Matt Lambert & The Bad Seeds: Portraying & Spreading The Germs Of Germany

Matt Lambert & The Bad Seeds: Portraying & Spreading The Germs Of Germany

Friday, Febrary 14, 2015. Matt Lambert has been making his way down a nonstop tour-de-force, producing a prolific body of work over the past few years to make up for lost time. LA-born and currently Berlin-based by way of London and NYC - where he had worked in the commercial world for years before breaking out of that routine - Lambert has now settled into his own. With music videos for the likes of Austra, Patrick Wolf, and Hercules & Love Affair under his belt, as well as awards for his video work in the fashion industry (Winner of ASVOFF 6 for Best Art Direction and Best Styling to coincide with the London Collections:Men), Lambert is now presenting his first monograph of photography, available just in time for Valentine's Day.

Friday, Febrary 14, 2015. Matt Lambert has been making his way down a nonstop tour-de-force, producing a prolific body of work over the past few years to make up for lost time. LA-born and currently Berlin-based by way of London and NYC - where he had worked in the commercial world for years before breaking out of that routine - Lambert has now settled into his own. With music videos for the likes of Austra, Patrick Wolf, and Hercules & Love Affair under his belt, as well as awards for his video work in the fashion industry (Winner of ASVOFF 6 for Best Art Direction and Best Styling to coincide with the London Collections:Men), Lambert is now presenting his first monograph of photography, available just in time for Valentine's Day.

Text: Daniel McKernan

Who is publishing this book and where can we find it?

Matt Lambert The book is being published and released by Pogo Books in Berlin. It's also been designed by Yukiko Studio in Berlin. It can be found online for pre-sale now and it'll also be stocked in stores around North America and Europe.

The name Keim is German for "Germ." How does this relate or equate to the sexualized boys we see in these photos?

ML The word also means "seed," so I'm playing with both meanings. My husband suggested the title as he has done for some of my favorite projects. This book is a collection of the first photographic works I've done that dip into my own sexuality and personal life. It's the beginning of a new chapter in life and work. My personal photo work has become one of the jumping off points for themes and process in my film work.

Describe your work in five words.

ML Intimate. Warm. Endearing. Virile. Fleeting.

What mood are you trying to evoke? Is it an underground dystopian fantasy you're trying to emulate, as the foreword to this book hints?

ML I started making the work for very selfish reasons. My process was about working through the issues I never got to properly tap when I was younger. Growing up in LA, these themes were primarily sex and violence. The process of deconstructing and reassembling the things that terrified or enchanted me was a way to own that which once intimidated. However, there's been an evolution as I start to build a social media relationship with my audience. I get messages and DMs from a growing niche fan-base and they express the ways my films and photos have helped them work through their own development. It's these stories that make me want to continue to be a part of people's personal narratives as well as create and reflect a world where there's nothing to fear when it comes to love. In addition, there's such a climate of hate and fear right now around the world that needs to be bashed back against with messages of love, acceptance and a celebration of humanity.

Who or what are your main inspirations?

ML This week it's teenage tumblr, my husband's criticism, and my friends. I try to look less and less at the formal art or film worlds that I spent 10 plus years in and let my life drive the work as much as possible.

How does Berlin fit into your work as a character?

ML Berlin allowed me to be a contradiction. It allowed and allows me to float between disciplines and personal identities. It allowed me a place where I could finally define my own path outside of the construct of what 'success' meant. It's the home of some of the free-ist kids I've ever met.

Not all of these images were shot in Berlin. Some I know were in Ventura Beach in LA. Are there any other locations that I'm missing?

ML There's a few stray floaters in there, but I'd say 90% is Berlin. There's a few London, NYC and Paris moments, but it's Berlin that gave me the head to shoot it all.

What dates does this work span?

ML 2011-2014

In the forward, Jefferson Hack says "it's sex for sex's sake, and that's precisely what makes it so shocking," yet pornography has been doing this for decades. How do you differentiate your work from pornography?

ML There's such a casual quality to the way Berlin deals with sex. It's not even always sexual. I see very little of my work as being about sex, but rather the intimacy that forms as a byproduct of friendship or sexual encounters. There's a camaraderie and trust that I'm trying to capture. Sure, some of these images are pure sex, but most I don't see as sexual at all. It's about injecting them with the platonic or fraternal intimacy of an affair.

The photographs indicate a level of trust that you've gained with them in order to maintain such levels of intimacy. Do you keep in touch with the majority of your subjects? What is your model selection process?

ML I'm regularly in touch with almost everyone I've shot. More than half of them are people I've been friends with prior to shooting anyhow. If not, I usually end up asking to shoot people that I meet socially - friends of friends, or out at parties. There are times I've been traveling and hit people up on Grindr and asked them to shoot. I often look for people who remind me of a time in my life that I didn't have the courage to approach back then. Other subjects fit into a specific theme; for example, I've been shooting photo essays of male escorts in Berlin for the past few years.

The foreword mentions drug usage. Do drugs play an integral role in the intimacy or detachment represented here - either intentionally or organically?

ML Almost never beyond a few beers or a spliff. I think he was talking a bit more about the psychedelic effects of social spaces and virtual identities and how they can push young minds into a dimension of self-reflexive euphoria.

What would your response be to anyone who might have the idea that you're being exploitative of these sexualized youth in vulnerable states?

ML The people I shoot are partners in the work we make. They are co-authors and I always give them final approval. The work becomes as much as vehicle for them to express themselves as it is for me to explore. Everyone I shoot is highly self-aware and understands the context in which the work is being made. This is the most important prerequisite. Other images are relics of social or sexual experiences with friends and the same rules apply.

Seeing as most of the images are of young men, I'm curious if you identify as a gay or queer artist? How does this affect your work?

ML When I first started making films and taking photos, my work didn't explore gay and queer subject matter. As I dug into themes of youth and my youth, it felt impossible to ignore my sexuality. Some of my biggest mentors and inspirations are icons within gay and queer art and cinema scenes. However, I always felt like my work straddled a line that attempted to make it more accessible that some of the more transgressive work that inspires me. My work started as more hardcore and subversive, but now I'm trying to find ways to soften and humanize my subjects and characters in order to bridge a gap between the queer art world and general work that deals with love, sex and intimacy, independent of orientation.

I know you have been embarking on a long and exciting journey with your new film production, which is to premiere on a major network. Are you able to discuss this project?

ML I'm not able to say too much yet. What I can say is I've been commissioned to develop and direct and new TV series for a major US network which is an extension of the experimental film work I've been making in Berlin over the past few years. It explores youth, love, sex and relationships and does so in LA, NYC, London, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City and a few other spots. It's been an interesting creative challenge to take my experimental work and process back to the US and for a more mainstream market, but for an audience who needs to expand their views on love, sex and relationships much more than in Europe.

How do these photos relate to the aforementioned and previous film projects that you're working on?

ML It's more the process than a visual connection. Building trust and making light of the awkwardness of intimacy carries over to my film sets. My background is in filmmaking and I've been doing it much longer than taking photos. Photography has been a way for me to dig deeper one on one, to build trust and build nuances. When shooting this recent project, it's often just my cinematographer, Cezary Zacharewicz, and myself in the room to try and emulate the way I'm shooting photos. Some of our film sets can get up to 20 plus people and this definitely can kill the authenticity of a moment, so the collaborative film practice of my team can often mirror my personal photographic one.

Keim is available now from Pogo books

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