Matt Barnes - Hell or High Water

Matt Barnes

MATT BARNES: Hell or High Water

Matt Barnes is a photographer at the top of his game. His commercial clients include Nike and Vogue and he has also worked with celebrities including Drake, Snoop Dog and Ariana Grande. The Toronto raised photographer is showcasing his newest project Hell or High Water in the city from May 22nd – June 22nd. This collaboration of artists in a unique venue is the first of many we can expect to see this summer put on by The Combine.

Sainthood, sinnership, and the ongoing search for salvation was the concept so Barnes took his team deep into Louisiana to shoot a short film and capture photography around the theme of darkness. His subject, a sinner looking for redemption, hopes to find salvation in a snake-infested swamp. Matt Barnes spoke to View the Vibe about his experience in creating this project, his career and what we can expect to see next from him.

Why did you choose to shoot Hell or High Water in Louisiana?

I was really inspired by a video game I played when I was a kid. It was about a detective who is investigating voodoo murders in New Orleans. The culture there is so rich. I love the music, food, swamps, alligators and I really love how the people dress up. They embrace who they are and it’s a really neat place to go.

You describe the inspiration behind this project as the lows we all hit. Can you speak to a low point in your own career and how you pulled out of it artistically?

As an artist you’re always on a roller coaster of these emotions. You could be riding high and have lots of work and feel very successful, and then you know, there are times you don’t win every job that you bid on. Then you start losing jobs and you start losing confidence. When stuff like that happens you also lose touch with feeling artistic. When you’re in a place like that, you have to pick yourself back up and do something really creative just for you. This will get you to start climbing again.

Matt Barnes Photo Exhibit

What has been your most challenging shoot so far?

There are so many different challenges. Sometimes you’re with someone who doesn’t like anything even though you’ve done everything right. Sometimes you could just be shooting someone who’s been having a bad day. If my client isn’t happy with my work, this is something I take personally because it goes beyond me. Sometimes the jobs I get encourage and help other freelancers in the field to all collaborate. People will work for free on big and fun passion projects, so it’s the bigger commercial jobs that balance that process out.

What do you love about Toronto and how has it shaped your career?

The people. You have so many different kinds of people in this city. These are also the same ones who opened the first doors for me, so it’s all about community. Even in the crowd here today, there are people who have played a massive role in my career. The woman who owned the studio where I got my first job came out tonight.

How do you define your success?

The fact that I still enjoy the creative process.  I can think of ideas daily and I get enthusiastic to start new projects. There were times during Hell or High Water where I wish I could have just drawn it because then I wouldn’t have to spend 20 thousand dollars to make it—but art can be selfish.

What’s your next move?

I would love to be a movie director. I don’t know how to get there right now, just like I didn’t know how to become a photographer. I’m just going to continue to make my films and experiment while meeting new people in that world. If I keep following that direction something will line up.

You can pop in to check out this very cool and unique exhibit showcasing from May 22 – June 22 at The MethLab located @ 209 Wellington St. West. You can pop in anytime on the weekdays from 12pm – 6pm

For more info, check out the website >>