A little bit of fashion, a lot of vibrance and a splash of disorder are the core concepts of Mateo’s photographs. The images are all over the place: some are in black and white, more subtle and classical with females modeling clothing or hats, while other images are titled, “Rabies Couture” or feature a gothic cheerleader eating a cheeseburger. Mateo is “bizarre” in the best way.
While viewing the work of Mateo, one definitely comprehends that there is a surrealist stimulation behind the work of the photographer. In one piece, Snow White is biting into an apple but she appears vampiric as the red juice drips down her lips and all over her hands. Her long, witchy, nails cradle the two bleeding apples as she gazes into the camera with a strong sense of power and seduction. This isn’t the Snow White we are used to. In fact, she is incredibly far from it.
Furthermore, Mateo introduces worlds that make up the underbelly of a city–the individuals that play but sometimes don’t play too nicely (and thats okay too!). One set of images features a female lying in a bathtub filled with pink bathwater, her hands graze the surface of the water as black ink rinses off into the tub. The dichotomy of classical pink in contrast with black platforms shoes creates a sense of tension with the photograph, a sense of tension that one can particularly take a liking to.
In addition to these surreal photo shoots, Mateo also works with models in traditional settings. In one set of images titled, “Drapes of Wrath”, includes models that are wearing accessories made from textiles and other materials by their creator, Ashley Scott.
Not only does the photographer create his own projects but he also collaborates with designers, aspiring models, and artists to create a project that can benefit everyone included. Mateo is currently working and residing in Chicago where he focuses on headshots, nightlife and portrait photography.
What kind of camera or cameras do you shoot with?
I use a wide variety of photographic instruments and software applications to create the final product of my work. These tools range anywhere from a dual pair of 35mm film rangefinders from the 1940’s, to a Canon DSLR camera. I praise Adobe for their software suites, and wouldn’t be anywhere today in my career without film, the original throw back art medium to all of the great masters.
Are these individuals your models and your friends? Strictly clients? Or a mixture of both?
I know the subjects I am photographing 90% of the time, either referrals through friends, or they are people I’ve been meaning to shoot for years. When I do photograph out at social events, such as for a magazine cocktail party or a music festival, those subjects are 80% of the time strangers.
How do you choose when to utilize black and white or color for your shoots?
I select black and white, over color editing, only after the shoot has been completed. I never shoot in black and white, because then the images can never be converted back to color. It is an organic process while editing, and just trying things out and seeing the results. Much different are the times in which we live than those of film days with darkroom development.
Do you work in a studio with professional lights or natural lighting?
I operate mainly out of my photo studio in Lakeview, using a strobe light and umbrella when I am indoors. I use location natural lighting when the weather permits, plus I use an on camera flash when shooting out at social events or nightclubs.
Take us through your creative process.
I am constantly being inspired to think creatively through attending art galleries, listening to music, going out to nightclubs and talking to friends/artists etc. and researching images and designers online. I have an inspiration page which is my tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/themateo (NSFW) I use this page to come back to if I’m ever stretched thin for an idea or concept. My process varies with who I am working with, where I am working, and what I am shooting. Ideally, when I shoot one on one with a model it is an equal organic collaboration between them and myself (and the fashion of course, haha)
When did you first get involved with photography?
I am a third generation photographer, on both sides of my family. I am an only child, and also the only queer artist in my family history to my knowledge. It was just meant to be. I’ve always had a camera in my hands since I was able to hold one. I became involved in photography when I decided music wasn’t the path I wanted to take. My father passed me down his old film cameras and lenses, and would give me film when I asked instead of allowance. I’ve never stopped. Do you have any experience with any other creative mediums? Photography is my main and preferred medium, however I used to draw, play piano, and have recently picked up the electric guitar again.
How important is an artistic community to you?
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my idols and masters before me such as Ansel Adams, Salvador Dali, Richard Avedon, David LaChapelle, Andy Warhol, Steven Klein, Patrick Demarchelier, to name a few. My path has been paved and opened up to make it possible that I can be a photographer whose concerns aren’t limited to race, gender, age, or sexuality. I am extremely grateful to have such amazing friends and colleagues in Chicago alone, not to mention LA, NYC, Miami, and Hawaii. Much love, you know who you are.
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