Artist Spotlight: Rich Mattingly

photo by Ryan Flynn

photo by Ryan Flynn

It’s Monday, lets start the week off right with an Artist Spotlight! This week we bring you the awesome work of Rich Mattingly. Having served in the Marines for 6 years, I think it’s fitting his post his fell on Veterans Day. Thanks for serving Rich!

A little about yourself, where you’re from and what you do.

I run and with my wife, Alyssa. My initial background in photography was as a Marine Corps Combat Correspondent. I served from 2002 to 2008 and deployed to Afghanistan in 04-05. I’m from Tennessee, but when we decided to transition out of the military (Alyssa was an active duty photojournalist in the Navy) Buffalo, NY ended up being a great landing spot for us. Alyssa is from near here, originally, and a public affairs (my military specialty) gig came open related to recruiting duty. We started shooting weddings when we had a hard time finding enough work shooting PJ gigs after I got off active duty, and it turns out that we loved it and ran with that and family photography as our main gigs.

How did you get into instant photography?

I first got into instant photography when I found 7 old pro pack cameras in a drawer at work. Before digital came along, Marines would have their promotion photos taken with a pro pack on polaroid 669 and have that image stapled to their “promotion package.” How you look in uniform is a big part of getting to the next rank once you get into the higher enlisted echelons and that used to be all on instant film. When you’re a photographer in the Marine Corps, you don’t just take battlefield photos, you end up doing anything anyone needs imagery for. So I talked my supply gunny into buying like 50 packs of 669 and we screwed around and blew it all in like two days doing shitty-looking emulsion lifts and distressing negatives and all sorts of things. IF ONLY WE HAD KNOWN! I don’t have any of those photos anymore, either, which is a shame. We saw them a once-off thing, partly because the pro packs were really crappy pack film cameras and this was before polaroid stopped producing the stuff. 

 Alyssa bought me an instax mini a couple Christmas’s ago and we shot a bunch of that stuff, but it didn’t have the same charm and I haven’t really touched it since.

 I really got into instant film again thanks to Ryan Flynn ( who had me along to one of his weddings last year. He was using a polaroid 195 and just KILLING IT. His clients were super impressed and being able to show off like that on a wedding day really appealed to me beyond the medium itself. It wasn’t until I got my own 195, that I started to “get it” as far as what that film medium could really be.

What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

I have a 195 and a 180 currently and the 195 goes with us on almost every shoot. It’s more rewarding for me to be able to use a camera where I feel I have more control over the final image and I wasn’t ultimately happy using my 100 or 360 since the results were so mixed.

What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?

I want an SX-70 and to try out some IP film. I’ve never shot it, and some of the work I’ve seen Mike Ash and Jarrod Renaud (among many others) put out there is making me itchy with my ebay finger. Fuji pack film and I are in a long-term committed relationship, but I think if you care about instant film, you probably have to at least have a fling with the IP stuff on the side.

What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?

Definitely Fuji 100c. It’s been challenging to nail exposure for me, and I’ve been working to do more dynamic stuff light-wise with it when I’m out shooting. The 100c has worked the best for me in direct, directional light situations.

How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

Not very well yet. Right now it’s something I’m doing when and where I can while we’re out shooting our regular gigs. My biggest concern is that I’m just mirroring the digital or 35mm film shots I’m taking in a different format. Whenever I pull out the land camera, I want to make sure it’s purposeful, so it doesn’t come out too much at weddings right now. I’m working on that :). I actually don’t have many polaroid prints sitting around since I’m prone to giving them away immediately after a shoot. I get so excited when I get a really good one that I give to a couple or family and rarely scan. I have about 200 color negatives I want to bleach once our wedding season slows down.

How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)

I wouldn’t say my voice is different. Working with any type of film always feel a little more deliberate to me, if for no other reason than I’m also using a handheld light meter and being more patient about where the light falls. 

Any personal projects we should know about?

Not really, I feel like everything I shoot is personal (sorry, don’t mean to be that douchey guy). Frankly, it’s probably a lack of vision that has kept from taking on any truly “personal” work. Photography was introduced to me as an occupation and it’s remained that. I find a lot of joy in what we do at weddings and with families and I’m at the point where that’s pretty much all I want to focus on.

What other photographers do you look up too?

I recently started following Zalmy Berkowitz and paying attention to how he applies instant film to shooting his kids and community. I really like his style and attention to the full frame. Michael Ash is my wedding inspiration when it comes to instant film work. Mike has been really helpful and open, too, which is awesome when you’re new to a medium.

What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?

Shoot it like crazy. The more we all shoot this stuff, the more likely it is to stick around as a film medium. Plus it’s easily the most-accessible film there is for a shooter if not the most accessible method of photography at all. You need a 15 dollar land camera (and there’s a thousand out there from the 60s and 70s that still work like magic) and a 9 dollar pack of film and you’re ready to go make some images you can put on a wall. I wish Edwin Land was still here so I could hi-five him hard.

Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?

I‘m inspired by the group of photographers I interact with on twitter (oh yeah, I’m @nickelcity) and facebook. Like most film shooters, instant film folks are very happy to share their successes and failures and tips and techniques. I think we all know that there might be a time limit on what we’re doing if we don’t cultivate the instant film scene. Sites like yours and photographer-to-photographer knowledge exchanges about instant film are crucial to this amazing film being around for a long time still


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