A very long term project called “When I Grow Up”, that’s all I can say about it right now.