After featuring his Matthieu's work a while back, we just can't seem to stop seeing neon and candy-colored lights. We reached out to him and he gladly accepted our invitation for an interview. We spoke with him about his stay in Japan, what scenes catch his eye, and why he chooses to shoot at night. Read on and enjoy!
Hello, Matthieu! Welcome back to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi. My name is Matthieu and I'm a German-French photographer and graphic designer currently living in Tokyo. I love shooting urban landscapes and its lights during nightfall.
How would you define photography?
Photography is a way to capture and share the precise moment, together with its ambiance and allure to others.
What's your favorite thing about taking photographs?
I find focusing on a certain subject to photograph very relaxing. At the same time, it is a simple yet very powerful and effective way to convey a feeling, an idea or a mood to others. It’s communication without the noise of words.
Let's talk a bit about your work — how would you describe your photographic style/approach?
I mostly shoot at night as I am fascinated with how artificial sources of light fill out the otherwise dark streets of big cities. Just as how I look for reflections and light sources to take photos of, I want to reflect on my photos what I’m feeling when I wander around an urban jungle.
What I get to hear a lot from others, usually from photographers who shoot in Asian cities, is that my style reminds them of the movie, "Blade Runner”. It is a huge compliment for me, as I am an avid fan of the film. The dark, melancholic atmosphere of film noir and cyberpunk is what I want to project in my photographs.
Who or what would you say was the biggest influence in your work?
Just to name a few: William Eggleston, Gregory Crewdson and Edward Hopper. As a movie buff, I can't deny that cinema is also one of the biggest influences to my work. Nicolas Winding Refn's more recent works in which he usually uses a bold color palette of neon colors for night scenes, and Wong Kar-Wai, who I admire for his moody shots in Hong Kong (set up by his cinematographer Christopher Doyle.) The crispy colors of his movies like "Fallen Angels" and "In the Mood for Love" definitely influenced my photographic style.
Neon Dreams is definitely an eye catcher. It has that lively and romantic mood to it. What's the story behind it?
Tokyo is a city that has a very dream-like quality to me. The first time I came here, I completely fell in love with the night lights and the small alleys illuminated by glowing advertising boards and neon signs. The vivid streets at night contrasted what I was used to back in my home country. At the same time, I felt a particular weariness, being in this huge metropolis with millions of people. I think the neon boards and glowing lanterns symbolize an urge to be comforted through light, in order to feel connected with the city and its people.
How has the change in environment affected your shooting style?
I would say that the change in environment has helped me find a certain style I am happy to stick to for a while. Before, I would easily get bored when I photograph the same subjects and landscapes. Being in Tokyo has helped me find variety in similar photographic subjects.
What are the things that you love about Japan during the night?
Coming from a small town in Germany that is usually quiet after 8 PM, it never ceases to fascinate me how the night in the big cities of Japan is still filled with life. Within a day, Tokyo portrays itself to be two different cities. During the daytime, busy people in their suits and formal wear dominate the streets as they go to work, rush for trains or traverse the city. At night it becomes quite the opposite, as the office workers let themselves go and drink their stressful lives out.
Any particular place that you frequent for photographs or perhaps hidden gems in Japan?
I tend to avoid touristy or crowded places. I particularly enjoy the calmness of the less popular districts of Tokyo, like Nakano or Daikanyama with their narrow streets of boutiques, coffee shops and vintage record stores. Even shooting around random residential areas that I'm unfamiliar with is something I can always appreciate because you never know what illuminated gem can be unveiled around the next corner.
In your opinion, what makes a 'good photograph?'
A good photograph for me is one that makes me want to stop and look at it twice. The act of looking it twice is the catalyst of asking myself what I feel about it.
Define your style in five words.
Colorful. Neon. Night. Urban. Moody.
Who are the artists that you follow on a regular basis?
Only to name a few contemporary photographers I follow on Instagram: Louis Dazy, Liam Wong, Cody Ellingham, Benoit Paillé, Elsa Bleda, Neil Krug, and Toby Harvard.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and creatives out there?
Don’t be afraid to shoot in a style you like, even if you are emulating someone else you look up to. There are so many things out there that can inspire you, that in the end, it will become your own style, your own thing. No matter how much you try to create work that is similar to the people that inspire you, there will always be a part of yourself in it.
What do you think matters more — talent or skill?
I am not a big fan of using words like talent or skill. Of course, talent is basically how easy some people can come up with great work and skill is about how comfortable you are in our execution of ideas, but it all goes down to liking what you do. If others consider you as someone talented, then it can definitely be satisfying, but it should never be something you take too much comfort in.
What was the most memorable advice you've been given in your career as a photographer?
I think the best advice that I got from my best friends, who also takes photos, is to understand that if you press down the shutter button a thousand times and get one good photograph out of it, you can be happy with the result. The idea is about creating a lot of work. Then it’s up to you what you want to show it to others.
What are your other interests outside of photography?
Cinema and music are definitely my two greatest passions outside of photography. I can't spend time alone without listening to artists who I like. It keeps me inspired because I always have images in my head when I listen to music. Other than those, I enjoy traveling, especially to other major cities while discovering their own urban jungles at night.
How does a perfect day look like for Matthieu Bühler?
Whenever I was able to spend some memorable time with the people I care about, I consider it a perfect day. And of course if I come up with at least one photograph I am happy with.
What's next for you?
I want to try to create moving images in the same style as my photographs. I have a few ideas for some short films that I want to bring to paper in the near future. Aside from that I want to explore other creative fields more and to keep trying to become better at the things I love.
Any last words for our readers?
As cheesy as it might sound but you should definitely never stop learning and sharing what you love with others. It will get you a long way.
We would like to express our gratitude to Matthieu for letting us feature his work on the Magazine. If you're interested in Matthieu's work, you may head over to his website for more.