Matt Skuza

"I'm trying to create silence - Moments of being alone"

Text/ Interview: Sara Umbreit, Photos: Matt Skuza

The images of canadian photographer and artist Matt Skuza aka Fivecentcandy document the melancholic romance of the things surrounding him, portraying their existence.

Since when do you take pictures and what inspired you in the first place?

Matt: I took a photography class in grade 10. Some of the assignments were to take specific photos for the teacher to critique. I remember I didn't do too well with those assignments, and eventually I was skipping that class entirely to just go around town to take my own photos, with the camera my dad gave me. That was probably the moment in time I thought to myself, I really like this, this is what I'm talking about. The freedom of taking something that already existed and freezing it in a photo is what inspired me. The inspiration was everywhere- everywhere but in the classroom. I knew that I needed to be out there, exposing myself to the environment. I was always fascinated by the quietness of a large parking lot with nobody around. A lot of my work now is based off that fascination.

Out of the current photo series Mall Plant - Celebrating Nothing

What is the idea behind your current project “Mall Plant - Celebrating Nothing”?

Matt: The idea is to bring plants to life in really boring environments like malls or offices. A portrait proving its existence. The series was born from a moment I had while standing outside on a cold night downtown Vancouver. "Whats the loneliest thing alive right now?" I asked myself. I then looked up and saw a plant in the corner of a window. I thought to myself, the only people who know about its existence is myself and the person who waters it. It was a pretty depressing idea, but I liked the potential.

Mall Plant - Celebrating Nothing

Has your photography changed over time? What do you focus on in your work today?

Matt: I don't think my pictures have changed drastically over the years. My seriousness for the art form has changed drastically though. I take it a lot more seriously nowadays. I found my respect for it after coming across many challenges I ran into trying to progress my art. As to what my focus is, I mainly try to show the stillness in things. I'm trying to create silence. Moments of being alone.

Mall Plant - Celebrating Nothing

You used to shoot with film. Your recent photos have been taken digital though.

Matt: Yes, I made the change because I was ready for a new process. I no longer wanted to spend the money or wait for developing. I wanted to shoot a lot more photos and do it quickly. There is definitely a romantic feeling behind shooting film, one that is difficult to explain unless you've done it. There is something about the colours and grain. I feel like it has more character. Everyone has their own reason for shooting film or digital. Find a camera you like and just use it. That's my outlook.

Mall Plant - Celebrating Nothing

You live in Vancouver, in which way does the city inspire you?

Matt: Vancouver is an interesting city. It's not like other cities in Canada. I grew up in Ottawa, the capital of Canada and the contrast between the two are massive. I moved here four years ago because I really wanted to live on the coast. I think the biggest thing that inspires me about living out here is the way the sun meets the landscape each day. It's absolutely beautiful and I never get tired of looking at mountains. You feel like you're connected with the earth a little more out here.

Since there is platforms like Instagram a lot of people claim to be “photographers" - what makes a photographer or what is photography in your eyes?

Matt: I think whether you use your phone, a film camera, a digital camera, or just your damn eyes-If you get excited about waking up each day thinking about what you might find. Getting that gut punch. Then you can call yourself whatever you want. The word "photographer" is just something that makes the word "artist" smaller. One of my favourite quotes is by Ed Templeton from the film Beautiful Losers, it goes like this - " You can't tag me as a one thing or another, you can´t tag almost anybody in the show as just a painter, as just a photographer, we're just artists." I strongly believe in those words.

You also paint - which discipline you feel more comfortable with expressing yourself? How do both art forms challenge you?

Matt: I definitely feel more comfortable with photography. I've been doing it longer and it was my introduction into art. I went through a time when I hit a wall with making images, nothing excited me. Everything seemed so boring, like white bread without its crust. It was really frustrating and because of this something inside of me was building up and ready to explode. I started out small with just a sketchbook and worked my way up to painting industrial wooden pallets I would steal from the alley. Painting took me in a whole new direction. Made me create from absolutely nothing. Pure imagination. I found that was the challenge. There was so much trial and error - It opened me up and had me accepting mistakes. It has really changed the way I take photographs now. The pictures aren't always going to throw themselves at you, They aren't always going to be right outside your door. You have to just sit there sometimes and create something out of nothing.

Matt Skuza, Photo: Loukia Merdanos

Find recent photographs from Matt Skuza here or follow him on Instagram

Text/ Interview: Sara Umbreit
Photos: Matt Skuza