Matt Sayles’ photography has an innate sense of honesty. Working across the entertainment, fashion, and commercial world, Sayles also finds time to pursue his practice from a purely artistic lens. His series Body Art is Sayles most important project to date. In this series, Sayles captures stripped down portraits of “plus-sized” models in a classic fashion style. Sayles live and works in Los Angeles, CA.
When did photography first enter your life?
I first picked up a camera when I was in the eighth grade. My school had a visual arts requirement and I had absolutely no talent to draw, paint, or sculpt so I picked photography. I was immediately taken by the experience of wanting to create an image and being able to bring it to life.
How do you go about capturing the perfect image?
I don’t worry about capturing the perfect image but rather capturing the perfect emotion or feeling. The image doesn’t have to perfect but as long as it carries the message that I am trying to convey.
What was one photography project that stands out as particularly gratifying for you?
My most important project is my Body Art project which is a series of stripped-down portraits of “plus-sized” models shot in a classic fashion style. It is definitely my most important and fulfilling project. Stylistically it follows in the vein of 90s fashion / art photography but is purposefully size inclusive and features a range of body types.
Is there something you are aiming to convey to the viewer in your photographs?
In my Body Art series my message is simple – Every woman, regardless of body type, should be seen, heard, understood, and valued. I believe in the power of the image and that it is important for all women to see bodies that look like theirs represented in the media they consume. I also believe society and media project a damagingly narrow view of beauty that has harmful consequences for women regardless of size. I started this project for 2 reasons – I believe that it’s imperative to create more inclusive imagery that expands society’s notion of beauty and the inclusive imagery that I did see didn’t reflect the plus size women in my life or the fashion aesthetic I grew up admiring. I wanted to create of a body work that addressed these concerns by photographing plus or curve models in a manner that mirrored the way that their “straight-sized” counterparts had been photographed for decades. Hopefully this work inspires women of all sizes to be kinder to themselves and their bodies as well as recognize their own beauty.
Who are some other photographers whose work has influenced your own?
I grew up consuming the work of Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Ellen Von Unworth, Platon, and others. All of their work has influenced my work and specifically my Body Art series. One of the important aspects of that series is that it is stylistically consistent with the aesthetic of high-end fashion/art photography. I saw work that was more inclusive in nature but was shot differently than the fashion imagery I admired. I wanted to create work that reflected the imagery I loved but included a variety of body types. Access is an important part of inclusivity and I want my subjects, and all women for that matter, to have access the aesthetic that has for so long only been available to a narrow group of women.
Do you prefer film or digital photography?
I work primarily with digital photography, but I love film photography. The majority of my work requires that I shoot digital, but film will always have a special place in my heart and my work. I learned photography shooting film and whenever I am shooting film it takes me back to the reasons why I picked up a camera in the first place.
What advice would you give to someone interested in developing a photography practice?
To figure out what they are trying to say with their work. With digital cameras and easy access to editing software the technical elements of photography are increasingly easier to overcome. As a result, the work that you choose to create and the subjects you choose to highlight are what separates one photographer from the next.
What is next for you?
I am hoping to do a pop-up show of my Body Art series. I would like exhibit large scale prints of that work where the viewers can interact and view the work away from their phones or computers. My goal for the work is the give my subjects and the women like them both visibility and place to exist and this exhibition would certainly help achieve that.