We caught up with Jerwood/Photoworks Award winner, Matthew Finn, about his practice and future plans, a two years on from winning.
PW: Hi Matthew, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We wanted to take the opportunity to look back and reflect on your experience of winning the Jerwood/Photoworks Award, a year on. What are the major changes you seen to your practice since winning the award?
MF: The changes in my practice have been small. Something you would not visually see in the work but maybe in the way I work. A lot more emphasis has been placed on production and where the work could go and how it might be received. I’m looking for further outlets for the project on my Mother. Though I’m careful to try and find the right type of outlets that I think are suitable for a project like mine.
PW: Could you talk us through your progression in your work in the last year?
MF: Due to the nature of my mother having dementia, which happened within the duration of the award, the project changed and for me it is now finished. I say finished, what I mean, is the act of photographing my mother has come to an end. The work will progress in how I manage it and how I take it forward to a wider audience.
PW: The Jerwood/Photoworks Awards have given your work a large amount of exposure with the show touring to four different galleries/venues. How did you feel showing such a private body of work so publically?
MF: It’s always difficult but I had talked to my mother a couple of years before winning the award, about the work and if we should look for a wider audience than just the two of us. We’d agreed that we should, so that makes it easier knowing you have the approval of the subject.
The shows also did other things. I only realised that they became important as we started the journey through the spaces for me. I could no longer share this award with my mother because of her illness, which meant she has no idea that this has happened. They became important for me as a photographer, whilst also important to discuss ideas on dementia rather than just discussing a project on a person for 29 years.
Do you have any exhibitions coming up?
MF: 2017 seems to be getting busy before we’ve even started. I have shows penciled in for San Francisco at Rayko Photo Centre in August. I hope to be showing at Photo-London, and we are looking at doing a show in Belgrade Photo Month, along with a show later in the year at Francesca Maffeo Gallery. Hopefully, we will be also doing something with Leica.
PW: In the more recent showings of the work, you changed the presentation to include the addition of wallpaper. Can you talk to us about this change?
MF: The wallpaper is something I’ve thought about for a while. I really wanted it for the first show at Jerwood Space but somehow with the set up of the gallery it wouldn’t have worked. We were going to use wallpaper for the show at Belfast Exposed but again finding the right style of wallpaper, which we didn’t, meant that it didn’t sit with the other work in the show. Finally, it all came together at Open Eye. Having the upstairs gallery to myself meant that it could be transformed. The wallpaper, which I’m really pleased with, just adds that extra domestic feel and I think helps an audience get closer to the subject. It is something I will explore further in future shows.
PW: Are there plans to make this body of work into a publication?
MF: Yes, I am working on a book with Dewi Lewis to be published for May 17 with a book signing at Somerset House. It will be 30 years since the first image taken in 1987, so it seems a perfect time and Somerset House offers an elegance that my mother would have been delighted about. She did enjoy visits to London.
PW: Where do you think you’d be in your current practice if you hadn’t taken part in JPA?
MF: The book would probably still be in the pipeline but certainly I would not be in a position where I am now. I do feel I can email more people in the photography world and get an answer back. Before maybe I did not even have a contact email. It’s given me a confidence in the work to push it even further and also show other projects I have been working on for a similar amount of time.
PW: You’ve recently been represented by Francesca Maffeo Gallery. Can you talk to us about how this came about?
MF: Francesca Maffeo Gallery have been wonderful. For many artists, gallery representation is something you work for. For me, it acknowledges that the work is important and that somebody else cares enough to put a lot of time and resources to get the work a larger audience. I contacted the gallery really to congratulate them. It’s such an occasion when a dedicated space opens up for photography. It went from there really, with further conversations and an invite to the gallery for a chat. I’m so pleased as it allows me to continue with School of Art, a project that I have been working on for 20 years.
PW: To anyone wishing to experience some of the successes you’ve had, what advice would you give?
MF: Success is hard to measure. Winning the Jerwood/Photoworks Award for me is a new starting point as a career photographer. It’s a wonderful opportunity for anybody wanting to get their work to a wider audience and having talented individuals and groups around you who can help with your work. I would say to anybody that firstly your goal is to make great work that you yourself believe in, and are passionate about, then try and find others who share your belief in the work.
For more of Matthew’s work, click here.
To read more about our Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, click here.