Portrait by Salome van Zyl
Photographer based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Who is Jordi Matas "the photographer"?
I am a documentary photographer travelling to crisis-hit areas around the globe documenting and (hopefully) helping draw attention to important issues like the refugee crisis, drought, education, health, poverty... A few years ago, my partner and I relocated to Istanbul, and I found myself constantly walking and photographing the city on my free time and when not on deployments, becoming a necessary source of inspiration. Some friends fell in love with my photographs of Istanbul on Instagram and encouraged me to start selling my best as fine art prints to be put up on walls.
How did you get into photography?
I started my professional career as an architect in NYC, but 2 years after that I realised that I could be happier outside the office, taking photographs and discovering the world and its people, so one day I “built up the courage” to quit my job, packed my camera, and bought a flight ticket to Mumbai. Now, more than a decade later, it’s hard to believe that my dream of becoming a professional photographer, has come true. It has broadened my perception of the world, giving me optimism in the human race and hope that we can make this world a better place to live, for everyone.
What do you hope to capture in your photographs of Istanbul?
Istanbul has a long and glorious past which can be seen in every corner, especially in the old city. I see in Istanbul a city that struggles to merge its past and present, leaving too many in its fringes; Like two worlds constantly colliding but oblivious of each other. And one is slowly being erased and replaced by a faster and more “present-friendly” version of what’s important today; Old shops and hans (crafts), çay evis (tea house), old wooden houses... being replaced by big shop chains and high-end residential developments, in the name of progress. It is a generational battle and the old one has already lost.
Istanbul, like too many other megacities in the world, is like a hungry giant that needs to constantly grow and expand at any cost, erasing history, people, green spaces...
I want to see this Istanbul before it is completely gone, and I never want to forget it.
What is the biggest challenge you face photographing people?
It depends on the circumstances; When I take photos in the streets, I don't find it to be challenging because I don't take photos on people's faces, and the last thing I want is to make anybody feel uncomfortable. No means no. I like to see street photography as an exercise of observation, where one has little control over what's happening or who is in the frame, and for me, it is more about the moment, the light, the composition... Generally, I think that people don’t mind being photographed, and a smile or another non-verbal acknowledgement is often enough. On the other hand, if I am taking photos on an assignment for an NGO, we always get written consent. Always.
What is your equipment of choice when you go out in the streets?
When I work in the field for NGOs, I use 2 full-frame cameras with 2 different zoom lenses, but when I started going on regular strolls in Istanbul, I decided to approach the process differently, so I bought a small mirrorless camera and 2 prime lenses. I often carry a mini tripod for long exposures as well.
Do you plan to broaden your collection of prints?
Yes, definitely. So far it’s been great to start this journey, both seeing some of my prints in friend’s and other people’s homes, but also to discover the art of printing exclusive fine art limited edition prints, which is a slow and complex process, but very gratifying.
I hope to start adding some of the work that I have been producing during my travels soon.
Thank you very much for reading!
Interview by Salome van Zyl