Photographer Interview: Kris Matheson

Kris Matheson is a Tokyo-based photographer whose urban and abstract work has been a lot of fun to watch. Kris and I both participate in the On Taking PIctures podcast G+ group, and he keeps an archive of the show’s Photographers of the Week and Weekly Assignments.

What I like about Kris’s work is his exploration of different photo subjects. You’ll see him venture down a certain road, project-wise, and then change gears and create totally different work. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Where are you and what do you do?

I’m from a small town in Northern Ontario (Canada) but have been living and working in Tokyo for the past nine years. I currently work as a freelance English Language Instructor, and walk around a lot with my camera.

How did you get started in photography?

I got into photography to document my experiences in Japan for family and friends back home, this was way back in 2006. It wasn’t until 2012 that I shifted focus onto what I wanted to photograph to show how I see the world around me. So really, moving to Japan is what got me into photography.

What do you like about your photography?

If I am open and honest, I walk a fine line of having a love-hate relationship with my photography. It’s taken sometime to find what I am interested in rather than shooting to please other people. I like just being able to take my camera with me day after day to explore. I often revisit the same areas — when I have breaks at work I go out, so I’ve been walking some of the same streets for years now and still manage to find something that interests me.

Your photo work is varied and exploratory. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

Most of my inspiration comes from what I see on the street as I walk around. This past year I started using Instagram and have found it to be a great source of inspiration. I am also inspired by the work of Dennis Hopper, Saul Leiter, and Uta Barth.

What I love about your photo work is that you’re always giving yourself little projects, or themes to explore. Talk about why you feel the need to keep yourself “photo busy.”

Probably one of the best things I started doing in recent years to help keep myself busy is having an Idea Journal (full of terribly bad ideas). This helps me to keep track of places to revisit (and “why”), I also write down interesting things I listened to or read, and things I’ve seen, it’s also a place to write out ideas for images or a project I would like to explore. Some of these ideas get turned into mini-projects, most don’t get posted online since they die shortly after I start them (some live and die inside the pages of my journal). Having this journal is great because I can look back for old ideas and inspiration, and can re-explore when I want. I feel its important to constantly explore the world around me, and having small projects engages and pushes to always be out photographing or thinking about new things.

What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

I explore a lot of urban scenes and more recently abstraction, often with the focus more on colour and geometry. As a side project I have also started exploring memory and destruction in photography, there’s a personal project I’ve been working on around that theme and hope to expand it in the coming year — the theme of destruction in art has really been interesting, creating something and then destroying it is fascinating to me, it’s a little more difficult in digital photography but still intriguing to explore.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

This year I will continue exploring abstraction in photography, and try to incorporate portraits into this theme. I am also working on some collaborations with other photographers and artists, hopefully see what that brings as the year progresses.

See more of Kris’s work on his personal site, and follow along at his Instagram profile.