Matt Hill tells us about NIGHT PAPER

Editor’s Note: As promised in Wednesday’s post on ADC Director of Awards Jen Larkin Kuzler, we are working hard to get to know each other a little better. From our staff, to our leadership to our members and greater community, we want to know you better and share who you—and we—are. So this feature on ADC member Matt Hill begins a second new series here on the ADC Blog that will give you insight into your fellow ADC members. Who is a part of this community and what are they up to? Perhaps you’ll get to know a future friend or collaborator right here.

ADC member Matt Hill combines art and craft to render ethereal portraits by combining Cut Paper Art and Night Photography. For more than twenty years, Matt has honed his series entitled NIGHT PAPER and will be exhibiting the body of work at the Slipper Room in NYC for the first time this summer. We sat down with Matt to discuss his process.

ADC: Where did Night Photography come from?

Matt: When I was growing up, my mom had a silver darkroom in our bathroom, and I grew up smelling the chemistry of photography. So, I was attracted to art and photography at a really young age.

Then during my teenage years, my mom and dad gave me an SLR camera. My friend Brian and I were hanging out in the graveyard, and we had a tripod, flash, and a fisheye lens, and I decided to try leaving my shutter open. I had him stand in front of this fisheye lens, smoking a cigarette and [looking] cool.

I opened the shutter and popped the flash on him, and then he walked out, and I was startled. I expected him to stand there, but I didn’t communicate that to him. When I developed the film and made a print, I saw something beautiful.

I’ve been working on that concept for twenty years now, learning more about how I can play with time.

ADC: Explain how you started to incorporate Paper Art. What inspired the combination of two crafts?

Matt: I was going through an emotionally intense part of my life. I needed something to take my mind off of what was happening and refocus that negative energy that I had into something creative and positive. I had a dim memory of a project in high school, where I did subtractive art; cutting pieces of paper out and layering them behind each other, and I said, “I remember that being fun!”

A couple of years later in 2008, I was sitting with some new friends and some old friends after the Mermaid Parade, and I was talking about what I do. I do this paper stuff; I do this night photography stuff. I asked myself, as I was talking to them, “Why have I never tried to combine these?”

ADC: Just like that?

Matt: Yes! It was then that I had series of fireworks go off in my head. I said, “Oh my goodness! What would happen if I made this fashion in this surreal nature that I do with the paper art and put them on people, and have them only wear the paper, and then take them out to strange locations, where I can do this time dilation and do long exposures, and just see what happens.

ADC: Wow, you’ve already accomplished so much in so little time! We’re also very interested in how you direct your models. For instance, how you get people naked under a bridge in Manhattan?

Matt: This is one of the beautiful things about conquering your fears. Where I saw it as a disadvantage to not understand how to direct people, now I use it as an advantage. Everybody is unique, and they each have their own beliefs or things they’re proud of or fears that are their own.

The gentleman underneath the bridge in Dumbo is a nudist. So, I really didn’t need to tell him to do much because he knew what to do with his body.

Other people that have participated in the project, for example, have been burlesque dancers. Normal people who like to play with that idea of comedy and nudity and being risqué at the same time. They develop their own performances.

ADC: And for those who aren’t as comfortable taking their clothes off?

I don’t like putting people in unnatural situations because it makes for a disingenuous portrait. I want these portraits to feel amazing and natural and beautiful. I love to leave room for inspiration and creativity on the shoot. So far, every single shoot has been a success in that respect.

ADC: We are looking forward to your exhibition NIGHT PAPER at the Slipper Room. It begins on May 5 and ends June 2, 2013. 
You’ve shown previously in New York City, so how does it feel to be back in NYC exhibiting?

Matt: I’m very, very, very excited. I’ve displayed one of the prints from NIGHT PAPER in your space, at the ADC Grand, a one-evening event as a soft preview. Outside of that, I have chosen not to display my photography in a public space in twenty years.

ADC: Wow! And what is happening at “Live Art Experiment: Paper Burlesque” on May 19 at the Slipper Room?

Matt: It’s going to be a spectacular art experiment.

ADC: How do you hope that the viewer walks away from that performance?

Matt: I hope that they feel like they saw something the likes of which they’ve never seen before. And they felt like they were part of something special, something unique and beautiful.

ADC: That’s a touching sentiment to share with the ADC community. Speaking of which… why do you love being a member of the ADC community so much?

I love being a member of the community! I’m connected to and constantly meeting people who stimulate me creatively. I find a lot of joy in going to the events and meeting like-minded, enthusiastic people who really love making beautiful stuff. That in itself is the reward of being a member.

Matt will have art on sale at his exhibition at the Slipper Room. To talk to Matt about volunteering as a model for NIGHT PAPER or assisting at one of his shoots contact him at his website. Make sure to check out his workshops and lectures in your area!

If you are an ADC member interested in sharing a bit about yourself in this forum, please email and we will be in touch!